Malawi Hands-on Wildlife Sanctuary

Malawi

Volunteer in Malawi at its only wildlife sanctuary, dedicated to animal rehabilition and release. More than just a sanctuary, volunteers get involved with animal care, enrichment and behaviour research.

Join Malawi’s only accredited wildlife sanctuary and give animals the best chance for rehabilitation and release back into the wild. Live in the heart of Lilongwe on a tranquil 500 acre wildlife reserve, home to free-roaming wildlife as well as those within the sanctuary. Volunteers are animal care assistants but also help address the root cause of the wildlife problem in Malawi and take part in national level wildlife campaigns and local education programmes.

Do more than rescue and care for individual wild animals on this varied and exciting wildlife sanctuary volunteer programme in Malawi, the “warm heart of Africa”. As well as learning about and caring for orphaned and injured wildlife, volunteers also take part in wildlife research projects, animal rehabilitation and wildlife release. This sanctuary project takes its responsibilities very seriously and has won awards for its efforts to promote, address and resolve the human-wildlife conflict in Malawi.

There are just under 200 animals in residence at the sanctuary including primates, carnivores, antelope, reptiles and birds. Most have been rescued as orphans or were victims of the illegal bushmeat and pet trade, others have been injured in snares, hit by cars or stoned by local villagers. Thanks to the state-of-the-art vet clinic, orphan care programme, experienced animal care team and dedicated volunteers, the majority of intakes can be managed on site. 

Whilst the sanctuary operates a strict hands-off policy, orphans and juveniles do need special attention so the chances are you will be put to use in surrogacy work and providing initial care to younger animals until they enter the second phase of the rehabilitation and release programme. This is an amazing opportunity to get hands on with wildlife, working towards their eventual release back into their natural habitat.

Whatever your reasons for volunteering - if you want to make a difference to the lives of rescued animals, learn new skills, immerse yourself in a new way of life or simply love wildlife, this programme will definitely offer what you are looking for.

Quick Facts

Who can join: Volunteers from 18 years
How long can I stay for: 2 weeks - 12 weeks
Accommodation: Volunteer house
Transfer time: 30 minutes
Pick up from: Lilongwe (Kamuzu) International Airport
Meals: 3 meals a day included
Project numbers: 12
Start dates: Tuesdays including Christmas and New Year
How much: from £1,306 (2 weeks)

 

WHY CHOOSE THIS PROJECT?

Get involved in a wide range of different animal care activities as well as getting experience in wildlife ecology and veterinary medicine. This project is focused on keeping wildlife in the wild and rehabilitating and releasing as many animals as possible back to their natural habitat.

Background

Malawi’s wildlife and biodiversity are in fast decline. It is also the 10th poorest country in the world where most people live on less than $1.50 per day. Habitats are increasingly being lost to a fast-growing population and increased pressure on natural resources and the increasing human-wildlife conflict is putting the lives of wild animals at risk, with the illegal bushmeat and pet trades still commonly practiced.

This Wildlife Trust works for the welfare and conservation of Malawi’s wildlife through four key principles: rescue and rehabilitation, wildlife research, environmental education and community conservation.

The Malawi Wildlife Sanctuary is Malawi’s only accredited wildlife sanctuary and is responsible for rescuing hundreds of wild animals every year and releasing them back into the wild. Set up in 2007, it is accredited by PASA and the Born Free Foundation and has exceptionally high standards of animal care and has won many awards for its conservation work.

The Malawi Wildlife Sanctuary focuses on wildlife rehabilitation but also take their responsibilities of community education very seriously and bring more than 30,000 local children every year to the sanctuary to learn about the importance of caring for the wildlife around them.

The Trust also runs the nationwide wildlife emergency rescue unit (WERU), helping wild animals in distress, including larger mammals such as elephants and rhino. The Trust has gone beyond rescue and rehabilitation to tackle the wider issues threatening wildlife and wild places: they have been appointed the lead organisation for Malawi’s illegal wildlife trade assessment, working for an international task force and also raise the profile of Malawi’s wildlife through advocacy and national campaigns.

Highlights

This award-winning wildlife conservation volunteer programme is based at one of Africa’s best wildlife sanctuaries where you will get involved in a huge range of activities from animal care to wildlife research, rehabilitation and community education.

  • Join an acclaimed team, experienced in successful animal releases
  • Learn new skills in basic veterinary care as you assist with health checks and vaccinations
  • Work alongside permanent staff as you hand-rear orphaned babies
  • Work on enrichment projects to keep animals happy and healthy
  • Help maintain the busy sanctuary and work on construction and building projects
  • Meet local schoolchildren as you accompany them on guided tours of the centre
  • Work on research projects, ecological surveys and mammal censuses to support wider conservation efforts in Malawi
  • Get involved with released animals, monitor and collect data
  • Help integrate rehabilitated animals into new groups prior to release
  • Wake up that sound of the wilderness around you - the chattering of monkeys and the roaring of lions!
  • Have a fantastic African adventure as you enjoy safaris, sandy beaches and amazing scenery

What sort of things will I be doing?

While this project prides itself on its hands-off approach to animal care, so that wildlife stands the best chance of successful release, when volunteers look after baby and young orphaned animals, your skills as a surrogate parent will undoubtedly be called into play!

Animal Care:
Volunteers play an essential role in the daily care of the sanctuary’s animals:

  • Prepare meals for animals on a daily basis and feed during the day (and night!)
  • Find food for younger animals (you may need to forage for grasshoppers for a pygmy hedgehog!)
  • Help care for orphaned animals, primates and birds
  • Learn about successful rehabilitation and release methods
  • Spend time with distressed, young or older animals who need monitoring
  • Clean out enclosures and feeding pens
  • Learn about the human-wildlife conflict and how individual animals were brought to the sanctuary
  • Help settle newly rescued animals into groups or into their rehabilitation enclosures
  • Quietly observing sick and injured wildlife
  • Orphaned babies may also need intensive care such as bottle feeding, observation and interaction

Veterinary Support:

  • Assist the on-site vet in basic surgical procedures on all sorts of animals from hedgehogs to lions and barn owls!
  • Assist with vaccinations and health checks for new arrivals

If you are studying Veterinary Medicine then you will have priority when helping on veterinary procedures and operations

Habitat and animal enrichment:
A critical volunteer role is to enrich the lives of the animals who cannot be released back into the wild, give them as natural a life as possible and enable them to behave as closely as they would in the wild.

  • Build activity centres for baboons and primates to enable them run, jump and climb
  • Make toys for the baboons to stimulate foraging

Animal Rehabilitation and Release:
Releases done by this sanctuary have been highly acclaimed, thanks to the expertise and effort which goes into the rehabilitation process and subsequent release. Volunteers are crucial to this process from rehabilitation through monitoring and subsequent release.

  • Help with pre-release monitoring to ensure animals are fit to be released
  • Settle new arrivals and rehabilitated animals into new groups and monitor their progress
  • Monitor released animals at Kuti

Maintenance and repair:
As parts of the sanctuary are open to the public and can get busy, there are always repairs to be done:

  • Build and repair enclosures and fences
  • Make, paint or repair signs
  • Help dig new waterholes and repair roads

Research and studies:

  • Get involved with ecological surveys and mammal censuses
  • Work on the afforestation project which supports wider wildlife conservation in Malawi

Community education and outreach:
Only through community education can the human-wildlife conflict be resolved and volunteers are encouraged to spend time with local people and helping children understand the importance of protection the wildlife and their environment.

  • Help with guided tours and show children animals they may have never seen before
  • Visit rural communities and engage with them about wildlife
  • Get involved with tree planting projects
  • Help with community development initiatives such as fuel briquette projects to reduce the loss of animal habitats from the selling and burning of firewood

Learn about wildlife and the environment:

  • Go on bush walks and learn to track animals
  • Identify the trees and plants around you and learn about their uses in traditional medicine and legends
  • Learn about the constellations and the stunning night skies
  • Relax and enjoy bike riding through the reserve, reading by the river or hiking the wildlife trails

Please note that activities will vary according to what animals are at the project at the time and what their needs are. Be flexible and bear in mind that the variety and number of animals can change daily. The only thing we can guarantee is that you will have an amazing time!

There are opportunities for volunteers to add on an additional week or two at one of the projects partner programmes:

Kuti Wildlife Reserve: volunteers who stay for longer than two weeks are welcome to add on a week or two at Kuti, a game reserve 2 hours from Lilongwe which is home to larger animals such as giraffe, zebra and sable. This extra week is extremely popular with sanctuary volunteers.

African Bat Conservation: volunteers can also choose to spend time with our friends at ABC – working primarily in Kasungu and Liwonde National Park. The team is conducting applied research, conservation and education to help conserve the bat populations of Africa - a species which is considered a pest in Malawi and persecuted relentlessly even in National Parks.

Please email us for more details of these add-on programmes.

Details

Do I need any experience to volunteer on this programme?

We welcome volunteers with a passion and interest in wildlife and conservation and the ability to communicate suitably in English. Experience in many fields is useful, such as veterinary, animal care, marketing, filmmaking, photography - and if you have any of these skills you may be put to good use! It is always those who have a positive attitude, enthusiasm and flexibility who leave the biggest mark. You should be of reasonable mobility and fitness and if you have any concerns about things you can and can’t do, please just let us know.

If you have experience or are studying in Veterinary Science and would like to spend more time on that side of the sanctuary, this can usually be arranged and is usually very welcome!

How do I get to the project?

Included in your programme price is a collection from Kenyatta International Airport in Lilongwe and transfer to the centre and return transfers when your project is finished.

A day in the life

Volunteers are kept very busy during their stay on the project and you will work 6 days a week from 8am until 4.30pm. Volunteers who stay for longer than four weeks will be given a long weekend off every month (if you want!). Volunteers should try and be flexible with their working hours as some will be required to take night shift duty with injured and orphaned animals who often need round the clock care.

Your days will be full and activities will depend on how long you are staying and what animals are at the sanctuary. If you are staying two weeks then you may be asked to focus on one area rather than spending a little time on many different projects.

Please note that activities will vary according to what animals are at the project at the time and what their needs are. Be flexible and bear in mind that the variety and number of animals can change daily. The only thing we can guarantee is that you will have an amazing time!

Pricing and Dates

When can I volunteer?

Volunteers can begin this Wildlife Sanctuary Project on any Tuesday throughout the year.

Feedback from volunteers suggests that a 2 week programme is just not long enough to experience the project to its fullest. We highly recommend a minimum 4-6 week stay on this programme.

Project pricing 2017 (all prices in GB£):
2 weeks: £1,306
3 weeks: £1,691
4 weeks: £2,130
5 weeks: £2,453
6 weeks: £2,745
8 weeks: £3,283
10 weeks: £3,744
12 weeks: £4,144

Please note that all fees for this project are to be paid in GBP (£ sterling). 

You may pay a supplement to stay in the chalet accommodation - this is an additional £20 (approximately $30) per night for one or two people.

Transfers outside of a Tuesday are an additional £30 (approximately $45) each way.

Your placement is only guaranteed on receipt of a £200 (approximately $300) holding deposit. A payment of 50% of the balance is due two months prior to arrival and the remainder must be paid in cash when you arrive at the project.

We recommend you bring a little extra money to spend on drinks, meals out and souvenirs - £20 a week should cover this, depending on your lifestyle!

What does the cost include?

  • Programme fee - financing which goes back into the programme your are involved with; this includes funding for equipment, supplies, vehicles and foodstuffs
  • Transfers to and from Lilongwe Airport to the project on a Tuesday
  • Full board and lodging for the duration of your programme including laundry (exc. any snacks, alcoholic or fizzy drinks from the bar)
  • Three meals per day
  • Free wireless internet
  • Free t-shirt and local phone sim card
  • Full 24 hour support and training from your programme co-ordinators during your stay
  • All programme-related transport and equipment required to do your work
  • Internet use

The programme cost excludes:

  • Flights to Lilongwe
  • Visas fees (please see note below)
  • Any expenses prior to your programme start date
  • Any personal items such as alcoholic drinks, snacks, additional food or souvenirs
  • Excursions and nights out
  • Extra weeks at on the Malawi Conservation Experience (and internet at this project)
  • Personal medical and travel insurance, which must cover the entire duration of your programme and should include cover for repatriation, air evacuation and any activities you may undertake or plan to undertake
  • Any additional trips outside the volunteer programme
  • Telephone calls

View our booking terms and conditions

There are a number of excursions which are definitely worthwhile - click on the Excursions tab for more details.

A note regarding visas:
The current position is that the new visa fees will be effective as of 1st October 2015 and applicable to visitors from any country which requires Malawian Citizens to acquire visas to visit their country. These countries include but are not limited to the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Schengen member states (which includes many EU countries), Australia and New Zealand. Most Middle East countries will also be required to pay visa fees. A comprehensive list of countries required to pay the fee is still being compiled. Exempt from this entry fee are countries belonging to SADC and COMESA; with the exception of those countries that charge visa fees to Malawian nationals.

Below is a summary of the new visa fees:

Transit – valid for 7 days                              $50
Single entry – valid for 3 months             $75
Multiple entry – valid for 6 months       $150
Multiple entry – valid for 12 months    $250

Accommodation

Volunteers on this Wildlife Sanctuary project stay together in a homely volunteer house in the heart of the sanctuary, surrounded by the animals. There is mixed dorm-style accommodation sleeping ten volunteers and the house has electricity, hot and cold running water, kitchen, lounge and bathroom. There is a housekeeper who will do your laundry for you as well!

There is also a chalet next to the volunteer house which provides volunteers with a bit more of their own space. It sleeps one or two people and has a private bathroom and balcony. Meals are taken with the other volunteers. If the chalet is available, it is an additional £25 per night.

Three meals a day are prepared by the resident Malawian cook, Joseph, while you are volunteering and tea and coffee is freely available through the day. Drinking water is also provided. Joseph is off on a Sunday so volunteers take it in turns to prepare food or you can try one of the local restaurants.

Vegetarians and those with dietary requirements can be accommodated - please just let us know on your booking form!

There is internet at the volunteer house in Lilongwe which is included in the volunteer programme price.

Destination

Volunteering in Malawi

The “Warm Heart of Africa” is a cliche which is hard to ignore in Malawi. It is home to some of the friendliest, most joyful people in Africa, despite their often extreme poverty. This laid-back, landlocked country is the proud host to an unparalleled blend of magnificent blue waters, rolling landscapes, lush forests and abundant wildlife.

It is Malawi’s variety of attractions that is its greatest asset. Whilst Lake Malawi dominates the country, this is not a country of a singular attraction. It is the mixture of beautiful landscapes, fascinating wildlife, the alluring Lake Malawi, and rich culture that combine to make this small country such a wonderful place to visit.

The Malawian people are, without doubt, its greatest asset: friendly and welcoming to a fault. Every visitor is met with a smile and the warmth of the welcome is genuine and long-lasting. Alongside a number of places of particular cultural and historical interest, and all travel will include some element of cultural experience as interaction with local people is very much part of any stay.

Malawi is part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, which provides the vast chasm that Lake Malawi fills. “Discovered” by David Livingstone, this inland sea is a scenic wonderland which provides water sports activities for the thrill-seekers as well as stunning sandy beaches, snorkelling and diving. Fishing villages are dotted around the lake shore and between these are long stretches of uninhabited, golden sand, lapped by crystal clear waters. Enjoy kayaking, sailing and water-skiing or go join local fishermen in a traditional canoe. Relaxing at one of the lodges at Monkey Bay is a definite must for visitors to Malawi!

The best wildlife viewing is in Liwonde National Park in the South of the country wich is home to elephants and the countries largest populations of the endangered black rhino. Visitors to Malawi’s nine National Parks will enjoy unspoilt scenery and an abundance of animals, especially hippos!

Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe is a bustling African city with two distinct parts - the hustle and bustle of the Old Town, a traditional African settlement and the Capital City, with gleaming modern building set in spacious gardens. Both are well worth a visit especially for street food and unique souvenirs.

To the west of the Lake is the Central African Plateau which is characterised by a series of dramatic escarpments, rugged unspoilt wilderness areas and evergreen forests.

What will the weather be like?

Malawi's climate is hot in the low-lying areas in the south of the country and temperate in the northern highlands. The altitude moderates what would otherwise be an equatorial climate.

Between November and April the temperature is warm with equatorial rains and thunderstorms, with the storms reaching their peak severity in late March. After March, the rainfall rapidly diminishes and from May to September wet mists float from the highlands into the plateaus, with almost no rainfall during these months.

Excursions

Do I get some time off?

Working hours and time off depend on the animals which are at the Sanctuary at the time and the level of care they need. There is one day off a week and volunteers who stay 4 weeks or more are given a long weekend off every month to explore more of Malawi.

Lilongwe is a clean and relatively quiet and safe African city with just the right amount of nightlife and restaurants which you are more then welcome to visit! There are craft and food markets within walking distance for buying curios and haggling for vegetables!

It is well worth considering spending some time either before or after your programme exploring Malawi - the “warm heart of Africa”.  Car hire is very affordable and Lake Malawi and Kuti Game Reserve are a short drive away where you can swim or go horse riding. Your long weekends are perfect for safaris into the heart of Africa. A weekend excursion to the Lake of Stars will cost approximately £65-£125 ($100 - $190).

We can also organise an excursion into the stunning South Luangwa National Park in Zambia for after your project - the perfect ending to your African adventure! Get a special discount on the trip: Tour price - approximately £315 ($480) which includes meals, accommodation, game drives, transfers from Lilongwe, guides, park entrance fees and Zambian visa.

Combination Projects

We highly recommend making the most out of your trip to Africa and consider combining two or more volunteer projects into your trip. You could start and finish in the same place (Harare to Harare) or use it as an opportunity to get from one country to another (e.g. Malawi to Zimbabwe).

We highly recommend combining this project with the Hands-on Rhino Conservation Programme in Zimbabwe. Now you have experienced small animal and carnivore care, visit this 10,000 acre private game park in Zimbabwe and get hands on with the endangered black rhino and African elephant. Learn about the challenges facing rhino conservation and get involved with the projects black rhino breeding and release programme.

Love Big Cats? Join our Carnivore Research and Release Programme in the heart of Namibia’s oldest desert and get involved with leopard and cheetah research, monitoring and release.

Take a look at a selection of tailor made itineraries that previous volunteers have enjoyed.

Project News!

July 2015 - Rehabilitating an abandoned hyena cub

Check out this cheeky face! Meet Usiku, which means "Night", a hyena cub who was unfortunately rejected by his mother. The staff and volunteers at the Sanctuary have been taking care of him for a few weeks but hand rearing hyena's is notoriously difficult as they exhibit complex social behaviours. Usiki has has his own special team of caretakers and volunteers to keep him company throughout the day and he is becoming a real handful as his confidence and strength builds! For his social development and future survival in the wild, he really needs to join another clan and hopefully be released, so the programme are trying to find a suitable new home for him. Until then, he's just busy giving volunteers the run-around!

  

Project Gallery - Malawi Hands-on Wildlife Sanctuary

Testimonials

Malawi Hands-on Wildlife Sanctuary My first time in Africa, and what a wonderful experience this was! There are a lot of projects in Africa, but you must do your research to find a good one. And trust me this one is! When I landed on the airport a taxi driver was waiting for me, it was a 30 minute drive to the wildlife centre, there I was welcomed with open arms. From the first moment I felt like home. What ... Nadia S, Netherlands Read More
Malawi Hands-on Wildlife Sanctuary My time here can only be described as the very clichéd “once in a lifetime” experience, only I hope that it does not happen only once, as I would love to go back as soon as possible. I got the idea to volunteer in Africa from an animal shelter where I volunteer at home; someone mentioned it in passing and the idea stuck with me. So when I had to opportunity to take some ... Holly G, USA Read More
Malawi Hands-on Wildlife Sanctuary I was at the sanctuary for 22 weeks and I loved every second of it! It was all that I thought it would be and so much more. From the moment I arrived, late because I missed a flight, the staff took care of me. They made sure that I got picked up at the airport and help me to settle in and get my luggage back – it of course also got lost on ... Julie K, Denmark Read More

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