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African Horizon

The sanctuary boasts the most incredible animal enclosures and aviaries in which it houses the many species brought there by the public. Nearly all the baby animals in the sanctuary are orphans that have been rescued from elsewhere and brought to the sanctuary for safety and, where possible, will be released back into their natural habitat in the wild.


Location Thornhill, South Africa
Duration From 2 weeks
Dates All year round
  • You must have an upper intermediate level of English
  • Special skills: A reasonable level of fitness
Minimum Age: 17
Your impact
Documents required Enrolment form, curriculum vitae, letter of motivation, passport copy, proof of medical insurance, if under 18: letter of parental consent
Day of arrival Monday
Day of departure Monday


  • Work and live up close with a large variety of South Africa’s birds and wildlife.
  • Explore a game reserve where giraffe, zebra and other buck species run free in your spare time.
  • Make a difference to animals’ lives.
  • World's top surfing mecca Jeffrey's Bay is only 30 minutes away.
  • Take part in amazing tours and excursions outside of the project.
  • Make new friends from all over the world.

Project Information

The sanctuary has grown steadily since it opened to the public in 1992. Since then many more animals and birds have been taken in and the sanctuary is now home to a large number of animals and over 300 species of birds. Most birds and animals are brought to the sanctuary by members of the public or referred from local veterinary practices. These have usually been injured or orphaned. They can range from small birds to larger animals such as bush pigs and buck. Many of the parrots at the sanctuary are unwanted pets which are brought in and integrated into the aviaries with other birds of the same species. Some animals not indigenous to South Africa have come from zoos and other wildlife parks throughout the country. These include Emu, Wallabies and Marmoset Monkeys.

The centre is primarily a sanctuary and the majority of animals and birds that come in are either infants or seriously injured adults. They are cared for by the volunteers and live out the rest of their lives at the sanctuary. However, those that are able to survive in the wild are nursed back to health and released back into their natural habitat.

Your Role

The usual day-to-day duties involve preparing food for the animals and birds and feeding them twice daily. This can take up to 1 hour in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. Volunteers are required to maintain and clean out enclosures regularly and be aware of any problems that arise either with the animals themselves, their enclosures, or their access to food and water.

Volunteers work 5 days with 2 days off each week (not necessarily the weekends). It can be hard work. It can be dirty. It can be smelly. But that’s all part of the fun!

It is important to note that this description serves as an example only. The daily tasks and challenges depend on the volunteer, the time of the year and the work that needs to be done. The final job description can therefore vary substantially from the above.


Your accommodation is a 5-minute walk away from the project. You live in a backpacker-style accommodation with rooms ranging from single to a 4-sleeper dorm, but usually 2 or 3 volunteers share a room. There are 2 bathrooms to share, with a total of 4 toilets and 6 showers. Being located in the African bush, coming across some spiders and other bugs must be taken in consideration. The lodge has a TV lounge (DVD) and is equipped with a small kitchen area. Outside there is a fire pit where you can make bonfires in the evenings. A small laundry room is available where hand washing of clothes can be done. For R50 per load you can also use the washing machine. Sheets, a pillow and a duvet/blanket will be provided; however, you must bring your own sleeping bag which is necessary especially in the winter months. Volunteers are required to clean the bathrooms at the lodge on a rota system.

There is no WiFi available, only in Jeffrey’s Bay. But you are able to purchase a dongle for your laptop if you want personal Internet at your accommodation. You can easily buy a South African SIM card to access Internet through your cell phone. The volunteer staff will assist you in getting a local SIM card at the project on your arrival. Please just insure your cell phone is unlocked before arriving in South Africa.


Louise from France


“It was truly an amazing and unique experience. I really enjoyed meeting the local population and living with them to learn their customs. They were welcoming and passionate. It allowed me to improve my English and to discover a new country. Moreover, there were a lot of contacts with the animals and it was really great to feed them andto take care of them. 
Volunteering and travelling alone has allowed me to be integrated into this mission, to meet the other volunteers and to connect with them as well as to gain autonomy. I was really immersed in the culture of this country. It's a rewarding experience that I will never forget and I advise everyone to do it. I can't wait to do other missions.”

Johanna from Germany


"My stay at African Horizon was such a new and exciting experience for me. I had the opportunity to get in close contact with the animals by feeding them or through playing. We also had the chance to take trips to the beach or to go on a Safari, which we could organize very easily at the project. I’m still in contact with some if the people I met there and I defininetely plan on coming back!
Thanks for everything!"

Patricia from Brazil


"The opportunity to participate in the African Horizon project as a volunteer provided me with a unique experience, where I had contact with wild animals that I would hardly find. My main objective was to be able to make a difference in the care of animals in vulnerable situations and I realized that in the sanctuary they are the top priority. In the sanctuary, they rescue animals in vulnerable situations and give them the best possible living conditions in captivity. I was able to learn a lot about a wide variety of species and the importance of preserving wildlife. In addition, I was also able to meet people from around the world and had the opportunity to improve my English and get to know new cultures. It was, without a doubt, a very enriching and rewarding life experience."

Juliana Soncin


"I chose south Africa to volunteer because I wanted to be close to different animals and learn about them. When I saw the information about the African Horizon project I knew it was the one. African Horizon is a wonderful place!! This experience taught me a lot, I could learn many things about the animals and make a connection with them. Besides that, I met so many amazing people that I'll never forget. I'm so thankful for my time at African Horizon, being a volunteer was incredible. That place and the people who shared this experience with me have a big piece of my heart."

Sidarta Soares


“It was amazing, having that kind of relationship with the animals, taking care of them and also meeting new people that are also wanting to do something good is really a unique experience.”

Adrià from Spain


"This has been a very amazing and unique experience and all has worked so well, there weren’t any problem with anything, thank you for everything!!!"

Flora from France


"The first week went very well. After a trip a little long (all my flights were delayed and therefore the trip lasted 25h instead of 17) I arrived in a place that has everything to please me. The people are lovely (managers and volunteers) and the life surrounded by animals is pretty amazing. We get up early (6:30 or 5:30 when we are "morning prep") and we feed the animals after drinking a coffee, if we wish. Then we have breakfast at 8:30 and at 9 o'clock we do the division of tasks for the day. We always work as a team and we eat together at 12:30. The day ends around 16h or 17h but it does not seem long because the setting is really idyllic. We live in huts with other volunteers, I feel like a mini flatsharing and it is great. The animals are so happy here, one of our jobs is to "give love to the animals" so we get into the pens and sit with them to cuddle and chat. I have enjoyed the beach and safari with volunteers, it was wonderful."

Linn from Germany


"I was really scared on my way to African Horizon, but once I arrived I totally forgot about all my worries. All the people were really nice and introduced me to everything. During the first few days of work you don’t understand a lot of the tasks you have to do, but there will always be someone with you who explains everything and after a few weeks you can do it on your own. On my second day, I got to feed the cheetahs and it was the best experience by far. It’s just amazing to stand close to such a powerful and beautiful animals. This is a moment you won’t ever forget, trust me! All in all my time at African Horizon is an experience I won’t forget and it’s one of the best things I ever did in my entire life. I made so many friends from all over the world and I learned a lot (not only about the animals)."

Mariane from Brazil


"I certainly want to do it again, it doesn’t have to be the same place/project but to interact with animals and spend some time with them it’s really an experience that I will never forget, specially animals that we don’t have in Brazil like the mongoose (Clyde, the water mongoose who stole my heart, he is such a cutie). Let’s not forget all the things that you can do there like safaris, kayaking, skydiving and more. I really loved the time that I’ve spent there."

Juliana from Brazil


"For me the experience was incredible. I thank you for the opportunity. It was very special, I learned a lot."

Victoria from Brazil


"Going to South Africa was for sure the best thing I have done in my life. The experience of being so close to such amazing animals and to know the wonderful people responsible for taking care of them was so special for me. To work with different people and cultures and to learn about wild animals and their habits have made me become a better person, for sure. I'm so grateful for the opportunity and I'm looking forward for the next volunteer work in South Africa!"

Selton from Brazil


"First of all, I would like to thank Vanessa and Naomi for being so friendly and always willing to help. I would also like to thank Meg, the Volunteer Coordinator. About my experience in African African Horizon, it was simply amazing. On my first day there I was feeling a little lost and homesick, but the other volunteers were so nice to me that quickly I felt like I belong there. The work was a little bit hard, but it was also fun. The only downside was the cold, it was colder than Cape Town. But it was an amazing experience, I had the opportunity to see and work with animals that I had never seen before, made some good friends. I'll miss African Horizon and South Africa. Hope to be back there soon."

Eva from Austria


"I’m really missing South Africa so much! The time I spent at African Horizon was honestly the best so far. I got to do so many different things and met so many new people who truly became really good friends to me. Since I’m home I really miss the people, the animals and the work so so so much! I fell in love with South Africa and everything it has to offer. Can’t wait to go there again! I also wanted to thank you for your effort to make this great journey possible for me! It was truly amazing and I miss the time in SA so so much! Thank you!"

Melanie from France


"It was the most incredible experience of my life. Being able to help others by doing what we love is amazing. We were close to all the animals, I met a lot of incredible persons from all over the world, we were just a big family. The managers were so nice. It's an experience that I would do it again without hesitation."

Dana from Brazil


"My experience in the project was amazing, since I was living in a totally different routine than I am used to. Being able to work with animals made the job much more easier and fun! Also, the fact that I was all the time with people from different countries and cultures than mine made the experience really interesting. I have no regrets of doing this project because I grew a lot and it was a huge experience!"

Marina from Brazil


"The contact with animals, and with other cultures, showed me a new way of seeing things. The routine like voluntary is not light, it's hard some times, but every effort is more than worth, rewarding is one of the words that makes the most sense for me thinking about every day I spent in Africa. The people of the project are really nice, the place is beautiful, the animals are then the best of everything. Africa it's an amazing country, with lovely people, with rich views, pretty beaches. I really want back there. It was all wonderful. Thanks for everything."

Ossian from Sweden


"My time at the project has been one of the best and richest times of my life. It is with a heavy heart that I come to realise it has all come to an end. But it's not a goodbye it's a see you later."

Aina from Spain


"This experience has been exciting. I've been quad biking and shark cage diving and at the project I have gotten to see plenty of different animals: cheetah, lynx, crocodile, several cats, squirrel monkeys, etc. Also it's been great helping around with the feeding, giving water, cleaning enclosures, preparing food, etc. I've also had more hands on contact that I expected. It's great to have some real responsibility. The work involves getting pretty dirty but that's okay and the activities you can do in your spare time are mind blowing! The location is so amazing. All in all, great experience, would recommend it, THANK YOU!"

Pia from Switzerland


"The first few days you kind of feel “lost” because there is so much information but you get a lot of help from all the others. It is really amazing to work with all these animals and it is so nice to observe them and get new information. The other great part is getting to know so many new people from all over the world. Im really going to miss the work with the animals and spending time with my new friends. Thanks African Horizon, for the amazing experience."

Magdalena from Germany


"I had an incredible time in South Africa and at African Horizon. South Africa is a wonderful country: I met so many nice people and I was so happy to see how friendly people in South Africa are! The landscape and animals fascinated me a lot and I'll definitely come back! I enjoyed my stay at African Horizon very much. It was such a great experience to be able to work so close with the animals. I felt very needed and helpful and I'm very impressed of the work the managers of African Horizon do every day!"