Projects Abroad volunteer helps care for the penguins while working with animals in South Africa

Volunteer with Animals in South Africa

Gain practical experience with animals and support staff at a shelter or help rehabilitate seabirds at a rescue center

At a glance

  • Help improve the lives of abused domestic animals or sea birds suffering from illness or injury at a local shelter or rehabilitation centre.
  • The organisations we work with tend to be understaffed and rely heavily on the help of both local and international volunteers.
  • Seize the opportunity to explore a different culture, eat plenty of delicious traditional food, and experience local customs.

Start Dates: 


See Dates

Minimum Duration: 

Two Weeks


16 or over

Is volunteering with animals in South Africa right for me?

Do you love spending time and working with animals? Are you passionate about animal rights? Then Animal Care in South Africa is perfect for you! You’ll be able to give back and add experience to your resume at the same time.

You will work at either a shelter for domestic animals or a rehabilitation center for seabirds. Local staff will teach you everything you need to know, so you don’t need any prior experience to join. All you need is compassion for your fellow beings and eagerness to take on any task.

This project runs year-round and you can join at any time. If you decide to work at the shelter for domestic animals, you are able to join for a minimum of two weeks. Should you opt to work at the seabird sanctuary, you will need a minimum of six weeks for the project.

Cats being held and cared for by volunteers who work with animals in South Africa

What will I do as an Animal Care volunteer in South Africa?

Work with animals in South Africa and access loads of opportunities to help improve the lives of stray domestic animals or injured seabirds. Here are some of the tasks you will help with:

  • Shadow full-time carers to gain experience and learn more about the animals
  • Take care of the animals by feeding, exercising, and helping rehabilitate the animals
  • Spend time with domestic animals to help build their confidence and trust
  • Help rehabilitate injured or ill seabirds

Your work will focus on the following areas:

Shadow full-time carers

As an Animal Care volunteer at either of our placements, you will initially spend a lot of time observing the full-time carers. This will help you gain first-hand experience of the way animal rescue centers work in South Africa.

Use this time to ask questions and learn more about the animals in the placement’s care. This will come in handy later on when you take care of animals on your own.

Take care of the animals

There will be ample opportunity to get involved with hands-on work like feeding, exercising, and rehabilitating the animals under your care. As with any volunteer placement, you get back what you put in. Showing initiative and a willingness to get involved will result in your experience being very rewarding.

Spend time with domestic animals

If you join our placement at the shelter, you will be working mostly with domestic animals. Many of them would have gone through a traumatic experience, such as abuse or abandonment. By playing and spending time with them, you can help prepare and socialise them for adoption.

Help rehabilitate injured or ill seabirds

If you have a special interest in conservation, you could opt to help rehabilitate African penguins and other seabirds. Here you will assist in preparing food, feeding the birds, cleaning out cages, and rehabilitating injured or oiled birds. As you work, you’ll get the opportunity to learn about the local ecosystem and work with some unique bird species.

Where you will be working as an Animal Care volunteer in South Africa?

Cape Town

Both placements are based in Cape Town. Known as the Mother City, it’s famous for its spectacular natural beauty and, of course, the iconic Table Mountain. During your time here, you will be able to experience the best of both city life and outdoor adventures.

If you decide to work with seabirds at the rehabilitation center, you will be based in the suburb of Bloubergstrand. It’s located 15 miles outside of Cape Town’s CBD and offers the best views of Table Mountain. This shelter specialises in rescuing and rehabilitating seabirds, including the African Penguin. You will work in an amazing location, where cormorants, pelicans and even pink flamingos are a common sight.

Should you opt for the animal shelter, your work will be based in Grassy Park. They are a non-profit organization that takes care of abused and abandoned animals across South Africa. The Cape Town branch was established in 1872 and is the oldest in the country. While they are happy to take in any animal in need, you will mostly be working with cats and dogs.

Airport pickup, flights and visas

When you arrive at your respective airport, a member of Projects Abroad staff will be there to meet you. You can find more detailed information on arrival airports, orientation, and visas on our South Africa Arrival Procedures page.

What will your typical day be like as an Animal Care volunteer in South Africa?

Your day will start with a healthy breakfast around your South African host family’s table. From here, you will head to the animal shelter or seabird sanctuary using public transport. Our staff will show you the way on your first day.

Your work day typically starts around 8am and finishes at around 5pm.

If you’re based at the animal shelter, much of your morning will be dedicated to feeding the animals their morning meal and checking that all is well with them. Once you’ve finished with that, you will be able to help out with other necessary tasks around the shelter. This might include cleaning kennels or doing administrative tasks the regular staff might not get around to.

If you’re working at the rehabilitation center for seabirds, your morning will start with a similar routine of feeding and checking on the birds currently in your care. However, if there is an emergency, you might be roped in to help clean oiled birds, or stand by as vets work to heal an injury.

After a morning of hard work, you will get an hour and a half’s lunch break. If your host family lives close by, you can head home to eat and rest for a bit. Alternatively, you will be able to enjoy a packed lunch.

During the afternoons, you will typically spend some time with the animals. If you’re working at the shelter, this would include taking dogs for walks, playing with cats or doing some basic training. If you’re at the rehabilitation center, this would typically mean checking on each of the recovering birds and updating the local staff about their wellbeing.

Evenings and weekends are your free time to explore. Make the most of your time in this magnificent country by going on weekend excursions with fellow volunteers. Also, enjoy plenty of meals with your local host family and spend time conversing with them. It’s the very best way to learn more about their life and culture.

A volunteer working with animals in South Africa helps feed penguins at a rehabilitation centre in Cape Town.

What are the goals and impacts of our Animal Care Project in South Africa?

The goal of this project is to help take care of stray domestic animals or injured African penguins and other seabirds.

As an Animal Care volunteer, you will have a choice between working at a shelter for domestic animals or a rehabilitation center for African penguins and other seabirds. The organizations we work with tends to be understaffed and rely heavily on the help of volunteers.

In both cases, you will have the opportunity to get involved with hands-on work to take care of these animals. Most animals that end up in these centers would have undergone some form of trauma. You will play an important role in reassuring them and helping build their trust.

Apart from helping these vulnerable creatures, this project is an excellent opportunity for you to learn, grow, and explore. You will gain many practical skills and develop as a person through having to adapt and be resourceful. All while living and working in a foreign country.

Join our Animal Care placement in South Africa and help improve the lives of abandoned and injured animals.

A dog is socialised by a volunteer working with animals in South Africa to assist with the adoption process.

Measuring our impact

Our projects work towards clear long-term goals, with specific annual objectives. Every volunteer and intern we send to these projects helps us work towards these goals, no matter how long they spend on our projects.

Every year we take a step back and look at how much progress we've made towards these goals. We put together a Global Impact Report, which documents our achievements. Find out more about the impact our global community of volunteers, interns and staff make, and read the latest report.

Food and accommodation

You'll stay with a host family in Cape Town. They will welcome you into their home, eager to share their customs and have you teach them about your own culture. We believe that this is the best way to immerse yourself in the culture of South Africa and have a truly unique experience.

We will always try to let you live alongside at least one other Projects Abroad volunteer or intern at the same host family. Your room will be modest, but comfortable, clean, and safe.

Your programme fee includes three meals a day.

Find out more about our accommodation.

Leisure activities and free time

Known as the Rainbow Nation, South Africa has a diverse mix of cultures. Our projects are based in Cape Town, a region filled with an exciting variety of activities to do during your free time.

You can catch a wave at Muizenberg beach or just relax in a seaside restaurant. There’s plenty of local cuisine to try, including delicately spiced Cape Malay curries and the creamy milk tart dessert.

South Africa has a difficult past, which you can learn more about at the District 6 Museum and Robben Island.

For an awe-inspiring experience, you can spend the day getting lost in the towering silos that make up the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Arts Africa. Finally, no trip to Cape Town would be complete without a cable car ride up iconic Table Mountain.

We run many different projects in South Africa, so there’s sure to be other volunteers in the country with you. So if you want to travel with a group, you’re sure to find like-minded people who’ll join you on your adventures. 

Safety and staff support

Your safety and security is our prime concern. We have many procedures and systems to ensure you have the support you need to enjoy your trip with peace of mind. Our Projects Abroad staff are available 24 hours a day to help, and will be on hand to make sure you settle in well at your accommodation and placement. If you encounter any problems, they will be available to help at any time.

Find out more about safety and backup.

This placement is fully researched, safety audited, and risk assessed in accordance with the British Standard BS8848 for the Adventure Travel Sector.

When you apply you only pay a $295 deposit, which comes off the total program fees.

Please choose a Duration and Start Date to continue.

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