A Unique Hands-On Experience
The C.A.R.E. Baboon Sanctuary was established
in 1989 as a sanctuary for all indigenous wildlife of South Africa. While no
turned away, the Sanctuary has specific expertise in nurturing and caring
for primates, with an emphasis on the chacma baboon. The Baboon Sanctuary
currently houses over 400 baboons and is the largest sanctuary in Southern
orphaned, injured, abused or abandoned baboons.
being listed as a CITES Appendix II “threatened” species, baboons are
offered no protection under the law in South Africa. Baboons are shot and
poisoned by farmers, illegally captured for sale as pets, utilized by
traditional doctors for "medicinal" purposes, and vulnerable to such
hazards as power lines, pylons, veld fires, habitat destruction and road
C.A.R.E.’s main intake is small, pink-faced baby
baboons, generally orphaned after their mothers have been injured or
killed. The Sanctuary also offers refuge to baboons released or
confiscated from laboratories – allowing them to grow old with dignity.
These baboons are often severely traumatized, having spent many years
incarcerated in small lab cages being subjected to numerous experiments.
C.A.R.E. Baboon Sanctuary has been a pioneer in primate care, and its
rehabilitation program has gained respect within scientific and
animal behavioral communities. C.A.R.E.'s success in rehabilitating
hand-reared primates and releasing fully formed troops back into the wild
has been well documented in numerous television programs on Discovery Channel and Animal Planet.
Despite these rehabilitation successes, releases are infrequent due to the
difficulty in finding suitable release locations and the local authorities
reluctance to issue the necessary permits. Nature conservation officials
sadly consider baboons and other primates in South Africa to be
"vermin" as they compete with the farming industry.
C.A.R.E. Baboon Sanctuary has been involved in several other well publicized
events, including the first recorded instance of breeding Samango monkeys
in captivity (a red data listed species), the rescue and relocation of
hand-reared lions destined for "canned hunting," and an inventive solution
for rescuing a hippo which had fallen into a swimming pool. Assistance has
also been given to anti-poaching and drought relief efforts in the Olifants River area.
non-profit organization, C.A.R.E. is reliant on the generosity of
concerned individuals, including volunteers, and animal welfare groups
for financial support. Although the baboon isn't a glamorous species
like the rhino or cheetah, the C.A.R.E. team work hard to ensure their
long-term survival before it joins the ranks of chimpanzee and mountain
gorilla as endangered species.
Volunteers assist in the daily running of the Sanctuary
as well as the rehabilitation program. Caring for animals requires
patience, compassion and a calm demeanor. Volunteers should have a love of
animals, particularly primates, a passion for nature, and a desire to
protect and preserve our natural heritage. The physical aspects are not
overly challenging, but a reasonable level of fitness is recommended. The
Sanctuary is built on a slope and the weather can be hot and
A positive attitude, willingness to help and learn and a sense of humor
are essential - volunteers should expect to be dirty and exhausted by the
end of the day!
C.A.R.E. comprises numerous "hoks," each holding a troop of 10-18 baboons. Situated in
a nature reserve, the Sanctuary is visited often by a variety of wild animals
including elephant, giraffe, antelope, snakes and spiders. A wild troop of 60 - 70 baboons live in the area, and
spend a great deal of time at the Sanctuary interacting with the enclosed
baboons. They sleep in the trees alongside the river overnight. They are
unthreatening, but must be treated with respect.
Sanctuary is run in a spirit of co-operation, and everyone is expected to give their best at all times. The project leaders
require that you
heed the advice/rules given for the safety of you and the animals.
The animals are the top priority, irrespective of the day or hour. There
are no set working hours – volunteers finish when everything is
completed. Off-time is dependent on the number of volunteers at the Sanctuary and the
well-being of the baboons.
volunteers’ daily tasks include:
• overseeing the baby baboon "crèche"
• preparing and feeding formula bottles to
• changing nappies and washing bedding
• playing with the youngsters
• observing and monitoring interaction
• administering medicine to sick or injured animals
• maintaining records of animals, treatment
• procuring, collecting and preparing the
• cleaning and maintaining the facility
• checking and cleaning enclosures and water
• filling the river and borehole dams
Sanctuary is situated on the banks of the Olifants River in the Limpopo
Province of South Africa, bordering the greater Kruger Park area. Given
its bushveld location, volunteers generally have the opportunity to see a
wide variety of indigenous wildlife during their stay, either at the
Centre itself or on excursions into Kruger National Park. During quiet times at the
Sanctuary, educational visits to and from schools and public organisations
are also promoted.
The Sanctuary is remote and there is no
public transport to town. However, volunteers will have an opportunity to
visit town (Phalaborwa – 30 minutes) every week or two in coordination
with trips to collect food. Phalaborwa is small but has all the usual amenities, including medical doctors, supermarkets,
restaurants, cinemas and Internet cafés.
Rustic accommodation with bedding is provided
for 10 volunteers in a timber cabin with shared bathroom facilities, hot water
and electricity. There is additional housing in caravans, tents and converted
containers, with access to central bathroom facilities. Food is
purchased in town once a week and prepared by the volunteers on a communal
basis. The Sanctuary follows a mainly vegetarian diet. The accommodation
and kitchen facilities are maintained and kept clean by the volunteers.
Sanctuary has a land-line telephone which is reserved for sanctuary use
only. Therefore, volunteers who want to regularly make/receive calls
should consider carrying a cell phone as they do work from the high ground
of the property. Local SIM cards and pay-as-you-go facilities are freely
available, and text messages are the most
reliable form of mobile communication.
C.A.R.E. does not offer a luxury holiday experience.
It is a unique sanctuary and those committed to working with us will have the
opportunity to observe and interact with these gorgeous, cheeky,
hilarious, loving primates. We guarantee you will leave with a greater
knowledge and understanding, and a feeling that you have made a difference
to the plight of the primates.
Training will be given in all aspects of animal care for this project.
During your stay you will learn a huge amount about the baboons, as well
as about the African bush in general.
C.A.R.E. 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 $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, activities, transfers from Phalaborwa to C.A.R.E., 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 C.A.R.E., 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 whenever
closest town to the Baboon Sanctuary is PHALABORWA - nearly 500kms
from Johannesburg. Flights and buses are available from Johannesburg to Phalaborwa, and arrangements will be made to collect incoming volunteers
from Phalaborwa (either airport or bus depot).
By Plane – Johannesburg to Phalaborwa
Flights leave from the
domestic terminal at Johannesburg International Airport. The flight is ±
1hour, 15 minutes. These flights are conducted by SA Express (www.flysaa.com).
By Bus - Johannesburg to Phalaborwa
leave from the Johannesburg Park Station or the Midrand Bus Station ±
25kms from the Johannesburg International Airport. To get to either
station, you will need to organize transport with your hotel/backpackers
or catch a taxi.
Translux buses depart Jo'Burg every day at 09h30, Midrand
at 10h00 and Pretoria at 10h30, arriving into Phalaborwa at 16h50.
The Midrand bus is recommended for volunteers arriving on early morning
flights as it provides as extra grace period.
For bus reservations, contact Veena at
firstname.lastname@example.org - email her with your name, dates
of travel and where you will be traveling to/from. You can also
reserve online at www.computicket.com. Volunteers need
to arrive at the bus station at least 30 minutes before departure to pay
for your bus ticket or the ticket will be forfeited. Try to book
your bus ticket at least a month in advance as they definitely fill up!
Phalaborwa area borders a malarial zone and it is incumbent upon each
person to take medical opinion on vaccinations and whether or not to follow a
malaria prophylactic program. There are no formal vaccinations
requirements for entering South Africa. See
FAQs for complete packing list.
A Day at
the Baboon Sanctuary - A Volunteer’s Story
"I awake with the ‘baboon alarm clock’ as
mischievous youngsters from the wild troop play an early morning game on
the roof above my head. The troop moves from their sleeping trees at the
river's edge to higher ground, seeking the warmth of the early morning
rays of sun.
off to check the enclosures in my allocated block. Ensuring that all is
well, I stop to tickle tummies and lip smack a greeting to each troop. On
to the kitchen to prepare fruit and vegetables and the first of many
bottles for the day. The baby baboons form a creche group and as they grow
older and more confident spend the day with similar aged youngsters in an
quick breakfast with the other volunteers we split into teams to tackle
the jobs for the day. Some will travel to local farms and suppliers to
secure the animal's food for the day, others will assist with small
repairs or maintenance work. Assistance is given to the Centre’s staff to
ensure that storage dams are topped up, paddling pools in each enclosure
are drained and filled with fresh water, and that waste is cleared and
fresh sand added where needed. The food team returns by mid-day with a
bakkie (pick-up) load of fresh produce and food preparation begins.
time inside a cage of young baboons, becoming part of the gym circuit as
they dash from roof to floor, dam to sleeping platform, chasing one
another around. Bonds between individuals are evident, as is the dominance
of some over others. As one little softy sits on my knee, two others vie
for my shoulder, a third sits on my head and others are wrapped around my
legs. Emerging an hour later I am damp and dirty, and my shoelaces are
chewed on the ends. The nuts hidden in my pocket have been found by
curious little fingers and sand is deposited down my neck, in my hair and
the back of my shorts. Just a regular day at the ‘office.’
evening 250 baboons are fed - not to mention the ever present,
opportunistic troop of 60 wild, free roaming baboons.
to the sandy riverbank to watch the wild baboons settling in for the
night. Noisy teenagers are running around with a sack stolen from the feed
room, climbing the sprawling fig tree, and claiming the prize from one
another. On the opposite bank a shy group of impala nervously drink from
the waters edge - ever wary of the presence of crocodiles.
sun sets we settle the orphaned pink-face babies for the night, ensuring
they have a warm blanket, soft toy and bottle, giving a last cuddle before
they sleep. Dead chickens are fed to the jackals and scattered in the area
for the released animals. Genets, jackals, feral cats and the occasional
lynx can be spotted if you wait long enough.
As the animals climb to their sleeping
platforms, we climb the hill to our container camp. Dinner will be a
casual affair as we sit on the deck overlooking the trees, absorbing the
bush sounds and comparing notes and events of the day. The hippos will
begin their snorting and the jackals will cry as we settle down for the
night - ready to be awoken again by that banging on the roof…"
found out about Enkosini Eco Experience when my sister saw a television
segment on the orphans at the Baboon Sanctuary in South Africa. With one
look at the picture on the website showing a baby baboon in diapers being
fed a bottle of milk by a radiant (yet a little tired looking) volunteer,
I was hooked.
first friend was Mr. Stubbs who quickly came over to investigate and
invited himself on to my lap. What I soon found, however, is that baboon
friendship is fleeting. Yet, there was no reason to worry as there was
usually at least one baboon that needed a cuddle or special time from me
Besides the machete lessons for cutting fruit and the 700 milk bottles to be
filled and cleaned every day, I still found time for my favorite activity,
monkey massage. I became an oasis of calm in the afternoon, especially in
the medium pen where I would offer my services. Beau was usually the first
to arrive for his daily massage and nap. On his back with his head near my
knees and his legs going past my right hip, he would drop his head back and
fall asleep. With gentle circular movements, I would go from the tips of his
ears, to his fingers and toes and finally down to the end of his tail. At
times, he would be so relaxed, he would begin to slide off my lap. If I had
not been paying attention and caught him, he would have plunged head first
onto the concrete.
times a baboon would land on us unannounced from above. How Beau could sleep
through a 10-pound baboon landing on the middle of his exposed belly, I will
them all. Constant in my thoughts are Nigel and Valentine in the smalls,
Beau, Caley and Violet in the mediums and Button and Elf, the two new babies
in the troops that I monitored. Last but never least, Charlie the Samango
will always hold a special place in my heart. The thought of his hand
reaching out during our last visit can still reduce me to tears.
never forget the baboons and the special friendships that developed with the
little charmers." -Jane Stanfield, United States
"The 2 months I spent at
the Baboon Sanctuary were the 2 best months of my life. I just got
back to the States in January and my heart aches for Africa and the baboons
every day. The staff is amazing, the baboons are amazing and I can't wait to
go back...for longer. I feel very lucky that I found the sanctuary. I
wish I could take my trip all over again." -Tonya Leavitt, USA
first thing that hit me when I got out of the jeep was the overwhelming
baboon scent. By the next morning, it had magically disappeared and all I
could smell was the familiar and sweet South African air. My trip to the
Baboon Sanctuary was an experience never to be forgotten and one that I take with
me wherever my mind and body take me.
The volunteers and
staff who run the sanctuary are no less than awesome. The dedication with
which they care for these beautiful creatures is inspiring. How they still
have patience and compassion for the novice volunteers like me, is beyond
me. These are some very special people.
Days were spent tending
to the sanctuary duties - it was always a fun moment when the next day's
schedule was posted - different and many chores each day so as never to
tire of doing the same thing over and over, and to learn about all the
facets of maintaining a sanctuary. By far and without question the best
part of the day for me was spent with the babies. They are irresistible!
can look at the world and be overwhelmed by the enormous amount of work
there is to be done in order to make it a better place. My time with
the Baboon Sanctuary has reminded me that no matter how little difference we think one
person can make to the world; we can make a difference - one mitzvah (good
deed) at a time. Thanks to everyone! -Louise Sherman,
just like to thank you and everyone at the Baboon Sanctuary for the
experience I had, it was fantastic. The baboons have a special place in my
heart now and I think my time with the baboons was very special and I will
never forget them.” -Stephen
the centre very much, and dream about baboons all the time. I have also
decided that I wish to specialise in primates when I finish my education,
and I owe this decision to you and the animals for teaching me and showing
me the wonderful world of baboons! Thank you." –Silje
"Thank you so much for letting us come to
the Baboon Sanctuary, we had a really once in a lifetime experience and
your place is just amazing. You do so much it was a privilege to have met
you and been able to see your work. I will always remember my time with
the baboons and I really hope to come back one of these summers and spend
a longer time there. Thank you so much for your hospitality and I hope to
speak to you soon." -Anne
to thank you so much for getting me involved with the Baboon Sanctuary. I
had the most incredible 6 weeks there. What an amazing place and the
people there are awesome. It really was a great experience. Having that
interaction with the baboons especially the babies (and how many new
little babies came when I was there!) I just wish it hadn't been so short
as I was never so sad as the day I had to leave. Thank you again so much."
"It was a fantastic experience and one that
I would hope to do again. As well as the experience with the baboons, I
loved the communal aspects of living and working together. Very bonding.
Very few experiences are so truly "hands on" with baboons being charming,
fascinating, highly intelligent creatures. The description of program and
accommodations was pretty accurate so no major surprises or
disappointments." -Ruth Cohen, United States