ISV - Volunteer Projects in South Africa

Video and Photos

Took a break from Hop Scotch!
After we painted a Creché for the younger children - UBUNTU!
Bungee Jumped off Bloukrans Bridge - Highest bungee jump in the world!!

About

South Africa is renowned for its vigorous culture, sweeping landscapes and remarkable wildlife – but communities, children’s homes and wildlife reserves need the help of volunteers through organizations like International Student Volunteers (ISV) to address disadvantage and environmental concerns.

Through volunteering with ISV, you can be involved in life-changing community development projects, taking part in tasks such as building schools and playgrounds, urban renewal programs, water and sanitation development and classroom support. On ISV’s wildlife conservation and environmental management projects, you could be assisting researchers in surveying and monitoring of flora and fauna used for conservation management, or volunteering on a wildlife rehabilitation centre. Come join us to make a meaningful difference in South Africa!

Questions & Answers

Reviews

9.77 Rating
based on 151 reviews
  • Impact 9.5
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 8.5
  • Value 9.6
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 1 - 8 of 151
Sammy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

ISV South Africa Youth in the Township

This trip to South Africa is a trip I cannot stop talking about! I made such amazing friends and memories during my time there. There were so many beautiful things to see and I enjoyed the special bonds I made with the children in the Township. Each day we went in to the Township and spent the day playing games, doing arts and crafts, and fun activities like such with the children. I wish I never had to leave!

What would you improve about this program?
I really wish the volunteer time could be extended! Just two weeks feels like such a short time and I would have loved to stay there longer and give my helping hand. Such an amazing experience, more than words could explain.
K.r.
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

de Wildt Project - ISV South Africa

I participated in the four week program: two weeks volunteering at the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre followed by two weeks of "adventure travel." It has completely changed my life. I highly recommend doing the whole four weeks if it is at all possible for you.
My time at the Cheetah Centre and the Cheetah Lodge was insanely rewarding. Some of the tasks seemed like they didn't really make much difference, but Rika and the staff at de Wildt did a good job explaining how everything we do helps the Cheetah Centre. Putting a couple dozen volunteers on clearing branches and painting fences and preparing food makes it easier for the center to devote their more experienced man-power to more delicate and more involved tasks. However, the staff ensure that the volunteers do get close interaction with the cheetahs. Feeding rounds, clearing enclosures with cheetahs just on the other side of the fence, and ambassador interactions all make the "menial" tasks worth it. I hardly remember the hard work because it was evenly spaced with very fun and very educational experiences. The staff, the other volunteers staying at the Cheetah Lodge, and Rika are super fun and make every second enjoyable. Don't get me wrong, it's HARD WORK volunteering here. I got tired every day and I was falling asleep before 10 every night, often before 9, and was taking naps in a lot of my free time. Yet it was so rewarding and so worth it.
The second two weeks, Adventure Tour, was so beyond fun. I have had a lot of people ask me what my favorite activity was, and I honestly cannot decide because they were all so so so fun. There were some fun outdoorsy activities like kloofing and caving, and also some chill educational ones like a visit to Lesedi cultural village and Moholoholo Conservation Center. It was perfectly balanced between education and adventure. Most of my stories came from these two weeks, but the true impact on my world and the world around me came from the first two weeks.
It seems expensive, but when you take into account everything that you're doing those four weeks, pretty much all included, it's about $1,000 a week, and it's worth every penny. The memories and experiences and friendships will last a lifetime and are more than worth the money.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing I have to offer is that it was very self-contained. There weren't many opportunities to explore the local culture during the first two weeks at de Wildt. However, Tour more than made up for that.
Hunter
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

ISV - De Widlt Cheetah Conservation Project in South Africa

This experience was so out of my comfort zone and going in I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I remember being so incredibly nervous in the JFK airport. My ISV group was meeting by our flight gate and I has so anxious and scared, I sat alone by Jamba Juice listening to calming music and trying to distract myself from my nerves in a smoothie bowl. When I finally gathered the courage to meet my group, I was immediately fascinated and engulfed in these new friends. We shared stories about our lives and our expectations and joked about how unprepared we felt for this great adventure. Over the next two weeks, these people became so special to me. Each of us were completely new to South African culture but we were all eager to jump into this new world and take on any task that was thrown at us. We built roads and mixed bowls of raw horse meat with our bare hands, we painted wildlife enclosures and had our body and clothes forever stained with paint, we got to experience wild cheetahs up close and develop relationships with these animals (my favorite will always be a cheetah named Zoro, who took a liking to me the moment we met). At nights, we would all gather in the Cheetah Lodge and write in our journals, play games and puzzles, paint, play volleyball, joke and laugh and create memories. We got to explore Hartbeespoort, hike the oldest mountain in the world, eat the most amazing meal at a local Herbal Garden, and zip line. These experiences, the satisfaction of knowing we truly made a different at the De Wildt Cheetah Center, and the relationships that bloomed over these two weeks changed my life and I would do anything to experience it again. I have never had to say a goodbye as hard as the ones I had to say to those people I met in South Africa as I boarded the plane back to the States. If you have an insatiable need to serve and explore the world, I highly recommend traveling with ISV.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing that could be improved in the De Wild Cheetah Conservation Project is that there be more local/cultural immersion and community interaction. During evenings and weekends (aside from our one free day), we are forced to stay at the Cheetah Lodge. While this is fun and we developed great relationships with Rika and each other, we began to go a little stir crazy and wanted to explore the community outside the Lodge.
Zitah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing trip

I signed up for this project, without knowing where I would end up. I ended up at the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Center, and men, what a blast we had. Working with beautiful animals in a super friendly environment. After that two weeks of vacation, traveling to Mozambique and Swaziland. Again such a blast. I loved the trip and the project/tour leaders were amazing people, being very knowledgable. Loved it!

What would you improve about this program?
Apart from the food, nothing to be improved.
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Nate
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An Experience of a Lifetime

I did the 5 week program with ISV and I don't regret signing up for it. I don't want to sugar coat this trip too much but the fact is that this trip is an experience of a lifetime. I'm not much of an outdoor person, nor do I like to socialize much, however, doing this trip has gotten me out of my comfort zone and has allowed me to meet new people from around the world.
Volunteering at the Ann Van Dyke Cheetah Center was a lot of hard labor. We had to paint, clear out enclosures for the animals, clean the hospital, etc. It was a fulfilling 2 weeks and you learn a lot at the center.
Tour and Excursion are optional, but you will regret not signing up for it.
Tour was awesome we went to so many places and did many activities. Magaliesberg, Swaziland, Mozambique were all great places to visit. Some of the accommodations were interesting to say the least. Living in huts in Swaziland to a nice resort in Mozambique was an experience. Chill activities like gamedrives in Kruger, elephant encounter, or just learning about the culture were fun, but the adrenaline activities were next level fun. Kloofing and caving was really fun and it allows you to support and cheer on other people and it brings the group closer together.
Excursion was the best week out of this whole trip. It was more chill than tour. My excursion group was way smaller than on project or on tour and it lets you connect with these people more. We got to do more gamedrives and white water river rafting. Which I think is an activity you must experience. There are also other optional activities that you can pay for like Micro Light Flights or Bungee Jumping. If you are planning on entering the photo competition, going on excursion will definitely give you the edge to win the competition.
The entire experience was really fun and I wish it didn't have to end. ISV is a great organization and I highly recommend this trip and organization.

What would you improve about this program?
Let Project and Tour leaders go on excursion.
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Ayla
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Four Extraordinary Weeks

When my friends ask me about my South Africa summer adventure, the first thing I tell them is that it was one of the best decisions of my life. Volunteering overseas has always been a bucket list item for me, and ISV helped me do that while also having the time of my life. The trip I did consisted of two weeks volunteering, and two weeks of traveling around South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique. ISV also offers a variety of different volunteer projects to ensure that everyone can help out in the most enjoyable way for that individual.
In the community development project that I volunteered in (Izizwe projects), our group helped out in a township by gardening, painting daycare centers, and organizing activities for the kids. In those two weeks, the entire community welcomed us with open arms, making it easy to feel at home, and difficult to say goodbye. The volunteer work was so humbling, as we were able to teach the skills that are often taken for granted. For example, we showed kids how to brush their teeth and taught literacy classes for adults. As much as I loved doing the activities with the kids all day, I also loved that we did different volunteer work everyday. The schedule was pretty flexible in that if there was something one of us wanted to do or see, it was easily fitted into the schedule. I also learned so much on this trip about sustainability and climate change that completely changed my perspective on everything and inspired me to live more sustainably. On top of that, we were given several options for weekend activities, including going to the nearby Elephant National Park, bungee jumping, zip lining, and hiking!
The two-week adventure tour traveling around were filled with activities and culture, as we were able to go cliff jumping, interact with wild elephants, visit a Swazi orphanage, take surf lessons, see wild animals in Kruger National Park, and so much more. Although the volunteering was probably my favorite part of the trip, I'm so glad I did the two-week adventure tour because it gave me unforgettable experiences that I will always cherish.
As a student and young adult, one of the best things about the ISV trip was sharing the experience with other young adults who have the same passion for traveling and volunteering. I am so grateful to have met all these amazing people and the experience would not have been the same without any of them.

What would you improve about this program?
The only aspect that could be improved is the cost of the trip.
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Eric
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best time of my life!!!

Most of the activities we carried out have been mentioned in other reviews so I don’t want to spend time writing about it. I would rather share my overall experience there.
I have always wanted to volunteer abroad but it always seemed impossible (especially when I first saw the price of ISV programme). However, what I learnt travel should never be a matter of money but of courage so get out of your comfort zone. I know there are plenty of other alternatives but ISV seemed to provide a really good service judging from previous participants’ reviews. So I chose ISV and I will never regret it.
As we have been told during our project week, you see a bigger picture when working in a smaller community. This is a very brief description of ‘voluntourism’, a concept introduced to us by the co-founder of VA32 (volunteer africa), Mike. It is very true when you go into a community and really get to see how they carry out their daily life, what are their living conditions and so on. These things are impossible for you to see if you had joined any ordinary tour. What you would have seen is just a plain huge statue of Nelson Mandela(about 3 metres tall) and you will go and take a selfie with it and that’s it without being able to appreciate what the man has done for the country. If you are like this, you can consider yourself a tourist not traveller. Travel, not to escape life but for life not to escape us.
The two weeks of project was eye-opening. You WILL make friends for life and you WILL miss everything there once you get back to your home country. Do not forget to join the adventure tour because you will do things you will never do again like riding at the back of ‘bucky’ (4 by 4), watching lions and cubs walked past you, seeing the big 5, jumping off cliffs, singing songs in the bus, watching ‘Lion King’ in South Africa, getting to know who can fall asleep the fastest in a bus ride and what not. After the 2 weeks of volunteering, you deserve to have some fun so join the adventure tour. You will get to meet more people from other projects and now the list of people you are going to miss just gets longer. Also, you get to have more stamps on your passport.
There are a lot more things I could write about but I guess no one will really read the whole review if I keep on writing. Let me end my review with a quote written on the wall of ‘Back to Basics’, where we learnt scuba diving in Mozambique, “there is no adventure in your comfort zone” .

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Dan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Science, Sustainability, Adventure, and FUN!

Wow! This was my second trip with ISV and I honestly didn't know if this trip would live up to my last trip... but it absolutely did! I volunteered doing conservation work at Masebe Game Reserve in the Limpopo province of South Africa. The work we did was hard, rewarding, fun, and extremely valuable for anyone looking to have a career in the life science. Our project leader Kirsty, and the researchers Norman and Edward were extremely knowledgeable of the bush-veld ecosystem and the many organisms that inhabit it. We learned about everything from invertebrates, lichens, and vegetation to mammals, birds and reptiles! Each day we would do a three bird point counts in which we would go to different areas in the reserve and form a circle and call out the birds we saw and or heard. To do these accurately we first had to learn the common birds by sight and call. Next we would do VCA's (Variegation Composition Assessment) in which we would work in the bush-veld running transect lines, forming quadrats and measuring vegetation. This was time consuming and required a bit of hard work and concentration to ensure accurate data. We would also stop any time we encountered a Giraffe and record how man we saw and the gps location. In order to get all this work done we had to leave each day at 6:00 AM and brave the cold of the South African Winter. However it was worth it, to be out in one of the most amazing environments in the world to learn valuable skills from real experts! We also had small lectures with our project and or researchers to discuss different environmental and social issues facing South Africa and the world. These lectures were extremely informative and thought provoking and broke down misconceptions we may have held. We stayed in the Telekishi Cultural Village which was composed of mud and manure buildings that were not only extremely nice but were very effective insulators and fully equipped with electricity. The head of the cultural village was extremely knowledgeable of the area, its history and the people and he took us to the nearby village and around the reserve to teach us about the cultural, historical significance of the area. The head researcher Norman also runs an environmental education program with the village school that we got to assist him with. Over the course of the two weeks on project i learned a plethora of information as well as made some life long friends. The other volunteers are some of the most amazing people i have ever met and i have no doubt in my mind that i will be friends with them for the rest of my life! After project we set off on a two week adventure tour in which we met up with a tour leader Tasch (who was hilarious and extremely knowledgeable) as well as the other volunteer from the other ISV South Africa programs in which i made even more friends! With our tour group we visited Swazi Land, Mozambique, and more of South Africa. We went to Kruger National Park and saw lions, zebras, elephants, rhinos and more! We stayed in a variety of resorts, and did everything from SCUBA, snorkeling with dolphins, Kloofing, hiking, game drives, and caving! This trip was nothing short of an amazing, life changing adventure in which i gained invaluable professional experience, world perspective, and made amazing friends!!!!

What would you improve about this program?
Let project leaders go on tour!