ISV - Volunteer Projects in South Africa

By ISV Reviewer Verified   Reviews (114)   97% Rating

South Africa is renowned for its vigorous culture, sweeping landscapes and remarkable wildlife - but communities, children's homes and wildlife reserves need the help of volunteers through organizations like International Student Volunteers (ISV) to address disadvantage and environmental concerns.

Through volunteering with ISV, you can be involved in life-changing community development projects, taking part in tasks such as building schools and playgrounds, urban renewal programs, water and sanitation development and classroom support. On ISV's wildlife conservation and environmental management projects, you could be assisting researchers in surveying and monitoring of flora and fauna used for conservation management, or volunteering on a wildlife rehabilitation centre. Come join us to make a meaningful difference in South Africa!

View Program Information
Location: 
  • South Africa
  • Swaziland
Program Length: 
2-4 weeks
Cost: 
$2,000 - $5,000 (USD)
Languages: 
English
Housing: 
Camping
Guest House
Hostels
Hotels
Student Dormitory
Volunteer House
Application: 
Online Application

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Program Reviews (114)

97%
Positive
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  • Impact
    94%
  • Support
    95%
  • Fun
    96%
  • Value
    85%
  • Safety
    96%
  • Cory
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    North Bay, Ontario, CA
    Nipissing University
    10/10
    Life Changing Experience
    12/18/2015

    To think that my trip to South Africa was going to have this much of an impact on my life, is a definite understatement. I expected it to changed my outlook on life; but it completely changed everything. During my month in the motherland, it was easily the best month of my life. As soon as I got off the plane, it just felt right. It's like I should've been from South Africa because it felt so right. The things that I saw and people that I met truly changed my life for the better and I can't thank Africa and its humbling atmosphere enough for what its done for me. It makes you want to be better, makes you forgot about all the stupid things that we as teens obsess over such as cell phones, looks and all materialistic things. It humbles you right away because you see the struggle in people's eyes and somehow, they are the happiest people on Earth and they have NOTHING compared to us. I am so lucky and blessed to have what I have such as clean drinking water, food, a roof over my head and clothes on my back. I will NEVER take that for granted again. I promise to always give more than I receive and will live my life always putting other people before myself because someone, out there has it harder than you. I will never forget my time in this beautiful country, and I promised myself that I will go back to see Mama Africa and relive all its amazing moments.

    How could this program be improved?

    The cost. Although we did so much and everything was so well organized, I think that the cost could be lowered a little bit.

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  • Alexis
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Mesa, Arizona
    Northern Arizona University
    10/10
    The trip that changed my life
    12/18/2015

    ISV is much more than it looks like, the programs truly stick to their mission statement of creating more active global citizens. But more than that they don't tell you that every single aspect of the program is so thought out that where you eat lunch, where you stop for gas, where you stay makes a difference in someones life locally. I felt that I made a difference and more so that ISV impacted me more. We helped children in Chinsta, South Africa and the gratitude and love from these children made me appreciate my life and want to do more. I have changed my life coming home and have traveled to several other countries, each culture and experience creating a piece of who I am as a person. I am forever thankful for the amazing program I went on and highly recommend ISV as a program!

    How could this program be improved?

    Improvement by having a profile for students prior to leaving. The inner office does amazing work but organization for students could be improved prior to leaving.

    Photos:
    Children of African Angels! Built a playground, computer room, classroom, and bike track for these children. We even revamped the desks we are sitting it!
    Volunteering in the beautiful Chinsta, South Africa
    hanging out with some cheetahs when we went to learn about animals on a reserve!
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  • Jazmyne
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Fresno, California
    California State University- Fresno
    10/10
    Enkosi Kakhulu!
    12/18/2015

    One story I haven't shared anywhere else is about the amazing women who cooked for us daily and did all of our laundry during our volunteer stay. These two women went above and beyond to make sure our stay was amazing. They taught us their language and required that we use it as often as possible. "Enkosi Kakhulu!" means "thank you very much" and I would like to reiterate that statement to these ladies. They exposed me to their culture and welcomed me into their hearts. One had a young daughter who would often come to the house and hang out with us. We played Jenga with her, puzzles, and had many dance parties! Because of these people, I was still having adventures, even during our down time. They taught me how to appreciate life and gave me new perspectives on the word Family. I feel truly blessed to have spent two weeks in their presence and I hope to one day make someone feel as accepted and loved as I did with them.

    Enkosi Kakhulu.

    How could this program be improved?

    If I had to change one thing about the program it would be the costs. It was very expensive (totally worth it), but I believe that if the cost was lower, many more people would be able to take advantage of this life changing experience. Not only would more people sign up, but that would mean there are more people out there helping rural communities who need it.

    Photos:
    When strangers become family!
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  • Kendra
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Madison, Wisconsin
    University of Wisconsin- Madison
    10/10
    ISV Conservation Program in South Africa
    12/17/2015

    Going to South Africa with ISV was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I felt like I made a lasting impact with the volunteer work we did and I made life long friends in the process. I was also able to cross a number of items off my bucket list such as petting a cheetah, going scuba diving, going on a safari, cliff jumping, and caving. Even though many of the South Africans we met didn't have a lot, they were always happy and positive. This made me reevaluate the way I look at the world and I now find joy in the simple things. This trip has forever changed me and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to travel.

    How could this program be improved?

    I wish the volunteer part of this program could have been three weeks instead of two because it went by way too fast.

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  • Amanda
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Bloomington, Indiana
    Ball State University
    10/10
    I Fell in Love with Africa!!
    12/17/2015

    This summer I went to South Africa with ISV. It was the first time I have ever left the country and it was the most terrifying and amazing thing I have ever done in my life! I was scared and worried about being in another country with people I didn't know, but all that anxiety went away after meeting my project leader and my fellow volunteers. By the next day I'd already felt at home. I still find myself missing the sounds of the birds on our early mornings, everyone laughing around the campfire, and even the cow bells down the road at night.

    I got to experience what life is like out in the South African bush. It's amazing, breathtaking, and sometimes can even take you out of your comfort zone, but it's worth it. Every moment from those freezing cold mornings to those happy grinning faces of the kids was worth it all.

    I did things I never thought I could do in my life. I freaked out about baboons, bartered with South African market men, pet a cheetah and a leopard, hugged an elephant, jumped off a cliff into freezing cold water, and even scuba dived with a shark!

    South Africa changed my view of the world. It used to be small but now it's sooo big! I would go back in a heart beat but I think my exploring has just begun. South Africa has given me just a taste of what the world has to offer and I want to thank ISV for taking me there!

    How could this program be improved?

    They tell you you'll need extra money for food and souvenirs but they don't tell you how much. Things aren't that expensive in South Africa but I ended up craving a lot of chocolate and wanting to buy EVERYTHING! I would have liked it if they would have warned me that while everything's cheap you will still want to bring a good amount of money with you.

    Photos:
    Hugging Elephants
    Sunset in Mozambique
    South African Bush
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  • Miranda
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Wichita, Kansas
    Wichita State University
    10/10
    Trip of a Lifetime
    12/17/2015

    South Africa was a life-changing experience. When we first got there, we were introduced to each other and our guides, and briefed on the schedule for the coming weeks. I immediately made several friends (from all over the world with whom I still have contact) and bonded with our amazing team of leaders who genuinely cared about all of the participants. I learned a ton about environment sustainability while out in the field collecting research, group discussions, and documentary films we watched together in the evenings. If I could, I would do it all over again!

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  • Natasha
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Tucson, Arizona
    University of Arizona
    10/10
    A lifetime of change in 4 weeks
    12/17/2015

    ISV was such a great program to be apart of. Administratively, they were always available to contact and were super useful to help with the questions. The program leaders were fun to be around and were very helpful. The experience as whole has showed me happiness comes from the smallest moments and not the material aspect of living in America. Being able to adapt to the culture and learn a culture that is not very known was an experience only few people get in their lifetime. If I could I would go back and make a bigger impact. It really helped me decide on my future career and life goals. ISV as a whole is such a huge impact and letting students to be able to enjoy and be part of this experience is one in a lifetime. Swimming with dolphins, playing soccer with the kids at the school and frisbee on the beach was something I could never describe to anyone.

    Photos:
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  • Tara
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Edinburgh
    University of Edinburgh
    10/10
    Best summer ever
    12/17/2015

    My volunteer project was based in the Masebe wildlife reserve. The first thing you need to know is, it's literally in the middle of no where. There are no shops, no internet, no phone service, no tvs - nothing. It was like stepping into a whole other world. A world I very quickly began to enjoy. In the morning we rose early to begin our volunteer activities: bird-counts, habitat assessments and visiting the local villages. All of the work we completed was done outside, in the sun and the fresh air. In the nature itself. One morning, my group had gone out to complete the bird count for that day; we were all very silent, listening to the different chirps and whistles of the local birds when suddenly we heard a twig snap about 20 ft from where we were standing. Standard horror movie stuff. Then came the sounds of feet on ground, and heavy breathing. The sounds were coming from no farther than 10 ft now. We didn't know what was going to come out and eat us, being in the middle of a reserve and all. Just when some of us were preparing to make a break for it, a herd of zebra come quietly out from behind the trees. ZEBRA. I can't put into words how exhilarating it is to come that close to such beautiful wild animals. We also encountered baboons, grey monkeys, giraffe, scorpions, impala, warthog, eagles and so many other amazing creatures. One time a rogue baboon actually managed to break into our camp. I've got to say, exiting the bathroom to find a fully-grown male baboon standing right outside the door was something I'll never forget.

    The adventure tour was also amazing. Kloofing (the african word for canyoning) was definitely my favourite activity. It's basically 'following the river wherever it takes you'. And yes that includes off the side of cliffs and under waterfalls. Very adrenaline fuelled. Snorkelling alongside Manta-rays in the Indian ocean during our time in Mozambique was also another awesome experience. Oh and caving! Honestly, that was probably the most terrifying thing I have ever accomplished but it was so worth it. I'm pretty claustrophobic, so if you are too and you're considering not going for that reason, don't worry! The instructors were very helpful and reassured me several times that the caves were perfectly safe. P.s. Don't watch the movie 'The Descent' like the majority of us had before going underground.

    Basically, the whole trip was probably the greatest experience of my life. I met sooo many people, and made friends I hope will last a lifetime. The experiences I have had have definitely changed me. My whole outlook on life has being widened. The program has made me want to see the rest of the world. I returned home a much happier and grateful person. I hope I can take part in more programs like this in the future. If you're hesitating on whether or not to go, just go for it. Trust me, you will not regret it.

    How could this program be improved?

    The program is a little costly, but at the same time it was worth every penny.

    Photos:
    Our home for 2 weeks in Masebe
    KLOOFING
    Words can't describe how amazing this moment was
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  • Samantha
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Glasgow
    University of Glasgow
    10/10
    ISV Shingwedzi trip
    12/17/2015

    ISV was the best 4 weeks of my life, every day was a new adventure. I did wildlife programme in South Africa. You really make a difference when you're over there but you also have time for fun. We worked hard and made a real difference doing maintenance work but also got to help out on cheetah feeding rounds and spend time with the cheetahs. The staff and project leaders were awesome and become a second family and you make some life long friends.
    The adventure tour is also not to be missed; safaris, scuba diving, swimming with dolhpins, cultural villages and lots and lots of fun!
    This trip is defintely worth it you will have a great time and it's an amazing experience!

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  • Emilie
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Purdue University
    10/10
    The Summer that Changed My Life!
    12/16/2015

    During my six weeks in Southern Africa with ISV I encountered so many different people, places, experiences. Learned so many different things, found myself in the process and ended up making some of the best friends Ive ever known! The memories and stories could go on for days, as everyday we pushed head first into a new adventure; from taking care of baby cheetah's, to diving with whales, eating a braai outside in the sand surrounded by friends and funny stories! To walking with elephants and hearing lions roar from our outside tent, to holding an orphan and donating money to buy them food. Diving into the unknown by going on a caving expedition and free jumping into waterfalls, eagerly holding our binoculars to get a look at the Big 5 on both of our Safari's. Sitting back with friends made, eating, laughing, crying and having to say goodbye to some of the group that were only there for four weeks! To finding myself doing the unthinkable by bungee jumping off of Victoria Falls and feeling the wind on my face and the rush of the pounding water beneath me and rafting on some of the most extreme rapids. The stories are endless and cause so much longing whenever I fondly remember them. This trip wasn't just a chance for me to help make a conservation different in Africa, but the chance to grow, to learn and to see the world in a unique and special point of view. But my favorite memory of all, had to have been the remaining part of groups last night all together, we decided to do a boat cruise, we all sat around telling stories and eating great food! We coasted along the shores of the Zambezi River and watched as the sun set and the beautiful stars of the African sky come out. It got quiet as we all sat back and processed the amazing 6 weeks we had spent together that felt like we had just started the day before. As we coasted by the shores, we looked upon elephants with their little ones, money's flying from the trees, birds flying in the distance and took in the beautiful songs of the African wilderness. At that moment I could have agreed more with Ernest Hemingway when he said, "All I wanted to do now was get back to Africa. We had not left it yet, but when I would wake in the night, I would lie, listening, homesick for it already."

    How could this program be improved?

    There isn;t anything I would improve, the people, the places, the feelings and memories are what they were because of the program and the people who have put this amazing program together! Only thing I can think of is programs that are longer, as I never wanted to leave!

    Photos:
    Spooky's Nap
    Sweet Child of Mine
    No Regrets
    Video:
    Victoria Falls Bungee Jump!
    Victoria Falls Bungee Jump!
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  • Taylor
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Lexington, KY
    University of Kentucky
    10/10
    The most amazing experience of my life
    12/16/2015

    Traveling to Africa with ISV was a life changing experience that will always be close to my heart. I had the opportunity to learn what it means to be a true traveller and I did it with a group of amazing new friends by my side. I would recommend this program to anyone and everyone. It will change your life and teach you more than you could ever imagine.

    How could this program be improved?

    I wish I could have stayed longer

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  • Tracy
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Isle, MN
    Minnesota State University- Mankato
    10/10
    Best Time of My Life!
    12/16/2015

    Traveling with ISV was the best time of my entire life. I volunteered for two weeks on a conservation project on a nature reserve in South Africa and am so proud of the work that I did while on project. I also spent another three weeks on an adventure tour and excursion tour traveling around southern Africa. Traveling with ISV allows you to really get immersed in the culture rather than just being a typical tourist and you meet so many amazing people, both locals and fellow volunteers. The best part is that traveling as a volunteer really changes your outlook on life and what is really important. It has made me far more aware of how everything I do can have either a positive or negative impact on the world and has really inspired me to live a more environmentally and socially aware life. If you travel with ISV, not only will you have a blast, but you'll make a ton of new friends from all over the world and learn a lot about the world too!

    How could this program be improved?

    I do wish the ISV recruiters were a little more upfront about the different volunteer options. I didn't even know my volunteer trip was an option until that was the one I was assigned. Also, the date of my trip got moved a couple of times for different reasons, so that was a little frustrating, however, the staff was very helpful with helping me through the changes.

    Photos:
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  • Calynn
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
    Other
    9/10
    South Africa Done Right
    12/15/2015

    When volunteering on Chintsa South Africa, I had the opportunity to feel like a part of the community. During the day we worked at a primary school; we put up a fence while a herd of cows sat and watched us, plastered a new classroom and built the trusses for the roof, cleaned up and repainted another classroom for the younger kids and spent recess playing with the kids. Then after work we explored local areas:beaches, sand dunes, the township, and of course the local hangout The Barefoot Cafe. The owners of said cafe were warm and welcoming, even letting me help out on a particularily busy night. After the 2 weeks of volunteering, the adventure tour opened the door to numerous opportunities. Walking with elephants, taking food to an orphanage, jumping off cliffs and leaning to surf. I did more in these 4 weeks than the rest of the year!

    How could this program be improved?

    The one thing I would improve, other than having the opportunity to stay longer, would be to improve communication from ISV. There was some confusion about what we were going to be doing on our project.

    Photos:
    Sports day in Chintsa (Volunteering)
    Walking with the elephants at Glen Afric (Adventure Tour)
    Feeding a vulture at Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre (Adventure Tour)
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  • Kara
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Logan, Utah
    Utah State University
    10/10
    Changed me for the better
    12/15/2015

    This program literally changed my life. After volunteering with ISV I realized how much I loved volunteering and completely changed my career plans in hopes of one day working for a Non-profit organization. One year of school left and then out to the real world but I will be forever looking for opportunities to make the lives of others better because of the time I spent in South Africa.

    Photos:
    Dancing at a Swaziland Orphanage
    Digging the foundation for a new school
    Weekends spent on some fun adventures
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  • Corey
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Kentucky
    University of Kentucky
    10/10
    Rainbow Nation with Random Strangers
    12/15/2015

    I have been traveling since I was a little girl when my parents started sending me abroad. I love to visit new places and by far South Africa is my favorite place. Meeting new people and seeing new places is my favorite thing. ISV was able to give me this opportunity while helping people in need. My group just happened to be composed of 11 girls from ages 19-24 and for me growing up going to all girl schools this was completely fine for me! We were told we were going to be building a playground and honestly I wondered how we would finished in two short weeks but we worked so hard we finished it before the two weeks ended. We were working at a daycare in a little village and we got to interact with the children, which was my favorite part. This one little boy at the daycare every morning when he saw me he would smile crawl over to me and lift his hands up as to ask me to pick him up. He wasn't even a year old and he made my days better everyday. We had a very diverse group of girls we worked with so when we had discussions we got to broaden our views by seeing the viewpoints of others. ISV made sure we learned about the country we were in and the problems this country we were in were facing and have gone through. This made it an amazing learning experience. After completing 80 hours of service we went on to the adventure part which was so much fun. This adventures pushed our comfort zones to say the least. I sadly misplaced/stolen so I had to go on an adventure of my own to get a new passport in a foreign country. This was definitely pushing myself out of my comfort zone but ISV helped me find accommodation and made sure I was safe along the way and got me caught back up to the group after my two day delay. We got to not only visit South Africa but we visited Swaziland and Mozambique as well. Who cannot complain when going on one trip and seeing three different countries. It was a three for one deal. I learned a lot about myself on this trip. For example, I never knew I didn't like enclosed spaces until some of the activities we did. I also got to learn about the people I met and how much their lifestyles are different than mine. Because of ISV and this opportunity I have changed my major and I am not changing schools to be able to follow my dreams of starting a nonprofit school or orphanage one day and I am forever grateful of that!

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About the provider

ISV's mission is to support sustainable development programs around the world through life changing student volunteer programs designed to positively impact our world and to educate, inspire and result in more active global citizens.

Destinations include South Africa, Costa Rica, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and the Dominican Republic. ISV has won multiple awards and over 30,000 participants from around the world have experienced their educational, cultural and adventure programs. Volunteers can join small teams for two-week projects in the field of conservation or community development, followed by a two week adventure tour. Many students earn academic credit for their involvement and highly qualified local staff carefully oversee programs in each country. ISV is recognized as one of the highest rated volunteer and travel organizations in the world and is a non-profit organization in California, USA. Its Australian operations are based in Sydney. Begin your ISV adventure today!

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