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GVI

About

GVI is an award-winning organisation that tackles critical local and global issues through our travel-based volunteer, internship, fellowship and apprenticeship programs as well as online courses, and virtual programs. At GVI, we believe that long-lasting impact is locally-led, which is why our programs are run in partnership with local organisations like the National Parks of South Africa, Madagascar, Costa Rica, Seychelles, Mexico and Thailand.

We’ve been connecting thousands of change-makers, like you, through an extensive range of nature conservation and social development programs in some of the most vulnerable habitats and communities around the world for over twenty years. Our projects tackle a number of critical global issues from turtle and elephant conservation to citizen science and gender equality.

Joining a GVI program gives you the chance to contribute to something bigger than yourself, and be part of a community of global citizens.

Reviews

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Polly
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Whale and Dolphin Conservation in Tenerife

I chose to participate in the Whale and Dolphin Conservation in Tenerife for 4 weeks with GVI during my Gap Year and will never forget the amazing memories I have made. The program included three boat trips a week and there was never a day where we didn't have a sighting. During my time here I have seen Pilot Whales, Bottlenose Dolphins, Common Dolphins, and Spotted Dolphins all in close proximity. On the other two weekdays we completed land surveys, in which we would spend time recording data on the different types of boats out at sea, and Beach or Park cleans, which were extremely rewarding when counting all the litter and calculating our total mass of litter collected. The staff were always accommodating and friendly to participants and ensured that everyone was included in group activities. Overall, I wish that I could have stayed a lot longer than 4 weeks as I thoroughly enjoyed everything about my time in Tenerife and made such amazing friends.

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Freja
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Renewed my passion for nature and wildlife

If you're considering this, do yourself a favour and do it <3
Not only did I get a look into a field I'm very curius about careerwise (wildlife research), I also got my passion for nature and wildlife renewed with a curiousity and wonder I thought I'd lost in childhood.
I've also made amazing friends who I couldn't live without and the staff are so amazing and inspiring.
Lions, hyena, rhino, giraffes... The African sunset and sunrise...
Go. Seriously. You'll be thanking yourself afterwards. I promise.

Pros
  • Experience South African Wildlife up close
  • Amazing social life
  • I learned so much about research and different animal species!
Cons
  • Shared rooms (not too bad once you get used to it)
  • An elephant might come destroy the water pipes (we bought water in a nearby town so we could still drink and cook)
  • It was sad to go back home
Response from GVI

Hi Freja!

Thank you so much for such a heartwarming review. It's amazing that your passion for animals was reignited and that you are exploring a career in wildlife! I'm so happy that you were able to connect and create lasting friendships. I have no doubt you will be back in the future!

All the best,
Tiffany (GVI Outreach Team)

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Joe
4/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteering with Children

My experience with GVI in Phang Nga was incredible. The relationships I built with fellow participants, staff, and members of the local community in such a short space of time was amazing. Being able to fully immerse myself in the local culture, while still helping to deliver an education to children was an experience I will never forget. I’m really looking forward to participating in another GVI programme in a different part of the world as either a volunteer, intern, or staff member. All make possible through the Ambassador programme!

Pros
  • Build relationships
  • Learn about new culture
  • Make an impact
Cons
  • Less formal training than I’d have liked
  • Organisation
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Seoda
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing, eye-opening experience!

Volunteering for GVI Phang Nga was one of the best experiences of my life. It exceeded all my expectations! I have learnt so much in my time here about fish, coral, turtles, beaches etc. but more importantly I felt supported and looked after all the way. The staff at GVI are so helpful and they really did make me and the other volunteers feel like we were a family. Each day was filled with smiles and laughter, and even only after 2 weeks, I feel as if I have made lifelong friends. I have only been with GVI for 2 weeks, however GVI has definiitely affected the way I see the world around me. In the future I hope to be more diligent in protecting the environment- for example picking up rubbish , and minimising the plastic I use every day. I was always passionate about the environment and the amazing world we live in but GVI has given me new motivation as I have seen the extent of the problem, but I have also witnessed how much progress can be made when we all work together.

Pros
  • Have an impact
  • Interact with turtles
  • Make friends
Response from GVI

Hi Seoda!

Thank you for sharing your lovely experience with us! I'm happy to hear that the program exceeded your expectations and that you truly gained so much knowledge from all the work done. It's amazing that it has left you feeling more passionate and willing to make a difference with us! This is a great example of how important volunteering is and how it can inspire people. I hope that we see you again soon!

All the best,
Tiffany (GVI Outreach Team)

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Christine
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

GVI Tenerife experience

I did an internship at the GVI hub at Tenerife. It was a great experience that I would recommend to anyone! The work you get to do is very rewarding and incredibly interesting, and three times a week, you actually go out on the boat and look for marine mammals! Seeing all these whale and dolphin species is so special, and made me even more motivated to contribute to their conservation. We also spotted some turtles and I got to see some of the beautiful nature that the island of Tenerife holds. The team is very professional and always ready to teach you new skills, but also available to relax and have some fun with! The support that GVI provides you with beforehand and afterwards is also really nice, it really helps to prepare for your trip and make the transition as easy as possible. Would recommend this experience to anyone!

Pros
  • So many opportunities to spot wildlife!
  • On the beautiful island Tenerife
Cons
  • Program is in its beginning stages
Response from GVI

Hi Christine!

Thank you for your review. I'm delighted you had the opportunity to see the various whale and dolphin species in their natural habitat, and that you felt so supported by the team. Your review is a great testament to the rewarding and interesting programs provided by GVI.

All the best,
Tiffany (GVI Outreach Team)

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I’ve always been interested in conservation, but thought I’d never have the time to really explore what was available. Due to redundancy, I decided to act on this desire finally do something for me.

I am passionate about all wildlife and its conservation, but especially turtles due to their long life and the huge impact short sighted actions have on the population. I have been reading books on their history and work being carried out for them. The biggest impact for me is that the work you do now isn’t realised for up to 35 years, so what you do if for long term, not short term reward. Their beauty, grace and endurance being affected by their outright vulnerability in and out of the water gives me a heartfelt desire to do something to give them and their future a chance, even if that is only a few weeks to help a small amount on their, hopefully, long journey.

One of the first websites I looked at was GVI. They have many many hubs around the world with a diverse range of projects. After several informative and guidance emails and chats, it was clear that the time of year and my dates gave me 2x locations to look deeper into. I struggled to get the correct dates and thought another opportunity would pass me by. However looking at other sites convinced me further that GVI was the right one to go for. I changed my dates based on my research and the enthusiasm and support I was given from the GVI team, signing up for GVI Thailand - Ban Nam Khem.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I contacted GVI direct from their website. Sending the first email was scary and exciting at the same time. I didn't really know what to expect and hoped that I'd made the right choice. The email response, information location guidance and their request to call me were very welcome. The call back I had really set the picture and even offered other programmes to consider to ensure I was getting what I wanted. Further research and GVI help reassured me that I was with the right people, going to the right place for me.

Before I signed up, I checked the flight and accommodation availability. Once all looked good, I signed up and started booking! The guidance for applying for the visa was spot on, I had to travel to London to apply and collect my Visa, but Visa support companies will do this for you. I booked the flight direct with Qatar, I also booked the first night hotel via Booking.com which was quick and easy to do. That was it, I was set to go.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

The one piece of advice is to have confidence that you'll have a great time. Selecting the programme you like means you will meet like-minded people and you'll have a great time. Volunteer holidays are full of opportunity, most people travel without knowing anyone and you'll leave with many new friends. Other advice would be to follow the GVI advice on research topics and to download an app with the country's language, it really boosts your experience.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

I was lucky as the timing was right for a couple of unusual events.

Most days comprise a morning and afternoon activity. Due to the Sun setting early, there's a lot to pack in. The Marine Conservation programme focusses on 2x visits a week to the Royal Thai Navy base to work cleaning turtle tanks, cleaning baby turtles and measuring and treating larger turtles for any infections. The programme also completes a 3 day visit to a couple of off-shore islands, completing butterfly, bird survey and Coral reef surveys. My time included 3x intern leadership project completions. The interns had been working on their different conservation projects and we worked for each of them for a day. The projects were to man stands in the local town to provide advice and awareness of issues within the country, help create conservation information posts to bring awareness of waste in the sea and a local garden to provide food and a better environment for volunteers. We also completed a sponsorship event raising money for food for the turtles.

Finally, you have weekends off, which most people take the opportunity to travel around the country together to visit other tourist attractions and cities.

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 my age. I imagined a lot of young adults not wanting an old person of their parents' age around!! I'd left volunteering late in life, but couldn't let my concerns hold me back! From the moment I arrived, everyone was friendly and inclusive. It was easy to see that age was not an issue. In addition, there are more people volunteering later in life that I realised.

What was your biggest curiosity before participating in the program?

For me the one question I wanted to know was "Will it be worth it" As with all things in this world, you really do get what you pay for. GVI are not the cheapest volunteer organisation. I did consider cheaper offers, but my research led to me question their direction and motivation was not the same as GVI. The onsite staff are dedicated, the food is fresh and cooked by locals, the activities are vast and all with local people providing the transport, guidance, food, accommodation etc. To see where my money went really proved to me that it was the right choice, fair and well spent.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Kirsty Davids

Job Title
Digital Designer
Kirsty Davids is a digital designer born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. She is super passionate about all things design as well as making a difference and helping where she can.
Kirsty Davids with white pants and a pink button up shirt and black hair smiling in front of a shop window

What is your favorite travel memory?

My favourite travel memory is my trip to Koh Samui, an island in Thailand. It's my favourite because it was there that I discovered my love for wildlife conservation. The island is known for its amazing beaches and hotels, but there are so many unique and stunning animals that I found along the way.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I have definitely changed and grown since working for GVI. Working here has opened my eyes to all the different ways to make a change and to do it in an ethical manner. I am so inspired by all the people around me. I continue to learn so much about how to make changes and an impact. I have been here for almost a year and learned so much.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Recently, a teacher from the UK decided to take a trip to one of our hubs in Madagascar. She had an amazing time and this was really special to me as she said she wanted to go with GVI to make a difference and have a meaningful trip instead of a regular holiday. In that time she got to see 3 species of lemur plus much more. She also took full advantage of her time off and explored the islands nearby. Swimming with turtles, seeing a humpback whale and calf, whilst also taking time in the local markets. What an exciting story!

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I would love to go on one of the marine conservation programs in the Seychelles! I have always been so intrigued by learning about marine conservation and I would like to know all that it entails. I have also never been diving and I love new experiences. It would be so exciting to see the beaches as well as tortoises and marine life.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I am proud of my company and team for being so dedicated to diversity and inclusion. As a woman of colour, this is very important to me as previous companies and most places in South Africa treat people of colour so poorly. I am proud of my company for trying to make a difference in all aspects and focusing on changing the status quo.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I think a successful company is when your employees are happy and taken care of, therefore, customers and clients are taken care of. Mental health and wellbeing is super important and the key to a company being successful. It also involves management who care about their employees and the company. With good communication and honesty.