— Good news! Our volunteer programme is in place starting 1 June 2023. We now accept volunteer applications. To thank you for your patience, we offer you 10% discount if you book via this site in June, July and/or August 2023! —

Please take the time to review our Rules and Policies before arriving.

When you come to volunteer at TLF, not only do you get the chance to work close to amazing wildlife, but you also get the chance to meet and work with people from around the world and experience an entirely different culture.

Volunteers are very much appreciated and are essential to the proper running of the sanctuary; but, in all that we do the animals must come first. We encourage you to make friends and socialise after work in the evenings. However please always be respectful to the animals, other volunteers and staff that live here.

Accommodation, food, and on-site amenities

Most accommodation is two or three people per room in single sex rooms, with the exceptions of couples and friends. Bedlinen is provided to you during your stay. You are welcome to change your bedsheets weekly if you would like fresh linen. All rooms have either en-suite or shared bathrooms with a western style toilet and a shower.

Your rooms are cleaned before your arrival, and we ask all volunteers to look after their own space by keeping your personal area tidy. All rooms have electrical outlets for you to use, the South African with three round pins, 220v. Please bring adapters and/or extension cords for your type of plugs.

Once the new accommodation is in place, you can either cook your own dinner or cook with the group. If you are on a special diet, please talk to your Volunteer Coordinator. Breakfast and lunch are continental style, we provide an assortment of rotating items including bread, jams and butter, eggs, cheeses and meats, seasonal fruit, juices, cereals, milk, tea and coffee.

You can do your own shopping for snacks, drinks and food to your own taste in town, and keep fresh items in the communal fridge, labelled with your name.

Free use of Wi-Fi is available to check emails, social media and for booking flights or hotels. We politely ask that this facility not be used to download large files such as movies. We also have an on-site laundry where you can get your clothes washed (R5 per item).

On-site support

Our Volunteer Coordinator can help whenever you need assistance. With scheduling issues, animal issues, illness, emergencies back home, as well as personal support while you are away from home. Our coordinator can be very busy, but we have an open-door policy so you can come and talk to us any time you need. Each week our Volunteer Coordinator holds a volunteer meeting to provide updates on the animals, and to resolve any work-related issues that have arisen during the week prior, as well as to allow volunteers the chance to ask questions about the animals or their volunteer experience.


Upon arrival, volunteers will be greeted by the Volunteer Coordinator, be shown to their room and receive an explanation regarding domestic matters as well as a brief description of the work they will be doing, including instructions on health and safety, regarding proximity to the animals. On the day of arrival or the next day, you will also be given a full tour of our sanctuary where staff will explain to you why we exist and how you can help animals in South Africa. This is a great time to meet many of our animals and learn their stories. You will also receive a tour of the nature reserve where the sanctuary is located.

Work schedule

As working with animals is not always predictable, your work hours will vary a little. Typically, the working day starts at 8AM, volunteers will normally finish work around 4PM, with several breaks throughout the day.

Volunteers will be assigned tasks each day by the Volunteer Coordinator, and work with team leaders who are longer-term experienced volunteers who assist and guide their teams throughout daily tasks. Each person has their own pace, their own strengths, and weaknesses. You are kindly asked to respect that not everyone has the same abilities and may work at a different pace to yourself.

Everyone is here to help the animals and makes their contribution in their own way. Please speak to the Volunteer Coordinator if you feel you have been given too much or too little work for your personal abilities, as there are plenty of tasks to suit all.

The Volunteer Coordinator will be around to answer any questions and monitor and observe throughout the day. You, the volunteers help a lot around the sanctuary with daily tasks and large ongoing projects. Without you, it would not at all be possible.

Living expenses and money matters

Whilst all your food and accommodation are covered while you are here, volunteers should bring some additional money with them, such as for local sightseeing, meals out with friends, snacks, etc. South Africa is cheaper than most western countries but is one of the more expensive countries in Africa. The local currency here is the South African Rand (ZAR or R). Check the exchange rate with your own currency from one of the many online resources, for example www.xe.com.

Examples of some typical costs:

A meal, excluding drinks, at a restaurant (average)                                               ZAR 150
Bottle of beer at the local convenience store                                                          ZAR 16
Bottle of soft drink 1L (e.g., Coca-Cola)                                                                  ZAR 17

SIM-card starter pack for mobile phone (SIM-card including 2 GB and 60 mins)   ZAR 100

Local town amenities  

We are situated at a 30-minute drive from Bela-Bela town. The town has two local shopping malls, some chain restaurants, a few supermarkets, and a shopping street. There are also ATMs, but please note that it is not always possible to pay with your own bank debit card in the village or at TLF.

Contacting Home & Emergencies

Please make sure your friends and family are aware of how to contact you before you leave. We suggest if your government has a tourist registration service that you register your location with them.


Even if you are only staying a few weeks, the best option is to bring your own mobile phone and buy a cheap South African SIM-card here (available in Bela-Bela town), so you can receive calls/ SMS for free and make calls at a reasonable cost. The mobile wavebands in South Africa are the same as Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc. So, a mobile phone from these regions will work fine here. Cell phones from North America will need to be multi-band to be able to work here. However, it is also possible to buy a cheap new phone here.

If you do not have your own phone with you, it is not possible to make international calls from TLF. If you need to make an overseas call you can do so at one of the nearby towns such as Bela-Bela.

In case of an emergency, you can receive telephone calls at the sanctuary. The best time for people to call is in the evenings and not after 21:00 local time. Please stress that calling the TLF numbers must only be in a real emergency and preferably not during the middle of the night in South Africa. Local time in South Africa can be checked on the following site: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/southafrica/johannesburg


Most volunteers these days use social media, email, and Skype to stay in contact with home. Free use of Wi-Fi is available to check emails, social media and for booking flights or hotels. We politely ask that this facility not be used to download large files such as movies or games.

Wish list

Some volunteers ask us if there is anything they can bring to help us with the animals at the sanctuary. However, as we are mainly dealing with large animals, we also need large and strong enrichment items, which are not easy to bring on a plane. It will be very much appreciated if you donate to TLF so that we can buy what we need locally. This will also support the local economy.
If you think you can help with specialized animal husbandry equipment, please contact info@thelionsfoundation.com.

Free time at and around TLF

Care for the animals is required 365 days a year. However, there is free time during and after work, and we do offer volunteers a day off each week and encourage you to get out to experience what the area has to offer.

  • Free time in the evenings:

There are some locations at the centre for you to relax, read, or get in touch with home. We do not encourage you to go out of the reserve after sunset, as it can be unsafe.

  • Free time on a day off:

You can visit a town in the area, visit another animal shelter (we will provide names) visit a big-5 nature reserve, go ziplining and more. Usually, transport can be arranged from TLF for a small fee.


Please read through this section carefully, so that you are fully prepared in getting to us safely, and that you are organised when you arrive.


The following is advised for most nationalities, but requirements frequently change, so do not trust your, potentially outdated, travel guide and PLEASE CHECK THE VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR YOUR NATIONALITY WITH THE SOUTH AFRICAN EMBASSY IN YOUR COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE.

  • Your passport needs to be valid for at least 6 months upon arrival to South Africa. Please check and make sure your passport will not expire soon, or otherwise organise a new one plenty of time in advance of your departure date.
  • You will need to be able to show a valid return ticket. If you can’t, you will need to pay a deposit.
  • If your stay in South Africa is shorter than 90 days, then the free VOA (Visa On Arrival, which just means a stamp in your passport) should cover you if arriving by air.
  • You may very well have to show that you have the financial means to support yourself for the time you stay in South Africa. Bring bank statements or anything that proves this.
  • You may need a letter from TLF confirming your participation as a volunteer, this will be sent upon request.

Please note: Overstayers waiting in South Africa for a visa extension will receive a temporary ban from South Africa upon leaving the country. This banishment can be imposed for a period from 12 months up to five years. Even if you have been waiting (for a long time) for approval to extend your visa, customs will not hesitate to impose a ban on you!

Travel Documents

You are advised to make copies of important travel documents (passport, tickets, driving licence, etc.) and keep these somewhere safe and separate from the originals. An extra copy to leave with your family back home might also be a good idea. We also suggest that you register your travel details with your home countries Foreign Affairs Departments if they have one.

Travel insurance

Although we will do our best to ensure your safety, TLF does not accept any liability for you or your possessions whilst on or offsite as a volunteer. Please make sure you have the necessary insurance cover for any emergency and that you bring a copy of your insurance policy with you. Your travel agent will recommend insurance and there are several independent insurers offering deals for travel insurance.

Health insurance

Foreigners are not eligible for free medical treatment in South Africa. Since the local hospital in the nearest town of Bela-Bela is not available, you will need to go to a private clinic if you need medical attention and you will need to pay for it. Please check with your existing health insurer how you are covered and if you need extra medical insurance for volunteering in South Africa.

Packing List

This list will help you consider what you will need during your stay at the sanctuary, alongside all the other items you would normally take travelling. Most items can also be bought in town, if you want to travel light.

We suggest:
• Sunhat, cap or bandana
• Torch/flashlight
• Alarm clock
• Power adaptor
• Comfortable shoes or sandals
• Lightweight rainproof clothing (e.g. poncho – cheap quality ones can be bought locally)
• Ensure your mobile phone is unlocked if you wish to buy a South African sim card
• Simple first aid kit with plasters, bandages, antiseptics, and various medications for gastric bugs

Summer season (Oct – Mar) specific:
• Lightweight work clothes you do not mind sweating in and getting dirty (shorts and t-shirts)
• Long sleeve top(s) and trousers to protect you from mosquito bites in the evenings
• High-factor sun-cream
• Sunglasses
• Mosquito net with hooks to hang it
• Plenty of insect repellent

Winter season (Apr – Sep) specific:
• Warm clothes, gloves, shawl, winter hat. Especially nights can be quite cold here.

Pre-arrival Checklist

  • Pay deposit payment to TLF (as soon as possible to secure your application)
  • Pay remainder balance to TLF (60 days before arrival)
  • Health check-up with travel doctor (well in advance of travelling)
  • Vaccinations advised by travel doctor
  • Visa (if required)
  • Travel insurance
  • Medical insurance (if necessary on top of your normal health insurance)
  • Book flights (the sooner, the cheaper)
  • Notify TLF of arrival details
  • Give travel documents copies and TLF contact details to family members or friends in case of emergencies
  • Review TLF Rules and Policies before arrival


Before arriving

We recommend that all volunteers go to a travel doctor plenty of time before they arrive to receive the most up to date health advice before visiting South Africa. We require that all volunteers have their vaccinations for DTP (Diphtheria/Tetanus/Polio) up to date. This is mandatory.

There are plenty of mosquitoes here, but TLF is NOT in a malarial area. Please consult your travel doctor for the latest health advice.

COVID-19 information

The South African Government changed their entry restrictions, so people no longer need to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 to enter the country. However, you will need to follow the current entry guidelines. Please contact the South African Embassy in your home country to get the most recent updates.

For TLF volunteers, this means that unvaccinated volunteers are now able to join the project. However, for the safety of all volunteers, any volunteer that tests positive for Covid-19 while at TLF will need to immediately isolate themselves until they are no longer contagious.

Whilst at TLF

The health and safety of our volunteers is very important to us, and we take all possible precautions to ensure that there are no accidents. Please see the details below which will help you to stay safe at the centre.

Animal attacks

The facilities and procedures for animal management, as well as the hands-off policy, are in place for both the safety of people as well as of the animals. However, during the normal course of work at the sanctuary and reserve, it is possible that you are in contact with an animal. You will also be warned about specific animals during your introductory tour, with whom extra caution is advised.

Volunteers that are scratched or bitten by animals are often victims of their own lack of attention, their failure to listen to guidance, or failure to correctly judge the risk involved. Please always be alert when working near the animals and please be aware that you are not expected to take any risks. In fact, you are specifically instructed not to take any risks with the animals. If in doubt about handling any situation, please ask a member of staff.

Snakes and spiders

Please be warned that, on rare occasions, you may encounter snakes or spiders during your stay here. In such cases, DO NOT approach them, withdraw, and alert a member of staff, who will move them to a safe area. Occasionally snakes are encountered in long grass, in the trees, pools, etc. but they rarely attack people unless they feel threatened, so keep your distance. Be sure to take precautions, wear proper closed-toe shoes and working gloves if handling logs and leaves, etc. Spiders can hide in many places. They are rarely venomous, but please take precautions by keeping work and living areas tidy. Please ensure your room is always kept clean and tidy to avoid harbouring any unwanted visitors.

If you are unfortunate and get bitten or stung, withdraw immediately and call for help. Do not attempt to catch the snake or spider, as this will increase your risk of being bitten again. Most of the species here are not venomous, and even those that are do not always inject venom when they bite. You will be given first aid and then taken straight to the hospital if deemed necessary. If you are bitten on the hand, then remove any rings you might be wearing, due to risk of swelling.

Mosquitoes and other bugs

In the region of South Africa where TLF is located there is no malaria or other mosquito borne diseases. Please make sure you have the necessary vaccinations or precautions if you arrive from another part of South Africa.

You should aim to protect yourself from bites as much as possible. During dusk hours or working in the bush, use adequate insect repellent and preferably wear long sleeves and trousers to cover up your skin. If you do get bitten, TRY NOT TO SCRATCH! Working in this environment means you could infect your wounds. It is important to always keep wounds of any kind clean and dry to prevent infection. If your wounds become infected, inform a member of staff know immediately, so that we can treat you or take you to the hospital for treatment before the infection spreads. Also, your bites may flare up considerably if you have an allergic reaction, for which it is recommended to use antihistamine pills and/or cream. These can be purchased from the local pharmacy.

In the bush we do have ticks, which can cause tick bite fever. African tick bite fever is a disease caused by bacteria. You can get infected if you are bitten by an infected tick. Ticks that are infected with bacteria that cause African tick bite fever are usually most active from November through April.

There are no vaccines that prevent African tick bite fever. You can protect yourself from infection by taking the following precautions:

  • Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Ask your Volunteer Coordinator if and where you can expect ticks.
  • Avoid Contact with Ticks. Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
    Walk in the centre of trails.
  • Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings.
  • Use an insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Always follow product instructions.
  • Check your clothing and gear for ticks. Any ticks that are found should be removed. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.
  • Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting tick-borne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
  • Check your body for ticks. Conduct a full body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Check especially these parts of your body for ticks:
    • Under the arms
    • In and around the ears
    • Inside belly button
    • Back of the knees
    • In and around the hair
    • Between the legs
    • Around the waist
  • If you find a tick attached to your skin, simply remove the tick as soon as possible.

Medical emergencies

Staff at the sanctuary can perform basic first aid. If you feel you or a member of staff feels you need to see a doctor, you can see one in town, which takes approximately 30 minutes to reach. This will be at a private clinic at your own cost. There are doctors fluent in English, the clinic is a hygienic and sterile environment for treatment.

Your medical insurance will probably cover the costs, but please enquire with your insurance company at home before you travel. You may need to take out extra insurance while doing volunteering work. 

There is a pharmacy in town, where you can find all medications you would find available across the counter at home.

Zoonotic diseases

Zoonotic diseases are diseases that can be passed from animals to humans and vice versa (reverse zoonotic diseases). All the animals cared for at TLF are thoroughly tested and kept in quarantined areas of the sanctuary until we can confirm they are not a risk to the people working here or to the other animals. However, it is important to be aware of the health risks that can occur when working with any wild or domesticated animals.

Zoonotic diseases are a very important reason why volunteers should not handle any of the animals at the sanctuary and a good reason for not keeping them as pets. Viruses and bacteria can be transmitted to humans through bite wounds and scratches, or contact with faeces, saliva, and urine. Close petting of animals can result in exposure to disease. We have a hands-off policy for animals, and do not allow volunteers to enter the quarantine area for your own safety.

A further concern is the possibility of us transmitting disease to the animals in our care. For example, respiratory infections are the most common diseases transmitted from humans to monkeys, even when there has been no physical contact. Primates are very close to us genetically, so infections can easily cross over.

Outside the sanctuary

Here we can only advise you to be careful and obviously we cannot accept any responsibility for your safety when you are not on the premises. We recommend that you dress and behave in a respectable manner in town; this includes refraining from drinking on the streets in public. We also strongly recommend that you return from town before it gets dark and that you do not go out anywhere after dark. If you must do this, then please only do so in groups. For your own safety, we do not allow volunteers to walk out of the sanctuary after dark alone. Please be aware that you will be liable for injuries to yourself or others for failing to comply with this rule.


Volunteers are responsible for arranging and paying for their own flights.

We are unable to advise or help you in booking flights. The nearest international airport is Johannesburg OR Tambo (airport code JNB).
New volunteers start on either Tuesday or Thursday, so please plan your flight/hotel accordingly.

Arranging a transfer to our sanctuary  

We can arrange pickups for volunteers from Johannesburg airport or a hotel, on Tuesdays or Thursdays. The costs are R1500 per person, or R3000 per ride if you travel with more than two volunteers at the same time. Sometimes we can arrange pickups together with other new volunteers that arrive on the same day as you. However, this depends on what time you and other volunteers are available to be picked up. Please, let us know if you are interested in sharing a taxi with other volunteers, or prefer a private transfer.
We can arrange pick-ups Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8AM to 3PM, because the sanctuary is a 2,5-hour drive away and otherwise there will be no staff member available to greet the volunteers.

Your pick-up details. If you wish to be picked up from the airport, please send us your flight number and arrival time. If you want to be picked up from a hotel, please send us the hotel name, address, and phone number. The best pick-up time for a hotel pick-up from Joburg is 9AM.

For arrivals at a bus or train station please contact the sanctuary and we will send a car for you. Please note we cannot arrange a pickup on arrival later than 4pm. Payments can be made on arrival at the sanctuary.


The Lions Foundation
Schrikkloof Private Nature Reserve
Farm Schrikkloof 951
Alma Road
Bela-Bela, Limpopo

Office Contact
+27 (84) 611 0089 (during regular office hours)

Volunteer Coordinator Contact
+27 (83) 630-1059
Email: info@thelionsfoundation.com

Thank you for choosing to volunteer with us

Please take time to read our website www.thelionsfoundation.com and www.schrikkloof.com  so that you can start to familiarize yourself with our organisation. Most importantly, come with an open mind, considerate attitude, lots of enthusiasm and you are sure to have an amazing experience with TLF.

The animals are all waiting to meet you!