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GVI

About

GVI is an award-winning organisation that tackles critical local and global issues by operating education and training programs on sustainable development projects around the world.

Formed in 1997, we have been operating our award-winning programmes for over two decades and over 25,000 participants have volunteered or interned with us. All our programmes are run in in partnership with acclaimed international partners, like Save The Children, WWF, The Red Cross, PADI, Project AWARE, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and the National Parks of South Africa, Costa Rica, Seychelles, Mexico and Thailand, among others.

GVI consists of a vibrant group of friendly staff members who regard each other as family and passionately work together towards making a difference in the world.

Website
www.gviusa.com
Founded
1997
Headquarters

Unit 7, Westlake Business Park, 4-8 Stibitz Street
Tokai
Cape Town
7945
South Africa

We are proud to launch our new GVI Business Internships Abroad!

Business Internships Abroad are a great way to apply your business management and leadership skills, explore the world, experience new cultures, contribute to a sustainable cause and kickstart your career!

Reviews

Default avatar
Esther
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I was quite nervous before heading out to Costa Rica as it was my first experience of traveling alone however, the process was much smoother than I thought. Getting to the meeting hostel was simple and I even met a few of the other volunteers the evening before. I will never forget the sense of excitement as we traveled (the 5ish hour trip) to the base. For the first week or you will probably stick with the group you arrive in as you can experience this new place together. Later on, you get to know the rest of the people on base and quickly become a close friendship group.
We spent our days on surveys, watching the amazing nature around us either on foot or by boat and our free time chilling on the beach. Life has a much slower pace here and that allows you to appreciate the experience you have been given that much more.

I would 100% recommend anyone with a passion for conservation and the environment to volunteer at this base not only will you make amazing friends but you will also get to be emersed in the Costa Rican way of life and have an experience very few are lucky enough to get.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
make sure you bring lots of snacks and some comfy trousers!
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Mia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

When I first arrived in Thailand in the first day of the program I had no idea what to expect. It was one of those thing where no matter how ready you think you are you never will be quite ready enough. I was so nervous as I had only come with one friend. Immediately the staff who had come to pick us up put us at ease. This made us feel welcome and they were so friendly. This experience has taught me so much in terms of being more independent as well as showing me how much of an impact our everyday decisions have on others around the world. My favourite part of the experience was working with sea turtles because we were able to help them by cleaning their tanks and giving them medicine. I also really enjoyed the sightseeing of the second week as we did so many awesome things such as sleeping in treehouses and in huts in a lake.

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Fauve
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

From the moment I signed up for the project I knew it was the best decision I made. I needed to get away from my job that I didnt like at the time so finding this project was the best thing that could have happened. I was apprehensive about going to Thailand and not knowing what to expect but from the moment I got there, met the staff and new volunteers I felt at ease and new it was going to be an amazing 6 weeks. This was my second experience as a volunteer and it will forever be my favourite. There is no better feeling than working with animals especially in their natural environment. Getting to hike every day with these beautiful creatures was something out of this world. The project is great and was everything I expected and more! The staff on the project are great at what they do and make sure we got the best experience!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Hiking with elephants 5 days a week! It never got old! Getting to take data and making sure the elephants were in full health was something very rewarding also
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Berni
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Hi, my name is Berni. I’m from the UK and I have just returned from three months working on the GVI Wildlife project at Jalova, Costa Rica.
Well, where do I begin??? .....so much I want to tell you.
I’ve always had an interest in wildlife but I will confess to being an ‘armchair’ enthusiast. I love watching anything wildlife related on TV, have a love of being outdoors and take an interest in conservation but have never actually done any conservation work before. My work involved helping children and young people with emotional difficulties, so doing wildlife conservation work was very different for me.
Circumstances within my work environment provided me with an opportunity to take some time out.... a gap year. So I decided to stop sitting in the armchair, get out there and do something about my conservation interest. I knew about Costa Rica’s diverse wildlife and, in terms of places I wanted to visit, it was right up there at the top of my bucket list.
I started to do some research into companies offering ecotourism and was overwhelmed by the choice! I’d heard that some organisations would quite happily take your money and not give you a genuine, worthwhile experience, and I wanted to make sure I would be working for an organisation which was credible and was making a real difference on environmental issues. So I contacted several organisations and asked lots of questions! And, for me, GVI ticked all the boxes. After a lot of extensive research, I knew I’d found the organisation I wanted to work with.
The weeks leading up to my trip were busy. Flights; insurance; making sure I had all the right equipment... the list seemed endless, but finally the day arrived when I was ready to go. To say I was nervous was an understatement! But as soon as I was met by Vix, Amber and Ben at San Jose airport, I felt at ease and knew I would be well looked after. Some of the other volunteers and interns were also at the airport, and I met others when we arrived at the hostel in San Jose.
Then the following day, we were all transported to Jalova, which was going to be my home for the next three months. After a good night’s sleep, I was able to get used to my surroundings and I fell in love with Jalova straight away. Yes, the facilities are basic and not what I was used to at home; electricity is solar powered – Jalova is in the middle of a rainforest which meant that some days there was no sun - and therefore no power - so charging devices, and even lighting was limited to say the least; there was sufficient water to have a shower each day, but all other water came from the well. Still, base camp has such charm and I saw a multitude of wildlife within a few metres of my dorm. Oh, and did I mention that the beach (and the Caribbean) is only metres from the camp???
Very quickly after arriving at camp, the training began. As a mature traveller, it was several years since I’d done any studying and I felt as though I was never going to learn the names and characteristics of all the necessary birds, lizards, frogs and mammals. But the staff and other volunteers were so supportive. We would all study together and test each other on our knowledge. It seemed the staff’s motto of ‘we believe in you’ paid off and the studying, along with getting out in the field and seeing some of the species ‘in the flesh’ (which I did very soon after arriving at Jalova), helped me to pass the necessary tests.
As I’d signed up for the Wildlife programme, I became involved in all aspects of the project which was exactly what I wanted. Surveys were varied; - forest surveys, butterfly walks, night walks, nest checks, jag walk, jag cams, frog walks and bird boat. I loved going out on the bird boat – the canals which surround Jalova are absolutely stunning – so peaceful and calm, and we saw an abundance of birds and other wildlife (but be prepared to do lots of rowing!). But my favourites have to be nest check and night walk because that was where I had the opportunity to see turtles! For me, seeing these beautiful creatures in the flesh, after years of only seeing them from my armchair on TV, was beyond my wildest dreams! I got the opportunity to ‘work’ some green adult female turtles – this involved counting the eggs as she was laying them (what an experience!), measuring her, marking the nest and doing a body check. I can’t begin to describe the feeling I got the first time I did that. And then on nest check I saw baby leatherbacks making their way to the ocean – so many special memories that I will treasure forever.
Going to Jalova and working with GVI has truly been a life-changing experience for me. Every single person I met was warm, friendly, accepting and kind, and we all shared a passion for helping the beautiful creatures we encountered. The staff could not have done more to make me feel welcome, accepted, and that I was truly making a difference to the work we were doing. Their belief in me has really boosted my confidence. I can’t thank them enough.
If you are thinking of doing some wildlife conservation and considering going to Jalova, my advice would be ‘just do it’.

Default avatar
Susan
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I did the wildlife research expedition in South Africa for 2 weeks. The first point I would like make is that 2 weeks is just not enough. Although I loved my time there and had some extraordinary experiences, I felt there was still so much more to see and learn. Of course, if 2 weeks is all you have, then I still highly recommend doing it. But if you have the chance to go for longer, grab it with both hands and don't look back.

On the first day after we arrived, we had our first reserve drive through the private animal reserve we were staying on. We got to simply observe for this, and to see the staff and other volunteers in action. The rest of the first week was a combination of training, lectures and more drives. Things are pretty fast paced so be ready to pick things up quickly as you go. Everyone on drive usually had a job to do so you will always be busy. The second week was more of the same, usually with a drive in the morning at about 5:30am (I know it sounds early), with another one in the afternoon at 3:00pm. These could be general research drives, or an animal or activity specific drive depending on the schedule.

As well as the daily drives, you will be assigned base duty one day a week. This is where you and your partner will clean the whole base and then make lunch and dinner for everyone. For those a little intimidated by the thought of cooking for so many (for me it was about 15-20 people), they have a step by step recipe book with specific meals scheduled each day. This means it’s really hard to go wrong even for the more culinary challenged (I include myself in this category).

I had some amazing encounters even in such a short time. I got to see all of the Big 5 except for a leopard - although I heard them more than once! Other highlights included a Sunday trip to Kruger National Park (arranged by the volunteers themselves), taking part in a mini obstacle course that was designed by one of the longterm interns and the braais (bbq) we had at the end of the week.

If I had any advice for you before you go, take a camera. I only had my phone and I really regretted not having something better to take pictures. The same goes for a pair of binoculars. Also, if you go to South Africa during their winter like I did (June), then take the hat and scarf. Also, layers are essential. You’ll need them for those early mornings and later evening drives because it really does get cold.

The bottom line for me? It was worth it.

Programs

Displaying 10 - 18 of 36

Alumni Interviews

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

Tom Ogilvie

Tom is a cover supervisor and IT technician from Leeds. His big passions are environmental sustainability, animal welfare and cultural diversity.

Why did you choose this program?

It started out by me wanting to do something more worthwhile with my summer break from work. After looking at provider after provider after provider, I finally came across GVI. What first caught my eye about GVI was the immense variety of their programs. You can work with children, train as a safari field guide, teach Buddhist monks, volunteer in conservation and the list just goes on! It was GVI's Chiang Mai program that stood out from the others. It looked like I could really get integrated with the community while also helping with elephant conservation. The duration of the program was also very flexible, so it could fit in my term break perfectly.

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

I honestly can't commend the pre-departure team, and even the GVI staff as a whole, anymore! Everything I needed to organize for my placement was clearly laid out as soon as I'd signed up. Documentation wise, GVI can arrange a DBS check for you (for a small fee) but you're free to get it yourself too. I'd never had to apply for a visa before, so I wasn't sure where to start. Thankfully, GVI was on hand to help and even direct me to the nearest consulate where I could collect it. GVI arrange transport to and from the village at the beginning and end of your stay. All accommodation and food are set up for just before and throughout the program too.

In short, GVI is always on hand to help with whatever you need and are happy to organize things where they can.

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

Don't be afraid of going on your own. In fact, I'd recommend it! Traveling to Huay Pakoot was the furthest I'd travelled on my own. I was slightly hesitant, but I just couldn't pass up the opportunity, so I took the plunge. The vast majority of volunteers at Huay Pakoot arrive on their own too so you'll all be pretty much in the same boat from the get-go. Because of this, it makes it so much easier to get to know everyone. I am seriously surprised at the number of genuine connections I made with other volunteers during my stay. We even have regular meetups when back in the UK!

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

An average day starts with beautiful views and even more beautiful elephants. Hiking to the elephants every morning quickly became one of my favorite things to do. Not only are you surrounded by breathtaking scenery, but knowing you’re actually helping to keep these magnificent creatures in the wild, where they belong, is a wonderful feeling.

One of the best parts of this program is you actively take part in helping collect research on the elephants. This is then passed on to the Thai government, so you really feel like you’re doing something truly worthwhile too.

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 wondering if I could adapt to village life. Although it sounded pretty much idyllic, I couldn't be sure until I got there. All my fears washed away on the first day, however. Not only were all the other volunteers and staff ace, but the villagers were also SO welcoming and friendly I instantly felt at home. I genuinely had no reason to worry whatsoever!

Would you volunteer/intern with the same company again?

Yes, absolutely! As I said before, one of the greatest things about GVI is the amazing variety of their programs. I've found myself counting down the days I can return to Huay Pakoot and I am absolutely certain I'll be applying for other programs in the near future!

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Staff Interviews

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

Rachel West

Job Title
Sales Account Manager

Rachel is a fun loving people person who loves adventure and challenges. Starting in the hospitality industry she gained valuable experience, but yearned for something with more meaning bringing her to GVI where she aims to grow and contribute to the change.

What is your favorite travel memory?

Camping on the white sand beaches of Watamu in Kenya with good friends. We were care-free, adventurous - hiking and fishing for small fish with the local kids. Most of the friends we made we had met at the location and they also spent the rest of the time with us.

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

Only just starting with GVI I see myself over the next few months gaining valuable information. Since starting with the company, however, I can already feel the presence of teamwork and care for one's fellow employee.

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

As what appears to be a popular program at GVI, I recall a story of a volunteer working on the Jaguar program in Costa Rica. They told how they knew it would be amazing, but came out of it feeling sad to leave and feeling like their perspective of the world had changed.

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

There are two that I have specifically eyed, the first being in Costa Rica working closely with the Green Turtles and studying their natural habitat and nesting habits. The second program that caught my eye is working with monks in Laos. This experience could be an eye-opening experience exposing them to education and myself to a new culture and way of life.

What makes your company unique?

GVI is unique as they are clearly focused on the experience of each and every person who applies for a program. Each person gets the necessary amount of attention and more. The company shows that they are about making a change and providing an experience rather than making money or an image.

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

TEAMWORK. The only way a company can grow and become stronger is by each individual working together towards the same goals. When one link is weak, it will show quite obviously.

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