Volunteering at The Dell Cheetah Centre
When you think about volunteering, you never really know what to expect and this short introduction will provide you with all the information you need.
The volunteer programme at the Dell Cheetah Centre has been running since July 2008 and is a unique experience which allows you to get up close and personal with our cheetahs, whilst learning about the African wildlife and the importance of conservation in the 21st century. The maximum number of volunteers is limited to 8.
You will find the programme interesting, challenging, fun and rewarding, and the more you put into the experience the more you will gain from it. Your role as a volunteer is vital in allowing us to continue with our breeding and reintroduction work, and the vast majority of the volunteering fee is put straight back into the project. The rest of the it is used to cover your board and lodging costs.
You will be working with the cheetahs on a day-to-day basis; feeding them, cleaning their enclosures, monitoring them and exercising them. If there are cubs during your stay you will spend a great deal of time working with them too, once they are over the age of three months. (please note: This is enrichment, and should not be confused with 'petting'.)
- Volunteers should be aged between 18 and 55 years old and physically and mentally healthy.
- A good level of fitness is required as certain chores are to be carried out in trying weather or involve substantial effort, such as heavy lifting.
- Considering the wide range of nationalities represented within the programme, the project language is Standard English and Volunteers’ spoken and written levels must be sufficient to communicate with staff members and fellow Volunteers.
- Finally, Volunteers are expected to be fully involved in any activities of the programme.
Arrival and departure
The Dell Cheetah Centre is open from 2 January to 15 December.
- Arrival dates: 1st and 15th of each month (no arrival on 15 December, and arrival on 2 January)
- Pick-up Location: Johannesburg OR Tambo airport
- Pick-up time: 12pm
Your flight should land by 10am at the latest to give you time to go through Immigration and Customs.
- Departure dates: 15th and 29th of each month (no departure on 29 December)
- Departure time from the Dell Cheetah Centre: 10am
Your flight should depart no earlier than 6pm to give you time to go check in, go through Security and Immigration.
- Dropped off Location: Johannesburg OR Tambo airport
Volunteers should book their flight or accommodation in accordance. Any transfer between the airport and the Dell Cheetah Centre caused by a late arrival or an anticipated departure should be made at your own expenses.
Volunteers will be given a full induction by a staff member on their arrival and will be provided with a Dell Cheetah Centre shirt, which has to be worn when working with the public and when representing the Centre outside the premises.
Location and climate
The Dell Cheetah Centre is located in the Free State Province, approximately 120 km south of Johannesburg. Parys, which was originally named after the capital of France, is the nearest town, about 15-min drive away (www.parys.co.za).
The Centre lies within the buffer zone of the Vredefort Dome Impact Site, where a meteorite the size of Table Mountain hit Earth approximately 2 billion years ago. The project is based on a farm bordered by the Vaal River, which is the largest tributary of the Orange River in South Africa. It is 1120 km in length, and its name comes from the word "drab" or "dull" due to its brown colour.
Summer months, from October to March, are hot with frequent thunderstorms. We recommend lightweight (cottons and linens), short-sleeved clothes and a waterproof jacket. Winter, from April to September, is very cold and dry. Temperatures can reach -7˚C at night and frost is quite common early morning. We recommend packing lots of warm clothes. You can find an indicative climate chart in the Pre-departure pack.
Accommodation And Meals
Farm Vaal Rock
The Volunteers house is a traditional house with a thatched roof, which is situated in the heart of the centre and is surrounded by the cheetahs’ enclosures. The house has been specifically refitted to provide Volunteers with a good level of comfort. It consists of:
- 2 dormitory rooms with 4 beds each
Bed linen is provided and washed once a week. Although efforts are made to ensure that rooms are shared on a single sex basis, this cannot be guaranteed. Couples may have to share a room with other volunteers or be split up depending on the numbers of Volunteers at the time.
- 2 bathrooms with one shower each
Hot and cold water available. Towels are provided and washed once a week.
- A kitchen equipped with an electric stove and a microwave
- A dining room
- A lounge/TV room
- An office
The house is cleaned on a daily basis. However, it is the Volunteers' duty to keep it tidy.
Meals and drinking water
Breakfast is served from 8:30 am to 9 am. A cooked breakfast is prepared on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; Volunteers can choose among a variety of toasts, eggs, cooked vegetables and meats. On other weekdays, porridge, cereals, breads and fruits are served.
Lunch is served from 12:30 pm. Lunch consists of a cooked dish on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and cold spread, including meat, cheese, bread and salad on other weekdays. Volunteers are responsible for preparing breakfast and lunch for the rest of the group on Saturdays and Sundays. The housekeeping staff will do the washing up from breakfast and lunch on weekdays.
Dinner is a communal affair. Volunteers get together and cook a meal from a range of ingredients provided by the Project.
Any allergies or dietary requirements should be notified as soon as possible, so that the necessary arrangements can be made if possible.
The house has a borehole, which provides clean, fresh drinking water. Tea, coffee and squash are also provided.
The housekeeping and maintenance staff works on weekdays from 7:30 am to 04:00 pm. The Centre Managers live on the premises.
Internet and telephone access
The Dell Cheetah Centre has mobile phone reception. South African pay-as-go SIM card for your mobile or cell phone can be purchased at the airport or in Parys (please ensure your phone has been unlocked and will accept other SIM cards). We recommend Vodacom for the best coverage.
Wi-Fi access is available throughout the house and can be purchased for ZAR100 per fortnight. Internet can also be accessed on the desktop located in the lounge.
Volunteers are provided with a laundry basket in their room. The housekeeping staff does laundry on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Volunteers who wish to do their own laundry will have to hand wash it.
Grocery shopping and Volunteers' shopping
A staff member does the grocery shopping for the Project approximately twice a week.
Due to the pretty remote location of the farm, Volunteers do not have daily access to town. However, a trip to Parys is scheduled every Monday so you can buy "luxury" food items (candies, biscuits. soft drinks...) or toiletries which are not considered as part as the normal supply. Town trips are charged ZAR50 per person.
Local amenities and medical facilities
Basic amenities such as cash machine, bank, post office, pharmacy, supermarket, restaurant can be found in Parys. However, please note that there is no currency exchange, therefore South African Rands should be purchased prior to your stay.
There is a doctor's surgery in town, and an excellent trauma centre in Vanderbijlpark, approximately 50 minutes away.
Any duty is always carried out under the necessary supervision and assistance of a staff member.
Working week begins on Monday morning and terminates on Sunday midday. Starting and finishing time varies depending on the season. You can find an example of weekly schedule by clicking here. However please do be aware that things can change very quickly and that an emergency will take precedence on other activities.
Volunteers get Sunday afternoons off as well as another full day per week (except the week of the Kruger trip), which is on a rotational basis. Volunteers can relax at Vaal Rock or chose to visit one of the activities listed here (at an additional charge). Please note that the cost of transport will have to be taken into account as most of them are about an hour and a half’s drive away. Sunday afternoon is a time to relax at Vaal Rock and spend some time by the river, as there is no staff available.
A typical working day starts early morning by feeding the animals and cleaning their enclosures, i.e. collecting their faeces or other organic waste and washing out and refilling all water bowls.
Mid-morning session is dedicated to heavy tasks such as:
- Enclosure Maintenance and Improvement: cleaning/maintenance of the animals shelters, maintenance of fencing, pruning trees and bushes, environmental enrichment…
- Road and Reserve Maintenance: Rock and litter removal, alien Invasive plant species removal...
- Meat quartering: Removing the meat from the bones, cutting it into chunks or grinding it up, weighting portions and pack them in the freezer. Meat preparation replaces all activities of the day.
- Cheetah Kitchen cleaning.
- Visitor Centre cleaning and maintenance.
Animal time is for both you and the animals, again this should not be confused with 'petting'. As our animals are in captivity it is required that they be constantly stimulated. Many forms of enrichment are used at the centre, Though we believe in a hands off approach we still like to make sure the animals are content. Reading, Talking and even the occassional singing beside the fence is a form of enrichment.
Day usually ends preparing and serving the cheetahs and the smaller cats' meal.
The cost of the project depends on the length of your stay and the optional participation in the Kruger trip. Please email cheetah(xmsAt)parys(xmsDot)co(xmsDot)za stating the dates that your are interested in and if you wish to join the Kruger trip. We will get back to you with a pricing and the General Terms and Conditions as soon as possible.
Once per month (second fortnight), a 4-day trip to the Kruger National Park, which is home to the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo), is organised. Volunteers are taken by a staff member in a Project vehicle to observe Africa's wildlife in its natural habitat. They also have the opportunity to visit Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre (www.moholoholo.co.za).
The trip is included for 4-week stays and optional for shorter stays. However, please note that for any stay shorter than 4 weeks, the Kruger Trip is only available for arrival on the 15th of the month. Volunteers will be driven to Parys before the trip to purchase supplies such as biscuits, soft drinks...
Are included in the Programme fees:
- Transport: return journey + full day game drives
- Accommodation: 3 nights in rondavels or permanent tents
- Guided visit of Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre
- Breakfast and dinner: ZAR160 allocated per day
As part of contractual terms, Volunteers are required to date and sign the Code of Conduct and the Indemnity form when they arrive at the centre, before they can engage in any activity. You can find both documents clicking here.