How far ahead must I book?
This depends on availability – there is no fixed rule but the earlier you book the better your chances! Also, our space for volunteers is limited and it may take some time to arrange visas etc. Please contact us, even if it is the last minute, and we can advice you whether it is still possible to book.
When must I pay? If I have to cancel will I get a refund?
You must pay in full prior to arrival and before being issued with your invitation letter, which is necessary to apply for a tourist visa. We advise that payment is made 4 months before stay in order to secure a place on the programme or a minimum of one month prior to your visit. If you book further ahead than one month there is a non-refundable deposit required of 20% of your total fees. If you cancel 4 weeks or more prior to your trip, you will receive a full refund, minus your 20% non-refundable deposit. If you cancel within two weeks of departure or want to leave early following your arrival then your payment is non-refundable.
Will I have to share a room? What is the accommodation like?
Depending on the number of visitors at the time of your arrival you may or may not need to share a cabin (sleep 1-2 people). There is a shared area with dining/kitchen facilities and a shared separate toilet and shower. You will be sleeping in a cabin in the rainforest with mosquito netting, a bed and chair. Makes for a very peaceful nights sleep – serenaded by tree hyraxes, numerous tree frogs, bushbabies and owls!
What are phone/internet communications like?
If you bring a mobile phone, you can buy a local SIM card cheaply, and the network is good in Calabar. In the bush in Rhoko, there are a few spots where you can pick up signal, so you can usually make contact at pre-arranged times. There are Internet Cafés in Calabar, but there is no internet solution in Rhoko.
Will I have any hands on work with orphan primates?
Hands on work with the orphans is variable. Most short term holiday volunteer duties do not include helping with orphaned primates as volunteer positions are at Rhoko, our bush site, and all orphans are brought to our rehabilitation centre in Calabar. Also, the orphans are quite shy and do not generally take well to complete strangers- we also like to minimize contact and get them with ‘monkey friends’ as soon as possible to facilitate more rapid rehabilitation. However, you will be able to see monkeys every day and there are also wild primates in the forest!
What would be a typical day for me?
Your volunteer schedule can be catered to your particular interests and skills, but some examples of activities that you may participate in would include: helping with primate and rainforest research data collection, building enclosures, feeding monkeys, helping with environmental enrichment of monkey enclosures, teaching school children, working with the local community. Days in the forest start with an early breakfast before 0800 and can end late at night on patrol or night walks! Cooking your supper over an open fire will be part of the adventure, as will showering under the night sky surrounded by rainforest sounds. ‘Typical’ is what days are not! Unpredictable days and therefore flexibility are the name of the game for the best volunteer experience.
I have been told by many people Nigeria is dangerous. What are my safety concerns?
Any time that you travel to somewhere unfamiliar you must use common sense, stay aware of your surroundings and not take unnecessary risks. Nigeria is relatively safe for travellers and we have had no serious safety issues in over 15 years with volunteers in Lagos or in Calabar. CERCOPAN staff will be available to help you coordinate your trip so that you feel more confident in your itinerary and can therefore plan accordingly. Security issues in Nigeria (as outlined on some websites like the FCO) are regionalized and are almost exclusively linked to the oil industry. It is therefore not advisable to travel to Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa states where these problems tend to occur. Although some sites do say restrict travel to ‘Calabar’, this was due to erroneous reporting – and the issue was actually many miles offshore at an oil rig! There have also been recent political/religious problems in the North but again these are limited to this region and have no effect at all on Cross River State, which is indeed the Tourism Capital of Nigeria.
What are the risks of malaria?
It is highly unlikely that you will get malaria on a short visit, on the understanding that you will be taking chemoprophylaxis (Larium, Malarone or Doxycycline), and also dressing appropriately in the evenings and mornings to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes as much as possible. Consult with your doctor before you arrive, choose the one most suitable for you, and bring enough for your stay. There is very good treatment for malaria in Calabar and it is readily available. You should bring good mosquito repellent and plan to use it!
What is the risk of snake bite?
Whilst there are venomous snakes at the site, with proper precautions (e.g. ensuring that one walks with bright light at night, wears appropriate footwear in the forest) snake bite is very unlikely. Most of the highly venomous snakes are not aggressive and in 15 years no one has ever been bitten. A prominent herpetologist, Dr. Luca Luiselli has carried out surveys at Rhoko and is one of our scientific advisors.
How close is the nearest hospital?
The Teaching Hospital at the University of Calabar is on the recommended list for Multi-National companies based in Nigeria. The hospital is approximately 2 .5 hours drive from Rhoko and in the event of an emergency you will be taken there by CERCOPAN staff. We also have recommended private clinics which we use in emergencies. Emergency medical air evacuation is also available from Calabar.
Will I need to take public transport?
Yes. Public transport consists of being a passenger on motorbike taxis for short trips around Calabar and from our Rhoko camp to our host village, Iko Esai. You may also need to hop aboard a minibus for longer journeys (for example from Calabar to our forest site) in some cases – there is no schedule – the bus goes when it is full!
What should I bring with me?
Many people like to bring some favourite non-perishable foods if you think you are going to miss them badly, or think of yourself as a fussy eater – variety is limited! The range of products available in Calabar for shampoo and the likes is also limited, so again if you have any favourites bring those. Mosquito nets and bedding are provided. Please see the short term working holiday brochure for additional ideas – you will also be sent volunteer briefing notes with suggestions.