Duration & dates: 2-12 weeks all year round, arriving and departing on a Tuesday.
Requirements: 18 yrs+
Location: Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve
Activities: Wildlife rehabilitation (animal husbandry, orphan care, vet support, integrations,
re-introductions), wildlife research (elephant or primate) education & community outreach.
Our conservation internship combines rescue and rehabilitation work at animals at Lilongwe Wildlife Centre with elephant or primate research at LWT’s bush camp in Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve. We recommend a minimum of 4 weeks – 2 weeks at each site – so interns can gain the most for their experience, and those coming for longer can choose how they want to split their internship. No previous experience is necessary.
The Malawi Research Institute is located in Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve in Malawi’s northern region. The reserve is home to elephants, hippo, primates, antelope, carnivores, crocodiles and birds. Here you will join our research teams working on elephant or primate research, based out of the Malawi Research Institute in Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve. Depending on which project you choose, work may include behavioural observations, individual animals IDs, population census surveys, habitat assessments, data entry and GIS mapping.
Project sites/ accommodation
Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, Central Region:
The Wildlife Centre is Malawi’s only wildlife sanctuary set in a stunning 180 hectare reserve. It is currently home to close to 200 rescued animals, and the reserve itself is teaming with wildlife, including over 200 species of bird, and large animals such as crocodile, bushpigs, antelopes and hyenas. As Lilongwe’s only protected wilderness it is cited as a critical area of biodiversity. Day visitors can take guided tours around the sanctuary, walk the wilderness trails or use the playground, cafe and bar.
Accommodation: The Volunteer House is right in the heart of the sanctuary and so you are surrounded by our animals. This means you can experience the wild side of Africa and yet still be close enough to the city to enjoy some of the benefits of civilisation. The house has basic mixed co-ed ten bed dorm-style accommodation with electricity, kitchen, lounge area, garden, bathroom and hot showers. There is a cleaner and a cook, and you can also upgrade to one of our two chalets which can sleep up to four people, with an en-suite bathroom and a small balcony. It is next to the volunteer house so you will still have the chance to eat and socialise with the other volunteers.
Food: Vegetarian meals and drinking water are included. Our fabulous chef, Joseph, takes Sundays off so you can alternate with the other volunteers to cook up a feast, or you can check out what the local restaurants have to offer. Food in Malawi is basic and we have to work with the seasons and availability, but we can still cater for any specific dietary requirements. There is also a volunteer fridge should you want to buy meat or other personal luxuries.
Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve
Our primate and elephant research programmes are run out of our research camp at Lake Kazuni in VMWR which is a national game reserve in the Northern District of Malawi – find out more here.
Food and accommodation: Volunteers and students will stay in large shared tents in the research camp. As you would expect from a bush camp, it’s a lot more basic than the Wildlife Centre. There is an ablutions block, kitchen and dining area in the camp. There is also storage space, lab, office, and teaching space. Solar power is available and meals are all vegetarian.
Travel and Free Time
Malawi is known as the Warm Heart of Africa for its friendly people and lush landscapes, and it’s generally viewed as the ‘safest’ country to travel in Africa. Volunteers are able to take one day off a week, but, at the discretion of the management, it is possible to take off more or less time, dependent on emergencies and what projects you have going on. Volunteers who work longer than a month will also be given a long weekend off every 4 weeks. We highly recommend that you spend weekends off at the ‘lake of stars’, or perhaps a safari in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. We can help you with your booking and show you the best deals. Other options include:
- Senga Bay: Boat trip, snorkelling, swimming.
- Liwonde National park: Game drives and boat trips
- Cape Maclear: Boat trips, paddle-boarding, canoes, booze cruise, hiking.
- Blantyre: City trip
- Kande: Horse Stables
- Dezda: Pottery, paper workshop, hiking, cave paintings
- Kuti Wildlife Reserve: Wildlife viewing
By African standards, Lilongwe is a safe, clean and relatively quiet city with just the right amount of nightlife, which we will be more than happy to introduce you to! There are craft and food markets within walking distance, where you can browse the stalls for curios, pick up some local veg and practice your haggling. Many lodges and hotels also have pools and spa facilities which are also worth taking advantage of!
- 2 or 4 Bed Private Chalet – £20/$26 per night for up to 2 volunteers plus £12/$15 per additional volunteer
- Shared Chalet – £12/$15 per night
- Airport transfers not scheduled for a Tuesday cost £30/$39 one way
Where does the money go?
All of the money raised through our volunteer programme, after costs, goes directly into the Wildlife Centre and its associated projects – without you the Wildlife Centre would not be able to continue to operate! Your donation means that we can continue to take in animals, feed and provide the essential medical care that they need, and pay local wages.
- All meals and unlimited tea, coffee and drinking water
- Transfers to and from the airport and all work related transport
- Wifi, t shirt and local SIM card
- Orientation and training in all relevant departments, plus full support from the Volunteer Coordinator during your stay.
Price doesn’t include:
- Vaccinations, travel and medical insurance
- Visa ($75 single entry 30 day visa, plus extensions every 30 days = $10)
- Additional excursions, nights out, souvenirs and personal expenses such as soft drinks, beers, snacks.
We recommend bringing out a little extra to spend on drinks, meals out and souvenirs. £30 a week should more than cover these, depending on your lifestyle. As an idea of costs for extra trips, you will need about £65-£125 if you want to take a trip to Lake Malawi, dependent on accommodation and activities. A 3 day safari to Zambia would be around £350.
We get fully booked very quickly especially in peak periods and to avoid disappointment we can only guarantee your place when a £200 holding deposit is paid. A final deposit is due 2 months prior to arrival and then the rest needs to be paid in cash when you arrive.4
Malawi is known for its friendly people and beautiful places but poverty, deforestation and wildlife crime have put the nation’s wildlife under immense pressure. LWC is currently the only accredited wildlife sanctuary in Malawi and home to on average 200 rescued wild animals. International volunteers are critical to the sanctuary’s rehabilitation programme as all of the money raised through the volunteer programme, after costs, goes directly into the Wildlife Centre and its associated projects. Without our volunteers the Wildlife Centre would not be able to continue to operate! Your donation would help us continue to take in animals, feed and provide the essential medical care that they need, and pay local wages.
Working hours are completely dependent on the animals we have in at the time, and on the level of care they need. Ideally, volunteers will work from 8am till 5pm, but this is not often the case as most orphans need feeding at unsociable hours and some even need round the clock care. We try our best to split this up between volunteers but please be aware that there may be some long days or even some night shifts. However, a typical day could look like this:
8am-11am: Orphan Care
11am -12pm: Enrichment activities
2pm – 5pm: Community Outreach
LWC operates a strict hands-off policy as our goal is to release as many animals as possible back into the wild. It is highly important not to humanise the animals as this puts them at greater risk of being poached after release. That said, some orphans need special attention and round the clock care to ensure that they have the best possible chance of survival and rehabilitation, so you may well be stepping in with surrogacy work and providing all aspects of care in those early days. It can be an incredibly rewarding experience to see animals progress and know that you have played a vital part in their journey back to the wild.
We aren’t able to give out other volunteers contact details, however once you have been accepted you can join our Facebook page for past, present and future volunteers. You can post your questions there and find out who will be at LWC at the same time as you.
Any time! Lilongwe has a reasonably temperate climate for Africa. Wet season is from November/December to February/March, but it is actually very pleasant as rains last only an hour or so in the afternoon plus it makes the country lush and green! It reaches around 32 degrees in the hot months of October and November, and the coolest month is July, at around 25 degrees but still bright and sunny.
The Lilongwe Wildlife Centre is based in the heart of Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi, a 30 minute drive from the Kenyatta International, the main airport. Kuti Wildlife Reserve is just 1 hour away. You can book your flight easily online through websites such as Opodo.com, lastminute.com or directly with the airline. South African Airways (via Johannesburg), Kenyan Airways (via Nairobi ), and Ethiopian Airways (via Addis Ababa) all fly to Lilongwe. There are offices for all of these airlines in Lilongwe so there should be no problem if you need to change your flight when you are here (this is a regular occurrence with volunteers that extend their stay!) We will arrange all your airport transfers in Lilongwe. If you are travelling overland or from elsewhere let us know and we can let you know the best way to get here. It’s best if you can start and end your placement on a Tuesday.
We take health and safety very seriously and whilst you are unlikely to get seriously ill or injured it is paramount that you are well prepared, aware of potential risks and know what to do in the unlikely event that anything should go wrong. If you decide to proceed with the placement you will receive a detailed information pack that includes a detailed health and safety section. You need to start thinking about vaccinations several weeks and sometimes months in advance, so we advise you visit your doctor and start planning in good time.
Simply email email@example.com or fill in this form and we’ll send you a volunteer enquiry pack and application form. Questions are also more than welcome. We look forward to hearing from you!
Please be as honest as possible on your application form about any concerns about the type of work you can or can’t do and if you have any medical conditions. This will be treated with the utmost confidence. We will let you know if there is something you declare that would compromise your volunteering experience with us and what the options are.