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Volunteer in South Africa’s Lion and Safari Park

Lion at Kruger Park in South Africa
Lion at Kruger Park in South Africa.

We set out for South Africa expecting the experience of a lifetime, but we were still unprepared for what awaited us. From the landscape to the people to the incredible wildlife, it was beyond our imaginations.

We began with a short photo safari through Kruger Park and an overnight stay at a private game reserve. It was like three days on another planet. We saw so many species of animals it is impossible to list them. The highlight was an early-evening game drive at the private reserve when we drifted with a herd of more than 50 elephants. Every few minutes the matriarch let us know that we were too close by approaching our open jeep and fanning out her ears.

A herd of elephants spotted
A herd of elephants spotted.

Our arrival at the Lion Park commenced the best two weeks of our lives. The staff let each of the volunteers become familiar with the routine at their own pace, and they led by example rather than assigning tasks without supervision. Their patience and genuine love for the animals inspired the volunteers to become a part of their world and touched us on a very personal level. They quietly and quickly assessed each of our strengths and preferences and put us to work in a capacity that took these into account, resulting in happy, more productive volunteers.

Each day we woke up to a beautiful sunrise and a walk through the zebra-and-ostrich-filled tent camp to the kitchen and a quick community breakfast. Then to work. To my wife’s delight there were several days-old lion cubs in the nursery requiring constant attention from the staff and volunteers. Each morning she helped prepare formula, feed cubs, burp cubs, and groom them. My job was to cut meat for the older cubs, rake the public area, and clean the enclosures of the older animals. This provided me with a level of contact with the animals that I had never envisioned. When our other duties were complete, we could usually be found acting as human shields between the young lions practicing their hunting skills and an unsuspecting public. We left a lot of our blood on African soil…and loved every minute of it.

Lion cub
Lion cub.

There are many volunteer projects with the Lion and Safari Park.

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