On my 23rd birthday, I decided to book myself a trip to Jacobs Ridge, which I’d heard amazing things about on Instagram. The perfect place for a female solo traveller, volunteers rave about it online and many return time after time.
Jacobs Ridge is an animal sanctuary in Mula, Spain with over 130 animals, including pigs, horses, donkeys, cats, dogs and goats. The work they do is really incredible, they help so many animals even though during the winter months it’s just a team of two. To help with running costs, volunteers can go and stay for a week or more, helping with feeding, walking the dogs and generally giving the animals the love and attention they deserve. It’s expected you help out a certain amount each day, but there’s also a lot of free time to relax and several trips on offer!
How I Got There
I flew to Murcia from East Midlands, choosing a really early 7am flight to get the most out of my week. Luckily, when I arrived in Murcia, there was another volunteer also waiting to be picked up, which instantly calmed my nerves. It took around an hour to get to the ridge, and provided a nice opportunity to get to know some of the team. I’d definitely recommend adding on transfers.
The accommodation was amazing, a huge teepee tent with a comfy bed and loads of fairy lights. You could hear a lot of insects at night but I personally found that really relaxing!
When I met all the animals, I immediately recognised some of them from Instagram, especially the dogs Django and Goaty. All the dogs are such characters, whether it’s Daisy chilling her feet in the pool or Barney insisting you throw his toy.
I was surprised how friendly some of the pigs were, especially Broccoli, who spent the first few days booping me on the knee for cuddles and the last few trying to bite my shoe. A lot of the pigs were very curious, and feeding them was a great opportunity to see their personalities come out.
The goats were also very entertaining, and some of them were very pushy when it came to meal times! Prospero, a tiny pony who is also in the pen, spent the whole time we mucked them out rubbing her bum on the wheelbarrow and subsequently pushing it over every few minutes while we rushed to rescue it.
There were also four kittens when I went, which was amazing (who doesn’t like kittens?). They were in the kitchen and all such characters. They particularly liked playing with my hair. My favourite cat though was Martin, who spent most of his time breaking into my tent. The cats in general just hung out wherever they fancied, and you never had to go far to cuddle one.
The Other Volunteers
There were 3-5 other volunteers the week I was there. They tend to try and keep it around 5-6 so there are enough people to do the jobs whilst maintaining a calm environment for the animals. There were also three live-in volunteers who stay for a lot longer and have a lot more responsibility. A lot of volunteers seem to be young female solo travellers but there is a total mixture.
The Daily Routine
There was a timetable of jobs in the kitchen so we knew our responsibilities for the day – washing up, looking after the kittens and other various jobs were split up between the volunteers. This equates to roughly 5 hours work per day.
We met at the main house at 8.30 every morning, to start the jobs. The morning jobs were to either walk the dogs or feed and water the pigs/goats.
At around 10am we came inside to have breakfast, and then around 11am went out to help around the ridge, mostly mucking out but once giving Ben the pig a mud bath. We then did the midday water.
After this, it was dinner time. Dinner and tea are both eaten as a sit-down meal with the whole group, so it’s a great time to chat, make plans and get to know people. The food was amazing and really inspired me to be more creative with my meals at home, especially Rachel’s paella.
After dinner, it’s relaxation time until 6pm. I mostly sat by the pool with a book and swam during this time. It was hot even at the start of October, constantly 28-30 degrees. At 6pm, there is the evening feed and water, then the evening dog walk. Tea is around 9pm.
On a couple of the days, we deviated from the routine to see more of the area. One trip was walking up to Mula castle for a view over the town. One day, another volunteer and I spent the day in Murcia, having an explore and of course trying the vegan food places!
My favourite trip was rock jumping, when we drove to a nearby reservoir and jumped off rocks into the water. It was a really fun activity to bond with the other volunteers and to conquer fears.
A gorgeous trip was up to Mystery Mountain, to witness an amazing sunset. The sunrise/sunsets at the ridge were usually incredible themselves but this was on another level!
Would I recommend it?
I would recommend a volunteering break here for anyone who loves animals and wants to help! This isn’t a relaxing pool holiday, so if that’s what you want then there are cheaper places in Spain. But if you want to have an amazing holiday whilst helping a worthy cause, this is definitely for you. Prices start at £560/week and booking is now open for the 2020 season. Coming here gave me time to think and just live in the moment. I can see why so many people come here at a crisis point or crossroads in their lives!
- I would definitely recommend walking boots, wellies or trainers you don’t mind getting dirty/dusty. Flipflops are also really useful round the pool (just make sure Daisy doesn’t steal them!).
- Take a jumper and some joggers – even though it was hot in the day it was quite cool at night, especially at the evening meal and in the tents.
- Take some nice clothes for trips into town, but mostly things you’re not too precious about.
- You don’t need much money – it’s all-inclusive and all I spent was on a meal in Murcia and the bus journey from Murcia to the ridge. I also spent about 60 euros in Sephora but that’s a different matter…
Other Ways To Help
If you would like to help the animals but don’t want to volunteer, there are loads of other ways to get involved on the website. They sell merchandise, including a new line with my favourite ‘Barney the Scoundrel’ on them. There’s also a lottery which supports several charities for as little as £1 a week.
If you’d rather buy a product than donate, there’s an Amazon wishlist featuring the products that the sanctuary desperately needs.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Would you volunteer here? Have you been somewhere similar? Let me know in the comments.