I spent a month volunteering at the Bambelela Vervet Rehabilitation Centre and in short it was a truly amazing experience. The centre focuses on rescuing and rehabilitating vervet monkeys, but they also have capuchins and the occasional baboon, plus a range of wildlife which visit the farm. The centre does amazing work rescuing and rehabilitating the monkeys, who have often gone through awful experiences, and yet the staff never give up on saving them and ultimately trying to give them back their freedom.
From the start you are working hands on with monkeys and are responsible for all aspects of their care. The staff are all incredibly friendly and supportive, and from day 1 made sure that we were comfortable with all tasks and most importantly interacting with the monkeys. You basically can be as hands on as you want, so even if you're a bit nervous, they will find a cage and monkeys that you are happy with. I would recommend this volunteering experience for anyone wanting to work hands on with primates, either to get experience with monkeys or just as a break from the 9-5 life. Your average day is from 7.45am to at 5pm, and is a combination of feeding, cleaning, other chores, enrichment and 'cuddle time' with the babies, plus various ad hoc projects. I have heard of volunteering placements where volunteers have to do all the chores and don't get to do the fun stuff, well that isn't the case at Bambelela! Everyone shares the work equally, so you will work hard and you do have a lot of chores (monkeys make a lot of mess!), but you will be working alongside a great team and have a lot of fun, even when scrubbing monkey dishes!!
The monkeys also always come first, so you eat after the monkeys eat and you finish for the day once they are tucked up with milk and blankets. On the subject of food, in short it is delicious! I am a really fussy eater and I ate everything that was put in front of me (Ben the chef is a genius). In the evenings you make your own entertainment, we played cards or a board game, or sometimes watched a movie. This is not a party holiday, but we did have a couple of dinners out in town as a treat and also went to a local game park to see the big cats and go on safari, so there are options to do other stuff while you are there. The accommodation is basic, but clean and very comfortable, with the option of more luxury rooms/chalets if the dorm experience isn't for you.
I could go on and on about how great volunteering at Bambelela was, but really you should go and find out for yourself! If volunteering isn't for you, you can also stay in one of their beautiful chalets (with a pool) and just visit with the monkeys. Contact them directly via their website and they will answer any questions you have. I am also happy to answer any questions if you want the opinion of a previous volunteer (hopefully a repeat volunteer at some point!). The only bad thing was having to leave, and I miss the moneys (three in particular) so much! Book now, it will change your life.
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