Volunteering at the Big Cat Sanctuary

Emboya day 1.

Wow! What can I say but wow! This place is one of the most incredible places I have been too. Now the place is in the middle of nowhere a good hour or so from the closest town and the lodge is set in the middle of the beautiful Waterberg region. The family who own and run the place are also some of the nicest people I have met. I feel so welcome and valued as a guest. Minunette, is very much like me and lives and loves life as I do, giving the experience an even more special feel.

This is going to be a very special volunteer project which offers a truly unique and beautiful experience. I am already planning my next trip back here for longer and to bring someone special to this magical place. We spent the afternoon looking round the farm. I was introduced first to the 2 tigresses and then the small pride of 4 lions they have.

The wonderful thing about here is that it is truly a sanctuary and the cats are here to live out their days, albeit in captivity, but in a place where they are cared for and are allowed to live as wild as possible. We then went to do our daily tasks of going to tend to the sheep.

They have a flock of Bapedi sheep. Which are a traditional hardy breed from South Pansberg. Daily care of these is feeding, watering and checking for any illness. The farm is so far away from most things the guy here do most of their vetenary work, so any sheep showing signs of illness is treated on a daily basis. In this case one ewe needed a dose of antibiotics so we caught and administered this.

Next came the feeding of the big cats. Again this is done one a daily basis which generally consists of throwing chunks of meat into their enclosures. It is very interesting to see the pride dynamics and the way on which big cats show their personalities.

Volunteer accommodation in africa

Volunteer accommodation in africa


Day 2.

An early morning of some yoga stretches on the veranda whilst watching the monkeys on the trees started the day off in the best way. It was then off to do our rounds of checking the big cat camps. The fences must be checked regularly for both human safety but also for the cats’ safety. So the camps are walked and the electricity cables are periodically are checked. Big cats are just as curious as house cats so we were followed around each camp. The lions certainly took a liking to me even if it was not in a good way as they proceeded to take up their stalking position and gave me those wide killer eyes that all cats have. Thank goodness for the night big electrified fence!

Next we went back to the sheep. Now I have already fallen in love with sheep. I don’t know whether it comes from helping the sheep at my old university or in Brazil but I feel quite comfortable and confident herding and catching them. So more doctoring needed to be done with creams of cuts, inks for eye worms and general antibiotics were administered. Maybe in another life I was a sheep vet! Who knows but I love it.

tending to the sheep in Africa.

The guys here have also started \ breeding project for some black impala. Therefore, these to be checked every day to make sure they are fine and to be counted. Now so this sounds like a relatively easy task, but let me tell you looking for 6 black antelope in a 25hectare enclosure with tall grass is no easy task. Impala also use the shade of trees and scrub which makes the normal impala look black.


A gorgeous breakfast was served on the veranda of the lodge overlooking the rolling African bush wilderness of the farm. Then it was to some physical work of cleaning out a waterhole on the other side of the farm. I have done such things before but when we got to the waterhole I was a little taken aback at how much water we had to take out with 3 girls and 3 small buckets!! Not one to ever be defeated by a task we set to work. 40 mins later the water was out and cleaned. I just loved doing that and I am sure I am going to feel it tomorrow but physical work is something I need to do badly. Still feeling the aftershock of Christmas indulgence I was indeed of working up a sweat and doing some hard labour.

3 hours off during the hottest part of the day gave me a chance to sleep, catch up on emails, do some washing and the obligatory dancing around the tent, before the cat feeding rounds.

On the menu today was chicken. Nice freshly dispatched chicken! Throwing a newly gutted chicken does not have a happy ending for the ones throwing it and the blood and guts spilling out. Needless to say I have a long hot shower. Tonight I learned to play rummicub.


Wildlife seen today:

·         Giraffe

·         warthog,

·         Nyala

·         Wildebeest,

·         Ververt Monkeys

·         Baboons,

·         Rock monitor

·         Terrapins

·         Kudu

·         Impala

·         Rock dassies

·         Bats

·         Elephant shrew


lodge pool africa


Day 3

We started the day with the daily tasks of checking the electric fences on both lion and tiger enclosures, counting the black impala and sorting the sheep which took us up to breakfast. After we cleaned out the tiger enclosure.

I was trying to think of if I were a big cat where would I stash or take my meat and leave the bones?! It has to be said the tigers were safely looked up in the night rooms. We then cleaned out their water pool. So it appears tigers do most things in water. They are taught from an early age as cubs to pee and poop in water so other predators cannot find them by their smell. So as I am sure you can imagine the waterhole of two captive tigers was pretty nasty. They even eat sometimes in there.

The rest of the day was pretty chilled. I got to read lots in the sun and spend some time taking pictures. Some nice surprises from the team today. They gave me a fleece with their logo on and then tonight we got to play the African drums. The staff came and we sang and played the drums. It was great fun, I just love to hear the guys singing and playing traditional African music.

Africa is famous for the “Big 5” animals which most people try and see when they come to stay here. But not many people know about the “little 5”:

The rhino beetle

Leopard tortoise

Ant lion

Buffalo Weaver

Elephant shrew

Now the last one is my favourite and for the second day running on my afternoon break a little elephant shrew has visited the rocks outside my tent and today I even managed to get some photos. Their noise is just amazing and looks so crazy.

elephant shrew


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