If you consider yourself an animal lover, stop to point at every creature that crosses your path, and want to make a difference, there’s only one place for you to volunteer: Africa. Animals of all types, from lions to lemurs to penguins, make their home on this giant continent and right now they need help.
Community expansion, poachers, and climate change are all affecting the animals that call Africa home. You can play a vital role in helping them out through Africa animal volunteer programs.
Why try animal volunteering in Africa?
Whatever your reason for volunteering in Africa with animals, get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Sleeping under the stars in the savannah, tracking herds of elephants, and taking lions on walks all seem to qualify, wouldn’t you think? But aside from some really cool photo ops, there are legitimate reasons to volunteer your time.
African animals have had a rough go of it lately. Species are disappearing, poachers are becoming more brazen in their attacks, and animal-human conflict is at all-time high due to habitat loss. Volunteering in Africa with animals is a great way to protect animals while also helping local communities manage their needs, too.
There are many different ways to volunteer with animals. Africa spans many climates and landscapes, creating a rich variety of biodiversity. Volunteers work in wildlife sanctuaries, spend time tracking wild herds, conduct research, and teach local communities about the importance of maintaining wildlife habitat. When choosing a program, make sure you think about the ethical considerations of what you’ll be doing, and make sure you’ve asked yourself these important questions before making a final decision.
Volunteering is an affordable way to experience life in another country, get acquainted with the local flora and fauna, and provide service to others. So where will you go? Read up on the Best Places to Volunteer in Africa in 2018 and then check out the programs below to get started!
11 amazing Africa volunteer programs with animals
If you want to volunteer with animals, Africa has got you covered. The continent contains an overwhelming amount of biodiversity, from lemurs in Madagascar to African penguins in South Africa. Whether you’re an aspiring zookeeper, veterinarian, or just want to experience life on the savannah, animal volunteering in Africa is a great choice.
If you’re interested in volunteering in Africa with animals, why not go all in and try working with lions? At Antelope Park, you’ll be able to contribute to lion conservation by caring directly for the animals, conducting research on their behavior, and maintaining their enclosures. You may also have the opportunity to care for the park’s rescued African Elephants when you need a change of pace. On your days off, choose to take an organized trip to Victoria Falls or head out on a canoeing adventure. Your volunteer fee covers your accommodations, three meals, and airport pick up, but you’ll need to cover the airfare and insurance costs on your own.
- Where? Zimbabwe
- What animals? Lions, elephants
- More info: Read African Impact reviews
Due to its remote location in the Indian Ocean, Madagascar is home to plants and animals that don’t exist anywhere else on earth. What better place to do Africa volunteer programs? Animals of all types and sizes are waiting to be discovered just steps from camp, and you’ll spend your days collecting data through traps, observations, and active animal searches. All volunteers receive training in these research methods after arrival and then spend their days at various sites around the island. Life in camp is rustic, to say the least, but living close to the earth is bound to make you a better wildlife researcher, right?
- Where? Madagascar
- What animals? Black lemurs, frogs, chameleons, geckos, snakes, and more
- More info: Read GoEco reviews
Home to sea turtles, dolphins, and miles of coral reef, the islands of the Seychelles are a marine lover’s dream. For this volunteer program, animal volunteering in Africa means getting wet, as nearly all of the research is done underwater! You’ll need to have a PADI Open Water scuba certification before you get started, but the program can help arrange training before you begin volunteering. Volunteers spend their days swimming around the island’s coral reefs, conducting animal surveys and monitoring coral reefs. They also have the opportunity to visit neighboring islands on their days off.
- Where? Seychelles
- What animals? Sea turtles, whale sharks, dolphins, octopuses, and plenty of fish
- More info: Read GVI reviews
This program aims to reduce conflict between elephant and human populations in northwestern Namibia. As elephant populations grow, scarce water sources used by humans are also sought out by elephants. Volunteers help local farmers secure their water points, identify new water points for elephants, and track elephants across the desert in an effort to monitor and learn about their movement. You may also assist in providing educational sessions to local communities. Lodging is spartan and you’ll often be camping, but you won’t complain about spending the night outside once you glimpse the bright stars of the Namib desert!
- Where? Namibia
- What animals? Desert elephants
- More info: Read Frontier reviews
Have you ever wanted to take a rhino for a walk or learn first-hand how to care for injured wildlife? At the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, volunteers do just that and more when they volunteer with animals. Africa offers volunteers the opportunity to interact with many species that don’t exist anywhere else, and this rehabilitation center is focused on ensuring they don’t go extinct. In addition to caring for animals, volunteers will gain extensive knowledge about animal-human interaction, poaching, and animal behavior. Meals and accommodations are covered in the volunteer fee, and all volunteers get a chance to visit Kruger National Park to learn about the differences between sanctuary and wild animals.
- Where? South Africa
- What animals? Serval cat, crowned eagle, lion, cheetah, honey badger, and more
- More info: Read African Conservation Experience reviews
This conservation project combines animal research with community outreach, ensuring that you’ll be helping not just animals, but people, too. Volunteers live and work in the Masai Mara, one of the country’s best safari destinations and filled with wildebeest, zebras, elephants, and big cats. Like many African animal volunteer programs, much of your time will be spent collecting data about wildlife movements and populations, but your research isn’t the only way you’ll make a difference. Volunteers also work on community outreach projects with local schools to educate students on environmental stewardship.
- Where? Kenya
- What animals? Lions, elephant, leopard, cheetah
- More info: Read Kaya Responsible Travel reviews
Spend eight weeks in Uganda volunteering at the Wildlife Rescue Center, an educational and rescue center working to promote biodiversity and environmental awareness in the region. Volunteers will assist with caring for animals in the rescue center, learn about breeding programs for endangered giraffes, and facilitate educational programs for local youth. ELI arranges accommodation for volunteers in homestays, so you’ll get to experience Ugandan culture while living with a local family. Volunteers for this program should have some demonstrable experience or interest in zoology, wildlife management, or veterinary medicine.
- Where? Uganda
- What animals? Rothschild giraffe, chimpanzee, serval cat, lion, African elephant, and more
- More info: Read ELI Abroad reviews
When it comes to Africa volunteer programs, animals top the list of reasons visitors venture into the bushveld. This program in the Kalahari desert delivers on that promise, allowing volunteers to observe and interact with animals at the Modisa reserve. In addition to feeding animals that live on the reserve, you’ll learn how to track wild animals, perform game counts and surveys, and receive daily lectures on the ecosystem as a whole. You’ll also participate in bush walks and sleep outs, learn to identify local plants, and practice orienteering to find your way in the wild without a map. Volunteers sleep in tents at the Modisa camp and are provided three meals a day, including a weekly braai (barbeque) where food is cooked over the campfire.
- Where? Botswana
- What animals? Lion, leopard, wild dog, wildebeest, giraffe, zebra, antelope, and more
- More info: Read Enkosini Eco reviews
When you think about volunteering in Africa with animals, penguins aren’t usually the first thing that come to mind! That’s one reason the African penguin needs all the help it can get, and volunteering at a penguin rescue station in Port Elizabeth is a great way to get hands-on experience with these penguins. Volunteers assist in feeding and cleaning the birds, maintaining facilities, and providing educational tours. Accommodation is provided in the program fee and volunteers live with other program participants in a house near the beach, ensuring that no one ever works too hard.
- Where? South Africa
- What animals? African penguins and other seabirds like gannets, cormorants and seagulls.
- More info: Read Khaya Volunteer Projects reviews
The Mother Nature Conservation Camp in Zanzibar offers several different volunteer opportunities at two different sites, near the Jozani Forest National Park and the beaches of Nungwi. Volunteers can choose to stay either in the rainforest or on the beach, with weekly transportation between the two in case you want to switch it up. This Africa animal volunteer programs consist of working with sea turtles, protecting Red Colobus monkeys, and teaching local communities about reptile species in the area. Accommodations are not included in the program fee, and rates vary based on room occupancy.
- Where? Tanzania
- What animals? Red Colobus monkeys, sea turtles, and local reptiles
- More info: World Unite! program information
When you think about wanting to volunteer, Africa animals that first come to mind are the ones you see on safari. But domestic animals like cats and dogs live all over the continent and need help, too. This program in Arusha, Tanzania, cares for stray and abused dogs and works to educate local communities about animal rights. In addition to performing typical shelter duties, long-term volunteers can make an impact by participating on animal welfare campaigns, implementing fundraising activities, and creating marketing and educational materials. Meals and lodging are provided to volunteers in a nearby guesthouse, and you really can’t beat a view of Mt. Kilimanjaro out the window!
- Where? Tanzania
- What animals? Dogs and cats
- More info: Read Love Volunteers reviews
Animal volunteering in Africa is calling your name!
If you’re looking for exciting and fulfilling volunteer work, Africa animals programs are a great option. Not only do you get to spend time outside engaging with animals, you’ll also get to experience daily life in a new country and learn about a new culture. Whether you find a new career path as a conservationist or simply enjoy a break from your daily life, animal volunteering in Africa is an experience you won’t soon forget. So pack your bags, stock up on some sunscreen, and start dreaming of red African sunsets and campfire barbecues!