Founded in 2003, Bambelela is a wildlife
rehabilitation centre in the beautiful Waterberg region of South Africa.
Though Bambelela works with all wildlife, they are most regarded for their
exceptional work with vervet monkeys.
Bambelela is an amazing and special
place. With so
many primate sanctuaries throughout South Africa, why is Bambelela so unique?
Because Bambelela is succeeding where other sanctuaries are not -- they are
the only sanctuary in South Africa doing real, tangible, successful releases
of vervet monkey troops back into the wild.
The committed team at Bambelela works tirelessly so that
every animal has a second chance at a wild life. It's a long process
of finding release sites (and land owners who are committed to
conservation), getting the necessary release permits from wildlife
officials, preparing the site and rehabilitating the animals for
reintroduction into the wild, and monitoring their progress for years after.
The team work hard towards this goal - because captivity isn't any place for
wild animals, especially primates.
Bambelela is a great opportunity for wildlife
enthusiasts to get involved in true wildlife conservation, rehabilitation
Volunteers work directly alongside the
experienced wildlife staff and will be trained in all aspects of primate
care, including acting as "surrogate parents" to orphaned baby
juvenile monkeys to existing troops at the sanctuary, and preparing
established troops for release. Long-term volunteers may even get to
experience living at the release site and monitoring the progress of the
newly released troop.
In addition to the many
projects which are constantly running, volunteers also assist with the day-to-day running of the
sanctuary. The volunteers’ daily
tasks may include:
-Feeding of animals in the wildlife care
(with food prep / cleaning)
-Making baby bottles and feeding orphaned
-Caring for and playing with baby monkeys, as
surrogate parent and/or in Bambelela "kindergarten"
-Caring for injured or sick animals
-Assisting with basic medical practices,
-Cleaning of cages, camps, clinic, kitchen,
bomas and enclosures
-Creating natural environments in enclosures
-Developing behavior enrichment programs for
-Going out on calls to collect monkeys and/or
introduction of new monkeys
-Monitoring monkeys requiring daily attention
-Building of new camps and quarantine
-Writing up reports and keeping data lists
-Assisting with fundraising and social media
-24 hour emergency stand-by (once a week)
Caring for animals
requires patience, compassion, and a calm demeanor. A positive attitude,
willingness to help and learn, and a sense of humour are essential -
volunteers should expect to be dirty and exhausted by the end of the day!
Although the focus is on
vervet monkeys, you may also get to experience other sanctuary wildlife at
Bambelela including zebra, kudu, giraffe, warthog, porcupine, mongoose,
meerkat and capuchin, as well as the many wild animals who are attracted to
the Groot Nylsoog River and its marsh passing through Bambelela.
Outreach and Education
Apart from caring for, rehabilitating and
releasing wildlife, Bambelela
also runs outreach programs -
educating farmers, land owners and settlements and giving talks at schools,
clubs, organizations, conservancies and the sanctuary itself.
Vervet monkeys are classified as “old world
monkeys,” meaning that they have been around for over 65 million years -
long before apes and humans. Vervet monkeys are one of South Africa’s
five indigenous primates. The other four are the lesser bushbaby, the
thick-tailed bushbaby, the samango monkey and the chacma baboon.
Vervet monkeys live in close-knit troops of
5–40 animals, led by a dominant male. Females have one baby at a time,
typically every 1.5 years. Babies are born throughout the year but
mostly between October and December. Vervets are omnivorous, and eat fruits,
flowers, seeds, leaves, shoots, bird's eggs, insects, lizards, etc. They
continually patrol their territory to defend their boundaries and search for
food. Vervets only feed during the day and sleep in trees at night.
Ideally, they prefer to feed in the morning and late afternoon, but if food
is scarce, they might be forced to feed throughout the day or when food is
Man is the
biggest threat to vervet monkeys in the wild. In addition to habitat
encroachment and urbanization, thousands of vervet monkeys are trapped and
sold every year to medical research laboratories. Vervet monkeys are also
systematically eradicated by farmers due to the misconception that they
destroy fruit crops. The farming community is responsible for the
majority of the orphaned vervet monkey babies (most often the mothers are
shot by farmers). The vervet monkey is currently listed as a vulnerable species
on Appendix Two of CITES (Convention for International
Trade in Endangered Species).
Volunteers may have the opportunity to explore
the area during optional day-trips (typically every week, though may vary).
Possible activities include visiting the Thaba Kwena crocodile farm or doing a game drive at the Zebula Game Lodge
(with hands-on experience with cheetah, lion and elephant).
Depending on the number of volunteers and the
work schedule, volunteers may be able to organize adventure activities in
the area (such as tandem skydiving), visit the local "bush pub" or arrange
an excursion to the C.A.R.E. Baboon Sanctuary in Phalaborwa. These
activities are optional and at the volunteers own expense.
Volunteers can also spend their off-time
relaxing at the Bambelela pool or going on a hike in the mountains.
Bambelela is based
near Bela Bela, a quaint town in the Waterberg area of South Africa. The
sanctuary is remote and there is no public transport to town. However,
volunteers may have the opportunity to visit town from time to time in
coordination with trips to collect supplies. Bela Bela is small but has all the usual amenities, including
medical doctors, supermarkets, restaurants and Internet cafés.
Volunteers stay in shared accommodation, with
a 4-bed women's room with en-suite bathroom and a 4-bed men's room with
en-suite bathroom. We can arrange private accommodation for couples at
extra cost. There is also a community kitchen and living room with
A lightweight duvet, fitted sheet
and pillow are
provided, but you must bring a sleeping bag. Alternatively, for a special
add-on of 500 ZAR, the Bambelela staff will provide a towel set, headlamp,
bed cover/blanket and coffee mug.
Brunch and dinner are
provided each day (by staff chef), and Bambelela can cater for vegetarians.
The tap water is safe to drink. There must not be excessive alcohol
consumption due to the nature of the work.
Volunteers will have hot water, electricity
for charging electronics, and internet access (extra 100 ZAR per week for
are free self-service laundry facilities.
Training / Qualifications
Training will be
given in all aspects of animal care for this project. During your stay you
will learn a great deal about vervet monkeys, as well as about the African
bush in general.
On departure, volunteers receive a
certificate of practical experience in wildlife care, English language,
eco-tourism and game ranch management.
Bambelela accepts volunteers of 16+ years of
age. Volunteers under 16 years old are only considered when
accompanied by a parent/guardian. There isn't a maximum age limit,
though a reasonable fitness level is necessary.
2 weeks: GB£595 / US$995
3 weeks: GB£695 / US$1195
4 weeks: GB£795 / US$1395
Extra weeks: GB£175 / US$295 per week
Volunteers receive a $100 discount when joining multiple Enkosini
uses USD rates as standard due to currency fluctuations. GBP rates
are indications of approx recent values. Currency convertor at
Volunteer contributions cover meals,
accommodation, sanctuary activities, and project
donation. Flights and travel/medical insurance are NOT included. The only
additional spending money required will be for personal purchases, social
excursions away from Bambelela, and pre/post project travel. We do not have discounted rates for partial
Please bear in mind that the sooner you
apply, the better your chances of securing your placement!
There are no set dates for this project,
although we try to organize arrivals/departures on Mondays to minimize
travel costs for volunteers (i.e., shared transfers to/from Johannesburg
Airport). Volunteers just need to inform Enkosini Eco
Experience of their ideal dates for joining.
AVIS Luxury Cars & Chauffeurs will arrange
your transfers between the Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International Airport
and Bambelela. Please send us your flight arrangements soonest so
that we can arrange your transfers with Avis. They will meet you
in arrivals with a signboard with your name (please note pick ups
between 08h00 and 14h00 for daylight driving). The transfer cost
of 1,130 ZAR each way
should be paid directly to Bambelela (not the driver). We will do
our best to coordinate your transfers with the arrivals/departures of
other volunteers to minimize costs.
For arrivals outside of pick up times, we recommend
staying overnight at the City Lodge O.R. Tambo
reasonably priced and located directly at the Johannesburg airport.
The Bela Bela area is very low risk for
malaria, but it is incumbent upon each person to receive medical advice on
malaria prophylactics as well as vaccinations. Due to the nature of working with animals, it is
recommended that volunteers are up to date with tetanus and rabies
-Comfortable pair of hiking boots/running
-Leisure clothing (preferably khaki coloured):
shorts, t-shirts, flip flops, bathing suit, trousers, sleeping clothes, etc.
Light clothes for summer but warm jumper/jacket for winter as it can get
-Old clothes for animal work (you will get
peed and pooped on)
-First aid kit
-Rain gear (October - February)
-Sunhat, sunglasses, sun cream
-Laptop for WiFi or downloading photos
-Driving license, ID, credit cards, copies of