Vervet Monkey Project – Featured Project

This has proven to be one of Aviva Volunteer’s most popular projects.  The Vervet Monkey Foundation (VMF) is a 23-hectare not-for-profit centre for the rehabilitation and sanctuary for vervet monkeys. They are a member of the Pan-African Sanctuary Alliance as well as The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and this foundation relies heavily on volunteer workers to assist in the day to day running and care duties of the foundation. Unlike other monkey sanctuaries, the Vervet Monkey Sanctuary do not allow tourists onto the property and therefore do not have streams of visitors parading around looking at the monkeys.

From September, the beginning of the baby season, injured adults and orphaned babies are brought to the Sanctuary by either the public or VMF are called out to pick up and assist the adult or baby and like any volunteer will tell you, this is where all the hard work begins.

by josie du toitThe babies are traumatised after losing their mothers and they want comfort, which is normally found in the form of a woolly blanket against the chest of a carer.  Then they need round the clock feeding, initially by a carer and then they are taught how to take milk from a bottle. These little critters are such a joy to behold, playful, showing off their tree climbing skills, jumping and tumbling around each other.  You rarely find just one orphan – over the last month they have had over 12 orphaned monkeys and sadly, they tend to keep on coming.  Some humans in the area have a low tolerance to these monkeys and cause either severe bodily injury or fatalities.  Seriously, peeps, who could not love such a cute and gorgeous little creature?

Whilst carers and nurturing these little babies, other volunteers are out ensuring the different troops are fed, fresh water provided, fences are repaired and any other daily chore is accomplished.  You may even get a chance to go on a call-out to collect and injured monkey or an orphan.  When it is baby season, no two days are the same.

Human contact is limited as much as possible so it won’t be long before the process of introducing the orphans to possible foster mothers, begins.

v.monkey.scottieWhen the babies first arrive they are all housed in the Disneyland enclosure and from there on, they are introduced to the various troops in various enclosures – Gizmo, Skrow, Royal, Robert, Engeltjie (Angel). If you would like to watch videos of these babies being released to meet up with potential foster mothers, I highly recommend going to the Facebook page of The Vervet Forest.

Finn.2015It is fascinating how quickly these babies bond with each other and latch onto a foster mother when the time is right. What an incredible feeling of accomplishment to have volunteered on such a project, knowing you have made a difference.


It is not all work though.  As a volunteer, you have plenty of time to sightsee and explore this beautiful region of South Africa.  But don’t visit for 2 weeks – that is far too short – volunteer for longer and explore the region, like Blyde River Canyon ….


And Bourke’s Drift  Potholes and go swimming in rock pools and venture on forest hikes. Go zip lining or paragliding. River tube down the rivers when they are flowing fast after a good rain. Dave and Josie at the VMF are the loveliest people you could get to meet and they will help you with tips and ideas for sightseeing in the area.

After that is done and dusted, why not consider coming to Cape Town to spend a week at the AVIVA Volunteer house in Table View. Your volunteering experience is not over until you end with the Cape Town experience before heading home.

In 2016, the best is yet to come ….. the best adventure of your life, the best volunteering experience, the best opportunity to discover your potential!






Nkonzo Bush Academy

Becoming a volunteer in the Conservation Program with Nkonzo was by far the most exhilarating and influential time of my life. My time with them started when I met members of their team and fellow volunteers at the bus stop in Mossel Bay where we were being picked up. It was my first time traveling by myself on international soil, needless to say; I was a bit nervous and apprehensive. But I quickly learned that my fears were totally unnecessary; we were picked up by Colleen who gave us a tour of the small town and made sure we were settled into our accommodation for the first two nights. She filled us in on the basics of the town, like where the good burgers were and everyone at the backpackers was very friendly. Nkonzo Bush Academy1

The next day we had orientation and introductions, but it wasn’t your typical lecture room orientation. Instead of sitting at chairs and tables in a cramped room we all walked down together to the point where we sat next to a bay and were even able to see a pod of dolphins. This is when more members of the team told us their histories and about the training and projects we would be assisting with. I think the best part here was that the whole morning was more of a conversation or a discussion between all of us as we asked questions and got to know each other better. In the afternoon on the same day we were introduced to our own individual projects. In our time with Nkonzo they suggested that we theoretically design our own observational research project. This way we would know the exact processes involved in designing a project, collecting and analyzing data, and doing a write up. Though we didn’t collect data for the projects we designed we had access to data sets that resembled the data we would have collected and used it or a mock analysis.

The next day we were picked up early to finally see the reserve and the training camp where we would be spending the majority of our time. I was going to be a volunteer for two months; this was where I was going to be spending a lot of time, and I couldn’t wait! My fist impression of the reserve was just, wow. There was so much open space, the reserve was 11,000 hectare (or 28,000 acres in my American brain) and there was nothing but wildlife, free, uncontrolled wildlife.

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It took more than half an hour to reach camp once we entered the reserve, then we had our first view of our home away from home, in the middle of the African bush. Camp was basic and rustic and I loved it. There was no electricity, the swimming pool was a dam just below camp, and giraffes were walking across a nearby ridge. I knew I was going to love this.

For the next four weeks we woke up to the sound of the hadeda ibis over the dam and the sun rise behind the mountains. We were trained in approach methods and worked on multiple studies, one of the amazing parts of this opportunity was that you weren’t ONLY there for the experience and to see wildlife in its natural element (although that was definitely amazing) but we were doing actual good in terms of conservation. The projects we were working on were designed to improve animal welfare and better understand them so that we as humans were better equipped to coexist without harming them. For me, that was a big deal, we were not tourists, we were volunteers in the conservation industry and were making a deal difference.

There were so many sightings and amazing experiences I had in two months that I could never recount all of them. The one that will always stand out the most to me though, was my first, the first sighting I had of a large wild animal in Africa. On the first training session we had we were on mission white rhino. IMG_20150518_213451I remember tracking a mating pair for hours as they had a very large home range. They were being quite elusive and we spent the better part of the day searching for them. We finally caught a break as we searched the last possible area of their home range. We were able to spend time with them as they grazed on the open plains as the sun was setting. For me, it was the most memorable experience of my life and I couldn’t wait for even more.

My time with Nkonzo taught me more than I could have ever imagined. Though we learned a lot about area specific research and wildlife, the overall methods and theories were ones that I continued to use in the rest of my university career and put me ahead when I began looking for jobs.4103067_orig The experience, skills, and overall knowledge that I acquired with Nkonzo were the most influential part of my successfully obtaining my dream job.


Nkonzo Conservation Intern

June, July 2014

It’s the time to be Merry

December. The Silly Season. The time where people go crazy at the stores buying more stuff to clutter their lives. More stuff they don’t actually need.  And those that need, go about this month oblivious to the amount of money spent at this time of the year on unnecessary material things.

TLC Christmas 2015 CollageOne organisation that ensures the communities they care for are blessed and for one day could experience the joy of receiving something just for them.  Here is a collage of a TLC Christmas Party – one of many they have for the community.

It is a wonderful feeling to give and exciting to receive but in my humble opinion, I think that the time has come to give meaningful gifts.  Adopt a Penguin for your parents or a friend, or adopt an Elephant or a Rhino and the donation will go a long way in helping to save our Endangered Species.  Pledge to raise funds for a Wildlife Conservation Project or an Orphanage. Send school supplies or clothing or books to Schools who badly need these items especially in South America, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Africa, South Africa. These are the gifts that could have a snowball effect on someone’s life or to the safety of Wildlife.

Pledge that a group of you will volunteer in 2016 and ask family and friends for money towards your trip. Volunteering will make such an enormous impact on your life and the communities and wildlife projects you are coming out to support.

So why not make a commitment in 2016 to volunteer with AVIVA Volunteers?  Visit our website and complete a non-obligatory booking form for an opportunity of a lifetime.