Why did you choose this program?
I am currently studying Zoology, and my goal has always been to work in South Africa either as a Wildlife conservationist or as Field Guide. I heard about GVI Through Bushwise, an organization that provides FGSAS which is a qualification required to work in South Africa as Field Guide. I took the chance to travel to South Africa to do a Wildlife Conservation internship.
I was looking for a first experience in South Africa where I could meet people as passionate as I am, have lots of fun, make a real contribution on the field both with wildlife and local communities, and also gain experience for my professional future. GVI Limpopo provided all these criteria, and this is why I chose the program. My GVI internship has been the perfect balance between learning a lot, having so much fun, and having so many unforgettable sightings!
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
I have contacted GVI Limpopo 10 months prior. They have been super helpful, and they answered every question that I had. At the end of the day, most volunteers going around the world to do programs like this have very similar questions, and GVI knows exactly how to make you comfortable! From my first mail to my first day to the airport, they've always taken care of me, making sure that I was ready. From administration papers to flight tickets, they were always making sure that nothing was missing. They were there to listen to my concerns, helping me through every required process.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Do not be shy or nervous. Every single person that I've met has been super friendly and incredibly welcoming. Everyone here can truly be himself. People here are so different in a positive way, which makes this place so unique and wonderful. I would also advise anyone coming here to enjoy every moment during the internship. Time flies, and no matter what you are looking to gain during this internship, you will leave GVI with a clear head and much more confidence in your daily life than you had before.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
A typical day with GVI Limpopo usually starts with a morning drive. I never got bored of looking at the indescribable African sunrise while the animals are slowly waking up. Once the sun rose, we start looking for the cheetah coalition to collect data. The cheetahs and lions in the reserve are part of the main focus of GVI. Being this close to the three male cheetahs everyday was something that I could never forget. After finding the cheetah, we either go to look for other animals of the reserve, always learning as much as possible with a very passionate and enthusiastic staff member.
It is so much more pleasant to learn about elephants or eagles when they are standing right in front of you. In the vehicle, we get the chance to observe the animals closely, without intruding on their space and natural behavior.
I have had so many amazing sightings, and every day always feels better than the previous one. After the lunch break, we do various activities such as Game General Research, Bird Survey, Camera Trap, Reserve Work, or walk inside the reserve with a very small group, which was always mind-blowing!
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear was to be homesick. Three months is such a long time when you think about it, and staying in the same camp within a reserve can be overwhelming.
However, time flies when you are in a unique place like this. I cannot believe that I've already finished my three-month internship; I felt like I arrived only yesterday! I talked about this feeling with a lot of volunteers here, and everyone agreed.
Sharing the same house with 20 people in the middle of a reserve is an incredible feeling. Here, I've reconnected myself with nature, with the world, and with humanity. You cannot have a bad day during your time here, as everyone's happiness and optimism will always cheer you up, even during your difficult moments.
What knowledge is required to do a wildlife conservation internship with GVI?
Absolutely not, and this the beauty of this place! Meeting new people of different nationalities are also one of the greatest parts of GVI. Everyone here came with different cultures and different stories, as well as different reasons for coming. For example, I met many volunteers and staff members studying the same subject as I did, and who are also looking forward to do a career in the Wildlife Conservation. My social network is now broader and much more meaningful for my future plan.
I also met volunteers studying or having jobs not at all related to Animal Conservation, such as Math, Fashion, or Chemistry. However, everyone here shared a common passion for Wildlife, and everyone was always keen to teach or learn about it.
After a week of lectures and general research drives where the staff members taught us about the animals and the work that GVI does in the reserve, the volunteers were fully trained and ready to work. My friends and I never felt lost or confused during the first week, even though most of my friends did not have any experience with wildlife.
As long as you are passionate about wildlife, you will have an unforgettable time with GVI Limpopo!