Volunteer Programs in South Africa with African Impact

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About

There is a reason why South Africa is consistently rated one of the top travel destinations in the world. Make that several reasons! Where else can you watch the sunrise from the top of a mountain, catch a wave in the ocean and spot an elephant roaming at dusk all in the same day? President Nelson Mandela proclaimed this country as the ‘Rainbow Nation’ – a country as diverse and colorful as it is exciting and adventurous.

Questions & Answers

Hey Jenna, glad you're interested in joining us either later this year or in April next year. We can definitely help you with that! We have 3 different program bases in South Africa: Cape Town, the Greater Kruger Area and St Lucia. The only program base that offers short-term trips (either day volunteering, or 1-week volunteering) is at our Cape Town project base, where we run: - An Early...
Hi! Awesome news that you're interested in joining us as a volunteer - we can definitely help with finding just the right project for you. The majority of our volunteer placements only offer stays between 2 and 12 weeks, however it's possible to do 2 placements back-to-back if you did want to spend 6 months volunteering. The price per project does vary, so we would highly recommend visiting our...
Monday to Friday. 8 hours per day. I don't know yet, but around this.
Hi Rachael, Thanks for getting in touch and that's very exciting that you're interested in volunteering abroad - we can certainly help you out with some options and give you advice on each of our available programs. The majority of our programs are only option to volunteers aged 17 and above, but that being said we do have a few locations across Africa that are open to 16 year olds and each of...

Reviews

90%
based on 29 reviews
  • Impact 9
  • Support 9.2
  • Fun 8.6
  • Value 8.4
  • Safety 9.2
Showing 1 - 15 of 29
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Emily
9/10

Valuable Sports and Teaching Experience in Cape Town

I spent three months in Cape Town with African Impact on a teching and sports volunteer programme. It has been the most amazing experience meeting such interesting people, working hard to actually feel like i could contribute to the community and learning valuable lessons about the South African Culture.
I was very happy during my stay, the staff were very nice and helpful and I would love to come back in the near future to see how much has developed and changed. I liked the emphasis on sustainability and collaboration with the partners on site, and this was such a valuable lesson for me personally as well. Hope I can come back someday!

How can this program be improved?
The one thing I would possibly critique is the fact that a lot of the nights at the house are usually connected to some type of fundraising from the volunteers (meaning vols pay additionally for merch or group activities to support the project) which in concept is a good idea but can feel exclusive to some volunteers who have a tighter budget for an already pricier trip.
Yes, I recommend
Caitlin
9/10

Nerves are good!

When I went to Africa last year I was 18, fresh out of school, I booked a 4 month trip to africa and I started with this project in South Africa. And I was mostly scared about not feeling comfortable or at home in the places i was going to be staying. But be assured, the african impact team make you feel like a family, especially the team in Cape Town! They are amazing, from a welcoming hug to the staffs calming natures and knowing you can ask them any question was so reassuring for my 18 year old self!!

How can this program be improved?
More organisation in terms of storage of items for projects
Yes, I recommend
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Gabriela
1/10

A lie

Well, this project was supposed to be a perfect match, but it ended up the opposite.
The Cheetah Centre was meant to be a Reintroduction Centre where cheetahs should be in the process of being released in nature.
But they were not doing this. They were just taking care of the animals (this they could do), but even when they received a baby cheetah and could've done something to release this one back to nature at some point, they taught the baby to have contacr with humans and were making tours with it!
I felt really frustated and disappointed.

Other aspect that horrified me was the careless with the animals food (rabbits and chicks). They were kept in dirty and safeless (one day a wild animal entred and killed a lot of them) places. And they were killed in a way that I can not agree with, with the machines and all of them seeing the other dying and they were all "screaming".

Also, they made me cut meat when I told them that I didn't feel comfortable with it, specially when the animal was hanging with its blood leaking just behind me.

They were mocking at me all the time because I was vegan and I felt disrispected and not well welcomed.

For all these reasons I left the project before the end: I could not be part of all that.

I know the care-takers had good intentions, but this my point of view and, for me, this project is a definite NO.

Response from African Impact

Hi Gabriela,

Thank you so much for leaving this honest review about the cheetah centre we used to partner with in South Africa, and we are truly sorry you did not have a great experience. We wanted to let you know that we actually stopped working with this centre in early 2018 as we were receiving a considerable amount of negativity about the project. We really do listen and value the feedback of our volunteers and used the standard we would apply to any of our own (not third-party projects like this one), to assess the project and decided that we did not support it and no longer send our volunteers there.

We hope you had a much better experience on our own project in Zanzibar, and hope that your competition win wasn't tainted by your experience at the cheetah centre.

Thank you again Gabriela.

The AI Team

No, I don't recommend
Default avatar
rebekka
9/10

Most amazing experience

This volunteer program is absolutely amazing for people who wants to make a difference. I thought volunteering was just a waste of time, but i got to try a bunch of different programs with AI and from what i saw, they really do make a change. They are invested in their project and spend a lot of time making sure that their programs are of good quality, commitment and helps towards a better future. The only thing I can be negative about is that the price was a little high for its value (when considering the whole package deal) and also for me who was looking for an adventure they were a little strict and I would appreciate more free-time. This is my individual opinion though, and does not affect what i think about the incredible volunteer programs they offer. The staff members were so nice and helpful, really cares about the volunteers and everybody they worked with and I felt safe and taken care of. I would absolutely recommend.

How can this program be improved?
The only thing I can think of is maybe getting a little more value for the money.
Yes, I recommend
Siem
9/10

Expensive but worth it

The prices were the only downside for me. The support and everything else you got were great!

This was my first trip alone for over two weeks, far from home. To have everything from, housing, food, safety and travel to the project, included in one, was amazing.

I was not an experienced traveler, so I found it no problem to pay extra and be able to get all tose things taken care off. It takes away a lot of stress when you go there. Knowing you don't have to worry about it when you are there.

How can this program be improved?
The program wasn't really from African Impact. They just helped you with housing and travel to the project. But the volunteer work itself was from the place itself, called "TEARS", a dog shelter and catenary.
Yes, I recommend
group photo
Inger-lise
9/10

Amazing experience!

I don't even know where to begin. It's been 6 weeks since I came home and I still miss it every single day. I volunteered in the orphanage in the morning and at GAPA in the afternoons. The atmosphere in Khayelitscha is so special and makes the experience incredible. The smiles of the children are worth everything and unforgettable. The African Impact team makes you feel so welcome, not only by providing so much information that you know the house like your own in day, but also by always being there for a chat. I would recommend volunteering for everyone wanting to make a change, big or small. You also get to know so many people from all around the world and get to make so many memories at projects or in the weekends.

How can this program be improved?
There's not a single thing I would change, African Impact provides such good projects and really makes sure you are able to be a part of a change.
Yes, I recommend
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Christine
10/10

Experience of a Lifetime

My time volunteering at GoEco’s Big 5 Wildlife Reserve project was better than I could have ever imagined. I didn’t know what to expect when I left New York and traveled to South Africa alone, but once at Dumela Lodge, the staff immediately made all of the new arrivals feel comfortable and welcomed. All of the volunteers became immediate friends- it was such an amazing experience to work and connect with more people from across the globe than I ever have before. Our purpose there was to assist in the data collection of a variety of species, including elephants, rhino, lions, leopards, birds of prey, and many others, to give to conservation organizations that protect these animals and their environments. Without the help of volunteers, the staff wouldn’t be able to collect and maintain all of the information that they need. Almost every morning, we would wake up bright and early for a game drive at a nearby reserve and would get to watch the sunrise from the jeep with beautiful landscape and animals all around. I felt that volunteering in South Africa was the absolute best way to enjoy the beauty of country, while also giving something back and doing your part for the magnificent animals that are in danger of not always being around. If we weren’t busy with our research work, we were camping in the bush, hanging out by the pool, going on scavenger hunts, helping out at a local reptile park, and going on weekends trips like to Kruger National Park. If you have the opportunity to volunteer here, do it. It was the best possible experience I could have asked for.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Brian
10/10

Big 5 Project at Dumela Lodge

I signed up for the Big 5 project in August this year (2015). I had reached a point in my life where I needed to re-focus on my ideals and get a better sense of wellbeing.
Embarking on a 3 week project I didn't know what to expect, but left the Uk with the pre-advised open mind and positive attitude.
Wow, I could not have been more overawed and could in no way have had any pre-conceived ideals of what this project would give back to me.
I was not aware that the project had reasonably recently moved from Thande to Dumela, but that didn't appear to have hampered the underlying project goal in any way whatsoever.
From day 1 all the 'staff' and interns at Dumela were absolutely amazing. They are a font of knowledge when it comes to wildlife and all are such great characters and personalities in their own right, right up to Stuart and Stacey, the program leaders at the site.
I was lucky enough to see the Big 5 within my first week, something I could never havve hoped for nor expected, but having an underlying sympathy for all animals endangered or not, I was blown away already.
The one thing I have to say is that everything is catered for, great food, great accommodation, great staff, and I made some fantastic friends too, who will never be forgotten.
The trips too, spending overnights in a local game reserve, were amazing, and get you so close to actually living, not just experiencing the bush it is surreal. Also the weekend trips pre-scheduled for you and made available are amazing. I did a reasonably 'calm' trip on the Panorama tour and the sight still amaze me, month later.

For anyone who has a care or sense of pride in wildlife and wants to give a part of themselves, to give just a little bit back I would say 100% do sign up for this project. It is not just the animals but also the involvement in the local community projects, the camaraderie and friendship and sense of fun in what you're doing that makes every single part of it worthwhile.

African Impact made such an impact on me that I had the logo and 2015 tattooed between my shoulders as an everlasting memory, and I cannot put into words how much better and rewarded I felt as a person for having visited. I now have a burning desire to return as soon as I am possibly able to experience it all again, this time with my partner who sadly was not able to come with me on this trip.

For satisfaction, and reward at such an amazing financial cost and personal reward I can't praise A.I. enough, everyone at Dumela is amazing. If you hae a bucket list put this on it, and get it ticked off. You will spend 5 or 10 times ore on a tourist safari that will not reward you, and what you do even a fraction as much as this project does.

How can this program be improved?
It could not be improved. I know the team are still developing Dumela Lodge but for me that made it all the more real, and a better experience. I felt more grounded because of it, but with continued work it will be even more amazing I am sure
Yes, I recommend
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A.Ross
10/10

The opportunity of a lifetime

If you want to learn, give generously in time and effort to an extremely worthwhile cause, and have tremendous amounts of fun at the same time - African Impact is a must-do. Perfect for anyone looking to do something incredibly important, yet hugely fun.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Wendy
10/10

The Big 5 Conservation Program at Thanda Reserve

I was part of African Impact's conservation program for one month and I have to say that I wish I could have stayed more time! The time there goes by so fast. My day started at 6 am going in an early drive of 3 hours and when we got back we had other tasks to work on- i was planning a lesson for a group of students at a primary school. Then we would have lunch at 12 pm and after that we had another drive from 1 pm-4 pm; at 6:30 pm we had dinner and then we would have different things to do every day- some presentations, game night, movie night.

Everything was perfect! I will say one of my highlights of being there was when we could presentiate the speed of two cheetah brothers while hunting. We could see them eating an impala just by the fence! it was amazing. There is also the youth program were you could choose to go any Tuesday to a village near to play with the kids and entertain them, talking about you, and teaching them about conservation.

On the weekends you get the option to go on a trip or to go to places nearby like the cat rehabilitation center where you get to touch a cheetah or to the elephant interaction, 5 min away from the lodge. If you are planning to go for this program at the end you will want to stay more time there! the people at the lodge are amazing and they make you feel like it's your second home. I highly recommend this program!

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Sophie
10/10

Cape Town Teaching Project 2013

I loved my volunteering experience with African Impact, i only wish i had volunteered for longer than just 2 short weeks! It's left me wanting more and i'm already hoping to return.

If you are looking for a volunteer experience that is legitimate, sustainable and enjoyable all whilst making a truly valuable impact then look no further, African Impact is the largest on the ground facilitator of volunteer opportunities in Africa! So where you want to be and what you want to do is totally up to you, and trust me, you will be in safe hands!

So i chose to volunteer in sunny Cape Town with the teaching projects out there. I spent half my time supporting teaching at a pre-school in a local township and the other half with GAPA (Grandmothers Against Poverty & Aids) - a truly incredible project that supports grandmothers to provide after-school care, fun and food to children within the largest township community, Khayelitsha.

I learnt more than I could have imagined, not just about the culture and lifestyles of the communities, but also about the nature of volunteering itself. It's about offering support whilst remaining completely sustainable, less about the hand outs and more about enabling and empowering others. This means that your impact is truly lasting and unforgettable.
At Luntu you will meet some very special children who will fall in love with you as soon as you walk in through the front door! Their squeals of joy and the songs they will teach you will buzz around your head forever. I spent most mornings reading stories, teaching English and supporting their play.

GAPA volunteers help to support grandmothers in providing a safe place where children can simply enjoy being children. Grandmothers often become parents again to their grandchildren as the middle generation are affected by HIV/aids, the project enables them to get together, offering care, love and attention to the communities children and also gives them an opportunity to start earning a small living again, making and selling unique hand-made toys, jewellery and accessories which make fantastic keep-sakes and souvenirs! You will have fun organising games and singing songs, playing cards or painting pictures in the dusty yard. As a Primary School teacher back in the UK, I was amazed at what you can do with little resources! The children are strong, happy, motivated and independent. They will fight for your attention and obsess over your hair, they will love you just for being there.

You will have plenty of fun at the volunteer house, making friends from all around the world. Theme nights, pub quizzes, coffee shop crawls! You will be pretty well looked after too by the wonderful Shecky and Jane! The cooking is traditional, delicious and dinner is always on the table when you come home from project! They’ll even do your washing for you so that you can concentrate on the important things, like enjoying yourself, sorting resources or planning for more fun!
You will never be on your own, fellow volunteers will become your family out there and with constant support from African Impact project co-coordinators and Interns you will work together to plan fun and engaging activities and not forgetting the incredible local project leaders who are always on hand for a quick Xhosa lesson or two!

Cape Town is so vibrant and colourful, it’s constantly buzzing! There is so much to see and do that you will be spoilt for choice! We spent our weekends and free time exploring Obs (the volunteer house local town) where there is an eclectic mix of late night coffee shops, pubs, clubs and live music! We clambered up Table Mountain and abseiled down again, sampled tasty treats at the Biscuit Mill markets. We then joined the Cape to Addo tour at the end of our volunteer adventure, where we bungee-jumped, braved black-water tubing and bare-back Ostrich riding! We sunned ourselves at a citrus farm and spotted elephants on Safari – a perfect way to round off an epic South African adventure. There are plenty more opportunities from shark-cage diving to sky diving, the possibilities are endless and your volunteering experience will be unforgettable.

So here's a few tips:
- Bring a jumper (it gets cold indoors!)
- Be open minded (if your friends want to stop off to try sheep’s head on the way to project – do it! Try the local treats, they will leave you wanting more no matter how strange they seem!)
- Learn some Xhosa – the go go’s will appreciate a ‘molo!’
- Why not pack a few extra resources in your back-pack – kids love to play cards and parachute games!

Volunteering provides a broader perspective on all aspects of life, it deepens understanding and ignites intrigue. To volunteer is to learn, to enjoy, to experience. To be excited, exhilarated and to explore a sense of awe and wonder. If it does all this for you, just imagine what you can do for others.

Volunteer with African Impact Cape Town City Projects - You know you want to!

Yes, I recommend
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MR
10/10

AMAZING EXPERIENCE

I have just returned from two weeks in st lucia with African impact and have to say, they were just amazing.The co-ordinators ( from Monique & Miriam to Vlekkie ) are so committed, enthusiastic,motivated and passionate about their projects ( it makes you so proud of them ).They make you feel at home as soon as you arrive and you become one big family. The zulu staff are supportive and also an important part of this project,their knowledge of the area and the community really puts you at ease,i soon became part of the community !!! people of all ages recognise you and just love to talk !!. As for the projects, you really do feel as if you make a difference and a great help,from cleaning peoples houses to being part of the reading club ( very rewarding ).The house in which you stay is very comfortable and clean,it is very close to shops,resturaunts and cafes. Please Please make the plunge and go, i can assure you you will not be disappointed.

How can this program be improved?
NO negatives apart from i wish i stayed for longer, but 100% sure i will return so please book longer.
Yes, I recommend
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Colleen
10/10

Great experience in South Africa

I volunteered with the African Impact for two weeks in Cape Town, South Africa. At first, I was so scared about flying all my myself and I didnt know much about the African Impact organization. I was able to make 30 hours of flight to South Africa from United States, and as soon as when I arrived Cape Town, there was a really sweet lady who was waiting for me with my name on the sign. She was so friendly and welcomed me to the volunteer house. I met so many nice people from all over the world in my volunteer house in Cape Town. They were all passion about helping others. I volunteered with the Veterinary assistance and abused animal shelter project and it was wonderful! There were so many inspirational people in Cape Town and they have opened my eyes so much. There were so many things to do in Cape Town, I went to shark caged diving, Lions Head mountain hiking, restaurants, and many others with other volunteers from my house. The volunteer house was so nice and welcoming. You will learn a lot lot in Africa, and I am SO glad I went!! I almost didn't went, because I wasn't sure if it would be worth it. But it was more than worth it and I miss every minute of it! I say go for the experience because it will be once in lifetime. I wish I could go back! African Impact is such a wonderful organization and everyone who works for the organization was perfect!

How can this program be improved?
I really don't think there is anything to change. Everything was perfect! It was a great experience and absolutely a unforgettable trip.
Yes, I recommend
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Matthew
10/10

Sports Development Cape Town

When I arrived at the volunteer house we had an induction which outlined the goals for each project and the goal for the Sports Development project was to introduce a good to high standard of Physical Education (PE) while supporting the local head coach from a company called “Sports Choice”. This company works with local schools with in townships with backing from some charities to improve the quality of coaching and the amount of time children take part in organised PE sessions. Sustainability is really important to African Impact and that is very clear in each project in which I was involved in.
The schools were how I pictured a township school and not like the photo on the website of the volunteer provider. The photo was of a school African Impact used to work at a couple of months before and the school did not require more volunteer help as they progressed to a high level that they can sustain for many years to come. The areas that the children do PE were old netball courts with grass in patches on an asphalt surface on which all the children take their shoes off and have bare feet. I was surprised at first but I think back to the days I was at primary school in New Zealand and I just to go bare footed for everything. I overheard the coach saying that the school don’t let the children wear shoes due to it marks and wreaks the courts, which I think is a shame when the court is in quiet a poor state.
The first couple of sessions the head coach was in charge and it felt more like pre-season training rather than a PE lesion as all we did for 45 minutes were shuttles with the class split in to four groups which at least nine in each line. I thought this was crazy as I have learnt though practice and study that children should not be put in big group qued activities, one good thing was that the coach always got the children chanting as each group had a name and gained points for supporting pairs and teammates. After the first day I started to take more control of sessions from just a warm up to taking the whole session in which the children played more skill based games that include all the children most of the time, which I feel they would benefit from having fun and learning new skills as well.
Depending on the age of the children and the level of English would depend on the complexity of each game. I would explain to the rules and goals of the games to the children then speak to the coach so he knew why I am doing this particular active and what skills I am looking for from the children. If it doesn’t go quite right, just adapting the rules slightly makes the children more responsive. I gave the head coach a list of session plans that have key points for the session and a lot of different games based for different age groups instead of have just one set game for the children.
On Fridays as a team we plan sessions for the next week and brainstorm new games we could try as well making them age relevant games, we would also set a theme every two weeks as the head coach only sees each class once a fortnight. Also being based in two schools in the township of Langa only two days a week allows a very limited time with each class, but the goal is to provide PE and show how important PE is in the development of a child mentally as well as physically.
After two weeks on the volunteer project I felt time went really quickly and I just wanted to stay and continue the project as I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed my time with the staff and the children as well as I felt I have grown in terms of taking a more leading role without stepping on the head coaches toes while putting my ideas out there and having the confidence in explaining and justifying the reason for this idea. When I was younger I feel I would have taken a back seat role and just let things play out as an observer.
This experience has shown me a different style and culture of coaching children and has opened my eyes to the fact that children have a massive respect for adults in this culture and been constantly hearing a collective “yes coach” and if you say something they do it, whereas some English children don’t have that level of respect of even close.
The more you put in to project the more you get out, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.

How can this program be improved?
Update photos to current schools, apart from that it was amazing and everyone should do it
Yes, I recommend
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Heiko
9/10

Big animal research at Thanda

African Impact runs a serious research project at Thanda. My work-holiday time there was a chance to learn about and to participate in meaningful investigations of wild animal behaviour. Suddenly faced with an eight member pride of lions I saw at once that I should have studied more closely all the preparation sheets I had been sent. Identifying individual animals from photos and detailed descriptions at first seemed impossible; and so recording their interactions appeared futile. This was no less true when an over 20 member herd of elephants surrounded us. (After an eight day search our 40-40 vision driver managed to get us this experience. I could say lots about our hyper-tuned bird dog drivers) Yet this is what this program teaches us to do. The challenge is to immerse oneself, before, during and after the numerous actual sightings, in the available material showing the animals’ features and group relationships. We volunteers, working together with trained staff, manually recorded and then entered electronically every observation. We were then able to analyze the data and to present trends in draft monthly reports. A few weeks here can be anything from a holiday to the beginning of a career. The food, accommodation, staff, camaraderie, who cares, it’s all great. So also are the times we spent helping people in surrounding villages and helping to keep vegetation under control. Where the opportunities are unique is with tracking and finding the animals, and then with the limitless challenge of studying and recording them.

How can this program be improved?
For the surprisingly speedy and thorough observational skills called for, more preparatory exercises would help.
Yes, I recommend

About African Impact

African Impact is a multi-award winning volunteer travel organisation which runs and manages meaningful and responsible volunteer experiences and internship programs throughout Africa. The organisation was founded in 2004 in Zimbabwe, and since then...