Summer programs
Veterinary Service in South Africa

Volunteer with cheetahs on the African savannah and take the safari through Kruger National Park!

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This two-week adventure of a lifetime gives you the opportunity to go to South Africa to volunteer at a cheetah breeding and conservation facility, learn about African wildlife hands-on in the African savannah, go on safari in Kruger National Park, and take “ABCs of African Big Cats: Anatomy, Behavior, and Conservation” taught by a DVM right alongside the cats themselves. Though the volunteer facility isn’t a hospital, you will be gaining valuable experience learning and implementing the important work conservation and zoo vets do.

African ElephantsWho It’s For

This program is open to anyone age 18-25. You do not need to currently be in college, have a specific major or degree, or have any veterinary experience for either program.

Each group of up to 10 students will have its own US veterinarian and its own South African Volunteer Coordinator. Loop Abroad groups will have exclusive access to the Wildlife Centre at Feracare during the program.

“I love working with cheetahs. Feracare is the perfect place to experience big cats at an organization committed to conservation and to educating the public about this endangered species.” -Dr. Erica Ward, Loop Abroad’s Academic Director


• Feed and help provide medical care to cheetahs throughout the program
• Maintain and care for cheetah facility and enclosures
• Learn about all aspects of care and management of captive wildlife
• Go on safari through Kruger National Park, one of the largest national parks in the world and home to lions, leopards, rhino, elephants, and buffalo
• See a variety of wildlife each day that calls the African savanna home
• Safari in Kruger National Park, home to almost 150 large mammal species – more than any other game reserve in Africa
• Visit a cultural village, do a bit of rafting, and have a private conservation and veterinary workshop with a local ranger while at Kruger
See Itinerary here!

Dates open for applications

Cheetah Cubs
June 1 – June 17, 2019

*June 15 – July 1, 2019

July 13 – July 29, 2019

*Bonus weeks can be added to these program dates.

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*Dates indicate departure from and return to New York. Some flights depart early in the morning and may require students to arrive in New York the night before. Loop Abroad reserves the right to cancel any program at any time; in case of such cancellation by Loop Abroad, all payments will be returned in full.

Three weeks sound better than two? Add a Bonus Week!

Antelopes set freeAdd a Bonus Week in Thailand — Marine Bonus Week or Elephant Bonus Week— to your program. For this, you’ll need to purchase additional airfare from South Africa to Thailand.

How about a full month? Add a two-week program!

Our South African program is a full adventure on its own, but it can also be combined with any of our Thailand two-week programs back-to-back. Combine two programs for an automatic 10% discount on your tuition. You will need to pay for additional airfare.


Tuition is $3,850 USD plus international airfare. Airfare on the group flight from New York, NY is an estimated $1,800 round-trip including taxes and fees.

Limited financial aid is available. Interest-free payment plans are available.

Once accepted, your $1,000 tuition deposit is required to hold your space. Tuition does not include medical insurance – if you don’t have medical insurance that covers you while abroad, you can purchase travel medical insurance. We can help you find a plan that meets our insurance requirements.

Students who secure their enrollment in a Loop Abroad program for summer 2019 (or January 2019) before September 30, 2018 will receive a 10% early enrollment tuition discount.

Courses and Hours

This program was designed with pre-vet students in mind. For your application to vet school (VMCAS), this program provides the following hours:

Veterinary Hours: 80 hours

Woman with cheetah cubs
The AVMA says “If you have the opportunity to work… for veterinarians who work with different species, that’s a bonus that can make you more appealing to a veterinary school admissions committee.” We’re proud to offer you that opportunity!

You will get to know your vet during the program, and they will get to know you! If you participate to the best of your ability, you’ll be well-positioned to ask for a recommendation letter at the end of the program.

This program provides a total of 80 service hours. Loop Abroad is a certifying organization for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, for which those hours are eligible.

Loop Abroad can provide you with a pass/fail transcript for the academic component of this program “Anatomy, Behavior, and Conservation of African Big Cats”. If you are seeking credit from your college or university, please contact us for assistance.


South Africa SavannaDuring the week, you’ll split your time between volunteering at the cheetah facility and learning from our Loop Abroad vets. At the end of week one, the group will depart for a two-day safari through Kruger National Park.

Here are some of the activities you can expect to participate in:

  • Maintenance and care for the cheetah facility and enclosures, including construction projects.
  • Prepare food for the cheetahs each day. Because cheetahs eat meat, this will mean cutting up meat, including deer and other animals who have been hit by cars. You will not have to slaughter any live animals for food, but will have to be able to butcher dead animals for the cheetahs to eat.
  • Possible hands-on interactions with the cheetahs in small groups. This interaction may be over an hour and may include grooming, training, walking, feeding, or other activities in which you will assist the cheetah handlers.
  • Observe the cheetahs closely throughout your time on the project, as well as the wild dogs, caracals, African wild cats, lions, vultures, and bat-eared foxes who also call Feracare Wildlife Centre home.Lions
  • We may or may not be able to provide medical care to the animals on the property, depending what is needed at the time
  • Participate in a classroom-based course taught by a Loop Abroad veterinarian to learn more about big cats and their care
  • Evenings will be filled with fun activities with your volunteer coordinator, such as night drives to explore the area around Feracare, home to zebra, giraffes, wildebeest, kudu, and other free-roaming animals.
  • Safari in Kruger National Park, home to over 500 bird species, beautiful African landscapes, and almost 150 large mammal species – more than any other game reserve in Africa
  • Visit a cultural village, do a bit of rafting, and have a private conservation and veterinary workshop with a local ranger while at Kruger

Loop Abroad’s groups will be the only volunteers on the property at the time, and will assist the staff in all aspects of caring for the cheetahs and other animals. There will be ample opportunities to observe the animals during work time.

Reading List

Some books that might be interesting to students traveling to South Africa who want to learn more about South African culture and history, conservation, African animals, or veterinary medicine.

A special thanks to Charlotte Leonetti, teen book reviewer and student travel blogger, for helping us put together this book list from the huge amount of choices available. You can purchase any of the books on our suggested reading lists at the links below.*

Long Walk to FreedomLong Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela Amazon says, “Nelson Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time: an international hero whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country. Since his triumphant release in 1990 from more than a quarter-century of imprisonment, Mandela has been at the center of the most compelling and inspiring political drama in the world. As president of the African National Congress and head of South Africa’s antiapartheid movement, he was instrumental in moving the nation toward multiracial government and majority rule. He is revered everywhere as a vital force in the fight for human rights and racial equality.” Students participating in the Adventure Bonus Week: South Africa will visit Robbin Island, where Mandela was held prisoner, including a tour of his prison cell.

Cry the Beloved Country

Cry, the Beloved Country Amazon says, “An Oprah Book Club selection, Cry, the Beloved Country, the most famous and important novel in South Africa’s history, was an immediate worldwide bestseller in 1948. Alan Paton’s impassioned novel about a black man’s country under white man’s law is a work of searing beauty. …Cry, the Beloved Country is the deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its lyricism, unforgettable for character and incident, Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic work of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man.”

Soul of a LionSoul of a Lion: One Woman’s Quest to Rescue Africa’s Wildlife Refugees Amazon says, “For animal lovers, nature enthusiasts, and the vast readership for gripping true-life stories, this African saga is a must-read adventure. It chronicles the unique Harnas Wildlife Foundation in Namibia, where Marieta van der Merwe and her family, former wealthy cattle farmers, have sold land to buy and care for embattled wildlife. We meet Sam, the “AIDS” lion infected by mistake at a vet clinic. Boerjke, a baboon with epilepsy and Down syndrome. Savanna, the one-eyed lioness. And Marieta van der Merwe herself, the inspiring proprietor of Harnas who shares her home with needy wild animals. Survivor of an early life fraught with personal tragedy in the African Bush, she now devotes herself as care-giver and ambassador for wildlife and wildland. Told with insight, humor, and thrilling immediacy by author and Harnas volunteer Barbara Bennett, this story will captivate readers of all ages.”

Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy: An Autobiography–The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa Amazon says, “Mark Mathabane was weaned on devastating poverty and schooled in the cruel streets of South Africa’s most desperate ghetto, where bloody gang wars and midnight police raids were his rites of passage. Like every other child born in the hopelessness of apartheid, he learned to measure his life in days, not years. Yet Mark Mathabane, armed only with the courage of his family and a hard-won education, raised himself up from the squalor and humiliation to win a scholarship to an American university. This extraordinary memoir of life under apartheid is a triumph of the human spirit over hatred and unspeakable degradation. For Mark Mathabane did what no physically and psychologically battered “Kaffir” from the rat-infested alleys of Alexandra was supposed to do — he escaped to tell about it.”

White Man's GameWhite Man’s Game: Saving Animals, Rebuilding Eden, and Other Myths of Conservation in AfricaAmazon says, “The stunningly beautiful Gorongosa National Park, once the crown jewel of Mozambique, was nearly destroyed by decades of civil war. It looked like a perfect place for Western philanthropy: revive the park and tourists would return, a win-win outcome for the environment and the impoverished villagers living in the area. So why did some researchers find the local communities actually getting hungrier, sicker, and poorer as the project went on? And why did efforts to bring back wildlife become far more difficult than expected?… In pursuit of answers, Stephanie Hanes takes readers on a vivid safari across southern Africa, from the shark-filled waters off Cape Agulhas to a reserve trying to save endangered wild dogs. She traces the tangled history of Western missionaries, explorers, and do-gooders in Africa, from Stanley and Livingstone to Teddy Roosevelt, from Bono and the Live Aid festivals to Greg Carr, the American benefactor of Gorongosa. And she examines the larger problems that arise when Westerners try to “fix” complex, messy situations in the developing world, acting with best intentions yet potentially overlooking the wishes of the people who live there. Beneath the uplifting stories we tell ourselves about helping Africans, she shows, often lies a dramatic misunderstanding of what the locals actually need and want.”

Wildlife of Southern AfricaWildlife of Southern Africa: A field guide to the animals and plants of the region This field guide is a great reference for birds, trees, flowering plants, and small and large mammals you might see throughout your trip. It is helpful at the wildlife centre and also on safari, and is a great place to mark all the species you have seen and identified during your trip.

Resurrection ScienceResurrection Science: Conservation, De-Extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things Amazon says, “In a world dominated by people and rapid climate change, species large and small are increasingly vulnerable to extinction. In Resurrection Science, journalist M. R. O’Connor explores the extreme measures scientists are taking to try and save them, from captive breeding and genetic management to de-extinction. Paradoxically, the more we intervene to save species, the less wild they often become. In stories of sixteenth-century galleon excavations, panther-tracking in Florida swamps, ancient African rainforests, Neanderthal tool-making, and cryogenic DNA banks, O’Connor investigates the philosophical questions of an age in which we “play god” with earth’s biodiversity.

Each chapter in this beautifully written book focuses on a unique species–from the charismatic northern white rhinoceros to the infamous passenger pigeon–and the people entwined in the animals’ fates. Incorporating natural history and evolutionary biology with conversations with eminent ethicists, O’Connor’s narrative goes to the heart of the human enterprise: What should we preserve of wilderness as we hurtle toward a future in which technology is present in nearly every aspect of our lives? How can we co-exist with species when our existence and their survival appear to be pitted against one another?”

*Links are affiliate links – thanks for supporting Loop Abroad!

Bonus Weeks

Marine Bonus Week

Learn SCUBA and re-grow the coral reefs on the Thai Island of Koh Tao AKA “Turtle Island”. Your days will be filled with sunrise yoga, tropical fish, and blacktip sharks or sea turtles (if you're lucky!)

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Elephant Bonus Week

Spend an extra week with elephants in a village setting!

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Get more details about this program…

"This program helped me come out of my shell and taught me a lot. The people and animals are amazing. By the end of it I didn’t want to leave!"

Kelynn N., Veterinary Service in South Africa

Virginia Tech, Leesburg, VA