Frequently asked questions

Please read through our FAQs and answers. 

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch with us: placements@lilongwewildlife.org.

The main international airport in Malawi is open and we are taking bookings for placements. For updates and entry requirements, travellers are advised to read Malawi’s Ministry of Health Facebook page.

If you have any queries or concerns please don’t hesitate to contact us at placements@lilongwewildlife.org.

Malawi is an amazing country with an incredible diversity of wildlife. It is also fast earning a name for itself as an emerging leader in African conservation. Doing a placement with us will give you a chance to experience real conservation work in an exciting context.

Lilongwe Wildlife Trust is a small but dynamic organisation. That means that every task you undertake is likely to have a direct impact on our overall goals and on the animals we work to protect.

We strive for operational excellence and we are accredited by the top international welfare and conservation bodies. As a result, you learn ‘best practice’, working alongside a knowledgeable and passionate team of local and international experts.

In addition to covering the costs of your placement, it’s no exaggeration to say that doing a placement with us will help to save and change lives. Although many of our overheads are funded through grants from international governments and foundations, almost all of our animal welfare and biodiversity monitoring work is made possible thanks to the donations that are included in our placement fees. This means you’re supporting us by providing things like food and medications, maintaining enclosures and trails, and ensuring staff can be there to care for animals throughout the year. In short, your placement is helping to fund the many conservation projects we run, including the sanctuary that keeps our animal residents alive and safe.

  • Accommodation 
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as unlimited water, tea and coffee
  • Airport transfers from Lilongwe (provided arrival is on a Tuesday)
  • All work-related transport
  • A tour of Lilongwe city
  • A local SIM card 
  • T-shirt
  • Full support during your stay

All other expenses will be your responsibility. This includes: flights, visas, vaccinations, a TB scan, and any excursions, souvenirs, nights out, snacks and other personal expenses.

Please also note BSc, MRes, MSC and PhD students working on non-LWT projects must self-fund costs that fall out of existing operations (fuel, equipment, etc).

Please note that we are building brand new accommodation facilities at Lilongwe Wildlife Centre that will be ready for visitors in early 2022!

Our new accommodation building will host up to 18 people at a time across six bedrooms. It also includes a lounge, kitchen, inside and outside dining spaces, two bathrooms, laundry space, an outdoor deck and garden. 

The design will feature simple but stylish furnishings, with a focus on comfortable, communal living. Our aim is to provide an environment where people can relax, socialise and enjoy downtime after a busy day at work protecting wildlife!

Accommodation at other sites will depend on the specific location. We can provide more information during the application process.

At Lilongwe Wildlife Centres, breakfast is self-serve (food items are provided) and lunch and dinner meals are prepared by our local chef every day except Sundays. On Sundays, you’ll have the option to enjoy leftovers or cook for yourself using ingredients like pasta, rice, beans, and vegetables that are stocked on site. The menu is vegetarian with a mix of both international and local dishes. If you have any dietary requirements, please let us know and we will do our best to accommodate these. You are also welcome to buy snacks and other items as you wish.

Meals at other sites will depend on the specific location. We can provide more information during the application process.

WiFi will be available at the new Lilongwe Wildlife Centre volunteer house (operational from 6pm and on weekends).

At other sites, internet can be accessed by purchasing Airtel time on the local SIM card you will be provided with on arrival. 

We usually have a maximum of around 20 volunteers at any one time across all of our locations. Each location can accommodate varying numbers of people and some volunteers will move between locations depending on their placement.

It’s best to fly into Lilongwe (Kamuzu International Airport). If you arrive on a Tuesday, we will pick you up from there and take you straight to the Wildlife Centre. It’s about a 30-minute drive. Those working on our bush projects will most likely stay a night there before moving on. 

If you fly in on another day, we recommend staying at a local hotel and getting a taxi straight there from the airport. We can collect you from there on your first day with us. 

Book your flight online through websites like Flight Centre or directly with an airline. If you are travelling overland get in touch and we can let you know the best way to get here.

If movements are work related, a staff member will drive you. As part of your induction you will be given a tour of the city and shown some of the local services (pharmacy, ATMs etc). If you need to travel in your free time you can walk, or catch a tuk tuk, minibus or taxi at your own expense. Volunteers are asked not to go out alone at night and to only use an approved taxi service (we can provide numbers). 

Depending the time of year of your placement, it will be hot, wet – or both! Bring clothing that is breathable but also provides sun protection. All placements will likely involve some feeding of wildlife and enclosure cleaning so also make sure you’re happy to get the clothes you bring dirty. Depending on whether you do any travelling out to communities or other countries it might also be a good idea to bring some conservative, loose fitting clothing to be culturally respectful. More information will be included in a pre-arrival information pack once your placement is confirmed.

It’s always smart to travel with cash so bring some USD$. If you are getting your visa on arrival, you will also need cash to pay for this at the airport. There are several ATMs in town where you can withdraw Malawian Kwacha. Staff will point one out on your initial city tour.

You’ll also need spending money for things like data ($10US gives 6GB of data), beverages ($1-6US for beer / mixed spirits / cocktails), snacks / meals out ($8-20US), taxis into town ($3-6US) etc. With this in mind, expenses will likely range from $10-50US per week.

British, Australian, Canadian or American Nationals and people from most EU countries are required to obtain a US $50 visitor’s permit for 30-day single entry, which is free to extend for up to 90 days.

For other nationalities, please check online. Depending on the country you are from, visas can be obtained online, in person at consulates or on arrival – you will need to bring $US cash with you for the latter option. 

For the latest travel advice visit: www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/destinations/africa/malawi.aspx. This site will inform you what vaccines or medications are recommended for your trip. Remember to look into this well in advance of your trip as some vaccinations require multiple shots over time. On arrival, we also require a negative TB test (chest X-ray). We strongly recommend rabies vaccinations. Malaria prophylaxis (e.g. Doxycycline or Malarone) is compulsory.

You must take out travel insurance that covers your placement activities as well as emergency treatment (including for COVID-related illness), airlift evacuation and repatriation. You will need to send us proof of this insurance before your placement is confirmed.

For our core placements, we generally accept anyone from 18 years of age as long as they meet the requirements of the role. We are currently looking into the feasibility of family placements. If you are interested in learning more about this please get in touch. 

Depending on the level of supervision you need and the requirements of your degree / course, yes! Please read through our placement offerings, fill in a detailed application and we can let you know what might be possible. 

Most regularly we find this applicable to vet externships and for MSc/PhD students doing a research placement. Before confirming any bookings, we’ll go through what your requirements are with you to check if we can deliver on your needs.

All placement participants get a certificate of appreciation and we can also provide an official letter confirming placement completion if needed as well. 

Yes, definitely! We encourage this so that participants get a broader understanding of Malawian conservation work. If this appeals to you, please note this in your application.

Firstly, read through the details of each placement we offer. If one appeals to you and you meet the role requirements please apply, adding as much detail as you can in the application form. Based on the details you provide you will then be matched with a placement based on your background and learning objectives. 

You should hear back from us within four weeks of your initial application.

If you would like to confirm the placement, the next step is to pay a deposit online. Full fees are ideally due two months before arrival.

Other steps prior to arrival include:

  • sending us proof of travel insurance
  • sharing your Malawi travel itinerary
  • providing proof of a clear TB scan (i.e.: chest x-ray)

Yes. Once your place is confirmed you can pay both your deposit and final fee online – we will send you details on how to do this. Please note, any payments made prior to confirmation of placement date by staff will be considered a donation. 

An initial deposit is required to secure your placement. Thereafter, the remaining fee is due two months prior to approval. Where a placement is able to be confirmed with less time in advance, full payment is due as soon as possible to the two-month mark. 

Our programmes are focused on learning – whether that be through trainings and inductions, shadowing staff or through work experience. 

Depending on which placement you do, you will be given inductions or training on what you’ll need to complete during your time with us. This will range from site safety to animal care work. For instance, as a sanctuary volunteer you will learn about orphan care, wildlife enrichment and troop integrations and how to fill out observation documentation etc. 

Working hours are dependent on the animals we are looking after or researching at the time and on the level of care they need. Wildlife Centre volunteers will usually work from 8am till 5pm. During orphan season feeds may be scheduled during less sociable hours, so occasionally there can be long days and night shifts. If this is unsuitable for you, the team can re-arrange your schedule. Those at our bush projects are likely to start their days earlier with a break in the middle of the day.

Staff and volunteers get two days off a week and a long weekend off every month, which is perfect for a safari or a trip to the lake.

Again this will depend on the type of placement you’re doing. Most Wildlife Centre volunteers choose to spend the majority of their time with the animal care team, where work covers the whole rehabilitation spectrum. Duties include animal husbandry (cleaning, feeding and enrichment), orphan care (policies available on request), vet clinic support, observations, integrations and reintroductions.

For people doing wildlife monitoring placements in Liwonde National Park, check out this blog from our Research Manager, which gives some insights into the types of activities you’ll be undertaking. 

Also read about the experiences of some of our previous placement participants!

We do everything possible to give the animals that come into our care a fighting chance of being returned to the wild – where they belong. This means that we operate a strict hands-off policy with regards to our rehabilitation work. Any direct contact you have with animals will be for medical or rehabilitation purposes only. So, if you’re looking for somewhere that will let you cuddle monkeys for selfies, that’s not us. 

If you volunteer with us, you’ll be asked to get involved in real conservation tasks – in other words, work that actually makes a difference to the animals we protect. This might not always be glamourous – be prepared to get dirty! – but it’s work that needs to be done. This could involve anything from preparing food and enrichment activities to observing animal behaviours and gathering data on elephant populations. All of our projects tend to be small, which means that your involvement will have more of a direct impact.

We use English to communicate with each other and for all process documents and reports. Most staff are fluent in English and all have a working level understanding of it. Many also speak Malawi’s official language Chichewa. We have small sheets posted up in common areas at the sanctuary to help you learn a few Chichewa basics and sometimes our staff even hold language workshops for those interested to learn more while staying with us.

Lilongwe Wildlife Centre has 24-hour security, both at the entrance gates and perimeter. There are also alarm systems linked to an emergency response unit.

While Lilongwe is relatively safe, volunteers are asked not to travel alone at night and to only use our approved taxi services in the evenings to and from any restaurants or bars. If there are strikes or political demonstrations, volunteers will be advised of which areas to avoid and other safety considerations.

As a rescue and rehabilitation centre our caseload varies daily. Work can include anaesthetic procedures as well as a variety of clinical cases, but please note that you may not have hands-on contact with every single case due to the nature of dealing with wild animals. You will be given a detailed introduction to your work when you arrive.

This all depends on the specific cases we have at the time, but generally vet externs will work with our veterinary team in the mornings from Tuesday to Friday each week. Work can include supporting with health checks, procedures, labs, practicals and rounds. 

Each student is expected to attend daily rounds at 8am and present at these rounds. During the duration of their stay the student may be required to carry out a project at the veterinary surgeon’s suggestion. This usually entails producing a two page minimum document on management of wildlife emergencies for a commonly seen species at the Centre or designing an enrichment or integration plan for an ongoing clinical case. If required, students may also produce case reports or logs for their duration of stay.

Once your application form has been submitted, you can speak with our placements team about this. In the past some of our volunteers have set up GoFundMe pages, held stalls at community events or asked their employer to match the funds they raise. Universities often provide grants for these kinds of activities too, so it’s worth checking with yours.

A deposit is due at the time of confirming any booking with us. Within two months of arrival, full payment is due. If you decide to cancel your trip, your deposit is non-refundable. More than two months out, a full refund minus your deposit is available to you.

If cancellation is requested following full payment because your plans have changed or you’re no longer comfortable travelling, we will accept it up to one month prior to arrival. You will not be eligible for a refund but have the opportunity to rebook with us within 12 months of the placement date.

If however you are forced not to travel due to travel restrictions imposed (on either your home country or on Malawi, i.e. in the case of COVID) then you will have 18 months to reschedule your placement with us.