GVI: Volunteer in South Africa

Video and Photos

boulders beach
boulders beach
sunsets
sunsets
table montains
table montains
township tour
township tour
township tour
township tour
township tour
township tour
cape of good hope
cape of good hope
tourist views
tourist views

About

South Africa is often referred to as the Rainbow Nation, for representing numerous cultures, subcultures, 11 official languages, and several more sublanguages. It’s a land with an impressive reserve of natural resources, wildlife, flora and fauna, and rightfully holds eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

GVI offers volunteer opportunities in sustainable projects that support the education, wildlife conservation, community health, and youth of the country. Your support impacts the ongoing community and sustainable development objectives of each project, and works according to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

When you aren’t on site, explore some of the countries numerous settings such as; hiking up the world revered Table Mountain in Cape Town, visiting Gordon's Bay harbor, relaxing on various beaches along the country’s coast, experiencing wildlife safari reserves, or visiting rural settlements and cities.

Highlights
  • Support global sustainable efforts that contribute towards the long-term objectives of each program.
  • Be surrounded by South African wildlife, world heritage sites, and natural wonders.
  • Live and travel in South Africa, connecting with the local community and other international volunteers.
  • Become a world citizen as you learn about different cultures, lifestyles, local cuisines, and traditions.
  • Improve your CV by adding skills in wildlife conservation, teaching, health and education, and community development.

GVI has a Community Development Internship in Thailand!


This is an opportunity to learn more about Chiang Mai's local Karen hill tribe culture, gaining intercultural communication skills and valuable teaching experience.

Popular Programs

This program is set in the reserves of Limpopo, assisting with the conservation efforts of spotted and brown hyenas. While contributing towards the UN Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life On Land, you’ll also earn valuable skill development and training in; remote camera trapping, wildlife and predator specific monitoring, habitat rehabilitation, data capturing, and conservation. Enjoy your natural surroundings, while working alongside field experts and other international volunteers.

Spend valuable time supporting education initiatives in one of Cape Town’s rural settlements. The local youth often grow up in high risk environments with few education opportunities. This project contributes towards their development in a safe space that encourages their full potential. Objectives support UN Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education. Travel around the city and coastline in your free time, or visit one of the Seven Wonders of Nature, the city’s very own, Table Mountain.

Live on a private reserve in Limpopo, experiencing the surrounding wildlife in its natural habitat, all while contributing towards meaningful conservation and research efforts for wildlife protection and longevity. Learn about biodiversity and habitat monitoring, and how to track and identify each species.

In Karongwe Private Nature and Wildlife Reserve, join conservation work to better understand, protect, and preserve the reserves existing ecosystem. By learning camera trapping and radio telemetry techniques you are not only gaining valuable skills, but contributing to the conservation projects necessary database, by identifying rare species, understanding their behaviour, estimating populations, and conducting assessments and surveys accordingly.

Inspire and encourage rural community youth in Limpopo to learn about conserving wildlife, and the environment. Learn practical telemetry techniques, and teach, facilitate, and create lecture material for conservation discussions. On this program you will actively engage with students by participating in weekly safari drives. This supports the UN Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life On Land, and Goal 4: Quality Education.

If you are looking to start a career in wildlife conservation, this program offers opportunities to learn hands on skills. You will practice data collection and use radio telemetry to track and record species whereabouts and behaviour. Your assistance supports the preservation of South Africa’s wild cats in their natural habitat. There will also be time to explore the Drakensberg mountains and river canyons nearby with fellow international volunteers.

Questions & Answers

Hi, so for the cape town projects over 18 it consists of 1 day of lesson planing, normally Monday, and then the rest of the days on site. You get to site at about 9am and go to 3pm with an hour for lunch. You will most likely leave the base at about 8.20 am having had breakfast and made your lunch. In the afternoon after volunteering you have free time to go to the beach, just chill out before you...

Reviews

97%
based on 36 reviews
  • Impact 9.2
  • Support 9.5
  • Fun 9.5
  • Value 9.4
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 1 - 15 of 36
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Karl
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Experience

I spent three weeks volunteering at Karongwe Game Reserve in July/August of this year. I enjoyed every second I spent there, interacting with the friendly, approachable staff; who's knowledge of the program and animals is incredible. They really make you feel like you are part of the team and making a difference. The drives that you go on allow you to see and experience wildlife like you have never before. Tracking the animals through telemetry and writing down the data makes you feel like part of the team.

Being educated in different fields that enhance your experience allows you to create a family-like bond with your peers that are on the trip. The family atmosphere that is echoed by the staff strives you to make a difference.

This program is an amazing experience and I would recommend this to anyone.

What would you improve about this program?
I would improve the information you get pre-travel. The kit list you get is not accurate to what you actually need for the trip.
Default avatar
Theresa
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Delving into the realm of Wildlife Research in South Africa!

I just spent 4 weeks in South Africa on gvi's Research Expedition programme, going on game drives almost every day and collecting data on a variety on species for their research. Without wanting to endorse any cliches, I have to admit it changed my life in so many wonderful ways!
Not only did I get to meet an amaying team of drivers, guides and researchers who taught me so many things about conservation, wildlife and the bush as well as their research, but I also met people from all over the world and all ages and backgrounds, united by the common goal to contribute to wildlife conservation in South Africa. I learned much about them, but maybe even more about myself.
The programme itself was just as great, starting off with a training week to prepare us for our research drives in the bush and teach us mammal, bird and reptile identification, tracks & signs as well as how to use the equipment, take care of the vehicles and clean and cook for a house of 20+ people (very useful life skills). The daily research drives were more fun, engaging and fascinating than I could have hoped and we got to see some amazing wildlife from super close up. The staff were always willing to teach and answer questions, expanding our minds, making us think and directing our focus on the small, yet no less remarkable things around us.
There are a thousand memories I would like to share, from stargazing from a safari vehicle in the middle of the bush, being face to face with elephants, lions & cheetah, to the most beautiful sunsets imaginable. I can honestly recommend this programme to anyone interested in wildlife, research or conservation, or anyone who just wants to have a great time in the African bush and meet some great people!
I will certainly never forget my time there and I'm sure it will be the same for you!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
Stay longer! Even 4 weeks were not nearly enough time to learn all the things I wanted to learn and while you can certainly achieve a great deal in that time, I would have loved to stay on for longer!
Default avatar
Nicolas
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My Experience in Limpopo

As a first time in Africa, I didn’t know what to expect. Despite any hesitations around how the experience would be initially, I felt nothing but at home. The staff were incredibly friendly and prioritized the volunteers every step of the way. It was a unique way to spend a month in a country on the other side of the world from me. The program also allowed me to complete over 200 volunteer hours towards my major.
I would recommend to any traveler looking to visit an unknown country to do it through the GVI programs, as it is a meaningful way to learn and help the community/wildlife in a hands-on fashion.
These programs are excellent for solo adventurists looking to meet like-minded people. It is very easy to relate to everyone, and making friends comes very easy.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
African Wild Dogs, which also happened to be my favourite sighting.
Default avatar
Susan
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Wildlife Expedition in South Africa

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.

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Shannon
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Dream Come True

As someone who has always dreamed of traveling to Africa to study the amazing wildlife there, I was so excited to participate in the GVI Limpopo, South Africa Wildlife Research Expedition. Spending every day on game drives, seeing incredible animals, recording vital data, and getting to know people from all over the world only grew my passion for wildlife conservation. The GVI team and staff in South Africa made my experience unforgettable by creating the perfect family atmosphere and a feeling that we were truly making a difference in the world with every day spent volunteering. Every day spent out in the Bush brought something different, and it was such a variety of fun and exciting experiences. I am so thankful for the time that I was able to spend in the African bush with GVI!!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
I would recommend going into this experience without too many expectations other than that you will get up close and personal with wildlife, down and dirty on a game reserve, and make connections with the community and people that make the experience so valuable.
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Gabriel
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My time at Bushwise

The Bushwise Field Guide course is very informative and allows one to walk away with a verity of qualifications, including ones FGASA level 1. The food overall is quite good but often had to much salt and/or sugar. The trainer's have an amazing knowledge base and it was fantastic to learn from them. The insight given from each trainer as well as the historical and scientific aspects were really great. The trainer's were able to keep positive throughout the course and the new trainer Edward was able to ad much need positivety and some new views on various aspects of our learning material. The different courses included in the Bushwise course such as ARH, 4x4, First Aid Level 2 and rifle competencey were all most appreciated and useful to our future careers.

What would you improve about this program?
Nothing, this program is fantastic and has great trainers.
Georgie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Bushwise is the way to go

Bushwise has been everything I hoped for and more. It has given me more knowledge than I could have imagined and feel like I'm only just at the tip of the iceberg. The staff and trainers were excellent and so passionate about not only wildlife but teaching their students more than what was required and educating us about the ethical way of guiding. The admin team are also extremely helpful for international students as they take care of all of the extras needed to complete the course. Without them we would have really struggled to understand what we needed to complete and how to do it. I don't think we'd have finished the course with all of the necessary documents without them. I've made friends and work colleagues for life and couldn't recommend Bushwise enough.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
Nothing! Bushwise is an excellent course and I wish I could do it all over again.
Jelle
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Bushwise Course review

My name is Jelle, I used to be a Data Analyst at a major tech company. Now I am a qualified FGASA field guide and one step closer to living my dream.
Late 2017 I came to the conclusion I had enough of corporate and wanted to follow my dream, working with animals and specifically conservation of wildlife. Ultimately my dream is to work with wolves. This was always a distant dream, as somebody who grew up in a country without nature or wildlife I never thought it would be something attainable.
After some research on how I could start getting experience and skills in this completely new industry I came across the Bushwise course. As soon as I finished reading the description I knew this is what I was going to do. I signed up and here I am.
The course was so much more encompassing than I would have thought. On top of learning about literally every topic in the bush, from grass to birds, from Big 5 to the lichen on the rocks and trees, from the dust at our feed to the dust in space, we also gained skills in tracking, rifle handling, 4x4, first aid, photography and how to entertain and work with guests, you name it. The campus itself is amazing and although we still haven't seen the leopard there is so much wildlife to see and waking up in the mornings in the middle of the bush is something most people can only dream of.
Don't mistake, it is tough as nails. You have exams every week and only a few days to learn each topic for that exam, which has to be done in between drives, chores and briefings. Your choice is often sleep or study and sleep often sounds very inviting. No matter how tough it gets though, waking up in this environment and going on drives near every other day makes it all worth while.
The staff are also amazing. Every 4 weeks you get 1 week off in which you can either return home, go see SA or catch up on some much needed studying. Food is exquisite and the trainers and support staff are fun, fair and very dedicated to helping you achieve your goals. I would highly recommend doing the full year to get the extra 6 months work experience and although I am sad to leave Bushwise and the campus behind I am looking forward to my placement, even here they shine as they match up students with placement venues very well in terms of both what the student is looking for but also the personalities of both the student and staff at the placement.
I give my heartfelt thanks to the entire Bushwise staff and hope to make them proud in the years to come!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
If you are looking for a life in the bush or in the outdoors this course is for you.
Be aware though that the course is tough, even coming from Tech but it will be worth it in the end.
Ryan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Fantastic

This course was ace. The trainers were amazing and enthusiastic. The managers are like family. The location is incredibly beautiful and the accommodation is perfect. The food is delicious, especially the chicken pie (veggie version is even better) and the vehicles are top notch.

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Marko
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Bushwise is worth it

Bushwise is totally worth it. The trainers are super professional and friendly. You have a lot of fun and the knowledge base you aquire is second to none. From the day you arrive to the day you leave you are always learning. The campus is ons a 100 hectre game farm where you can go for walks and view animals such as sable and oom okkie, the ostrich. We do most of our practical stuff on Makalali private game reserve where there is big 5 game. You also get certificates for First aid level 2, 4x4 competancy and trails guiding base. You have the opportunity to do your advanced rifle handling and trails. This would set you on the path to become a trails guide is that is what you want to do. Bushwise is in my opinion one of the best, if not the best training provider out there.

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

Best experience of my life!

I went on the Under 18's South Africa wildlife conservation volunteer program and it was in short, life-changing. It sparked an interest in wildlife conservation, in which I had no previous interest, and has helped me figure out what I want to in the future. I have since researched more topics for a 6000word EPQ and am looking at applying to wildlife conservation university courses!
The activities completed whilst out there were amazing to experience such as walking through the bush and watching cheetahs rest as well as helping in a local school for two days. The trip to Kruger National Park was also incredible, with so much wildlife to see!
One of the most vivid memories was watching the sunrise on multiple occasions, appearing like a different planet.
Not only are the experiences incredible, but you make lifelong friends as well. Everyone gets along straight away, so much so that I am travelling to America (from England) to meet up with someone I met in South Africa.
It was the best experience of my life and would recommend it to absolutely everyone!

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
The most nerve racking moment was either nearly missing my second flight due to weather delays, or meeting everyone for the first time. However this quickly changed because we all immediately got along and it was not awkward like I expected it to be!
Read my full story
Default avatar
Dannielle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Opportunity of a summer..experience of a lifetime!

I spent 4 weeks in Limpopo on a private game reserve researching the cheetah, big five, birds of prey and tree species. I wanted to make an impact with my summer away from university and so just jumped on this trip! I study environmental science at university so wildlife is always on my mind, but I don't know much about it - especially the African bush. I came away having extended my knowledge to depths that I thought I never could achieve. It was honestly one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I love sharing my experience with others now and getting others motivated to take their trip of a life time too! The whole trip was well organised by GVI, from information for my parents to airport pick ups and daily meetings once there if we needed. There is a weekly timetable on base which gives details about; your two drives a day to research the animals on the reserve, reserve work which includes maintenance of the reserve, extra lunchtime activities which includes usually a short drive to somewhere within the reserve to learn about something new. For example one day I went and learnt how to find water (it was my summer time in England so very dry in Africa at this time). We can also choose to go into the local school for a community day every other week - on my day we went in and worked with the children to make either a poster or play to increase awareness of rhino dehorning and its importance. I cannot express to you how incredible the children's attitudes are and their positive outlook on life, it is thoroughly up-lifting.

What I often tell people is that when I first drove into the reserve I thought all I could see was dead trees that all looked the same..By the time I came away after 4 weeks I could name every single different tree and tell you all about their characteristics- they certainly weren't dead but thriving! The GVI research team have an incredible breadth of knowledge about the reserve and on every single drive you learn an amazing amount of information and it is fun to test each other and learn from other volunteers about the reserve! The atmosphere is very chilled, there are a few hours in the day where you can get on with what you like to do, whether that's to read a book, enjoy the sunshine or chit chat and play cards with the others. I have made lifelong friends from volunteering in South Africa and now I am looking for more projects where I can make a difference! Bring it on!

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
I was able to sit less than five meters away from three wild Cheetah on the reserve. I was so close to them that I could hear them purr. They had just had a large meal and so they were all lying down with huge full tummies! They were just relaxing after their meal and were not focused or fussed about us being there. We made sure to be quiet and respectful and we were in a safe position regarding the location of our vehicle too, however it was quite nerve-racking...they are wild!!!
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Erika
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Intern

My experience in South Africa was a once in a lifetime experience. I was able to see first hand wildlife in its natural environment. I learned about a variety of species, from small to big mammals and insects. The overall internship is a great opportunity to discover the importance of conservation in SA and the impact these creatures have on the planet. The internship gave me an understanding of the animals in SA, their behavior, the importance of protecting the species, prey/predator relationship, rhino dehorning, tracking, bird watching, as well as the out reach programs around the local community. The staff at GVI SA had a wealth of knowledge and their willingness to teach and the effort that they made to make each day full of adventure and a wonderful time.

What would you improve about this program?
The program can improve if they gave the Intern manager some room to implement more tasks and activities for the interns.
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Dannielle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The Best Experience I have had yet.

I only went for two weeks but it has changed my entire perspective on life and helped me find myself. I went over there a little lost having no idea what I truely wanted to do. I study a Bachelor in Science in Conservation and Biological Science and I came over to test if it was something I truely wanted to pursue. And man did I make my mind up. It’s 110% what I want to do an you and the team helped me come to that realisation. GVI Karongwe are so inspiring and supportive For anyone that is considering going on a GVI trip I cannot recommend it enough, even if you want a holiday, consider doing GVI, it is so rewarding and you see parts on the country and its community that wouldn’t be able to see as a mere tourist. There is no previous knowledge necessary, the team trains everyone up to get ready to hit the safari. I made life long friends on this trip from all over the world, from UK to Ireland to Columbia. We still talk atleast 1-2 twice a week. It's an experience you’ll never forget. But don't take my word for it, DO IT!

What would you improve about this program?
The Program is amazing and I cannot think of a way to improve it everything is so carefully thought out the only way to improve the experience is to make sure you book for a minimum of a month as 2 weeks is just not enough. Take it from me.
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Kayley
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

You won’t regret it!!

I stayed with GVI on an Under 18’s project in summer 2017 in Gordon’s Bay, Cape Town. Me and three other girls spent one week working in a township with pre school children, and one week travelling the Garden Route along the coast of South Africa. Our goal was to construct an eco-friendly greenhouse for a pre-school in a local township, it’s an amazing opportunity to experience the life in townships and great to play with the children as well.

As we were such a small group, we ended up getting the most amazing holiday Home for accommodation- this was separate to the adult volunteer accommodation. However I also went inside the adult accommodation and it was still really nice and had a communal feel, although it was more basic.

I’m vegetarian and the food was amazing, they have fresh meals made by a chef and cater for all dietry requirements. Tap water is drinkable. One member of our group was ill for one night however it was dealt with well and we were not staying on GVI base camp at the time so don’t worry. The rest of us were absolutely fine.

Exploring the Garden route in the second week was one of the most memorable parts of the trip! It gave us a real chance to experience as much as South Africa as possible within the second week. There were a few ethical issues based around the excursions we did, however after further investigation GVI have said they will no longer be going to certain tourist attractions (one of the safaris). I am confident they put their ethics/morals at the forefront of the projects.

Child safety and organisation is outstanding. No phones on project, everything is done to the highest standard. I was even put in contact with other volunteers before project and organised flights to Cape Town with another girl. GVI make you feel so comfortable and it really is like living with a big family (cliché I know!!)

I was worried about getting home sick but it was absolutely fine, there’s WiFi and opportunity to message family/friends.

GVI really tried to make my project memorable and I’m so glad I was brave enough to do it! Would recommend it to anyone and I definitely want to do another project in the future.

What would you improve about this program?
Options to make the programme longer and spend more time with the children / on project.

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About GVI

Founded in 1998, GVI runs programs in various countries around the world, each manned by our own staff and aligned to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), as well as the objectives of local partners. We welcome participants...