ISV - Volunteer Projects in South Africa

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Program Update:

ISV will only be conducting programs for this coming summer, 2018 in the Dominican Republic.

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!

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Questions & Answers

Reviews

98%
based on 151 reviews
  • Impact 9.5
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 8.5
  • Value 9.6
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 16 - 30 of 151
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Sam
10/10

South African Experience

Overall, the experience was more that I ever could have imagined. Being able to make a difference everyday at the Cheetah Center was so rewarding! We could tell we were helping accomplish a lot of things that they wouldn't have gotten to do without the extra help! And having the chance to be next to so many beautiful animals constantly, including on the adventure tour, was so magical! I have dreamed of those animals being so close since I was tiny, so being immersed in the environment as a whole was dream like. The adrenaline pumping experiences of the adventure tour are some I will never be able to forget! I truly got to see South Africa while doing these things, and I am so grateful I got to immerse myself as much as I did! On both the project and the adventure tour, we had AMAZING tour leaders! Graeme Hillary, Kelly Gowar, and Courtney Moxley all helped to make our experience that much more personable and enjoyable!

Yes, I recommend
Kathryn
10/10

JUST DO IT

There is not much else to say than just do it. Just step outside of your comfort zone and go on this trip, trust me when I say it will be one of the best experiences you will ever have. Don't worry about the cost, you will make the money. Money is replaceable, the memories you will make and the people you will meet are absolutely priceless. Not to mention a trip with ISV is an incredible value, no dollars are wasted no matter how you look at it.

I signed up for this trip not only to travel the world, see new a countries, go on crazy adventures and meet amazing people; but mostly to get experience with large exotic animals in the best way possible and really make a difference for endangered species. I had absolutely no idea what I had signed up for. I knew this trip would be amazing but I never knew that it would change my life. And yes its cheezy but its cheezy because its true.

I got to volunteer at the DeWildt Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Center for two weeks every day and spend time with these amazing creatures. I was in the Pre-vet group so not only did I get to be around them I got to work hands on with them, sedate the cheetahs for vaccinations and medications as well as watch surgery preformed on both the cheetah and wild dog. I got to learn information on why the cheetah is endangered and what we can do to help but also information on countless other species that were also at the center. I honestly cannot say enough good things about what DeWildt is doing and I am so thankful that I went with a program like ISV that brought me to such an amazing place.

The second two weeks of my program was the adventure tour, we went to Mozambique, Swaziland and then back to South Africa staying at game reserves and other amazing accommodations. Yes we got to do crazy fun activities like caving and kloofing (cliff jumping) but ISV made education just as important in the second two weeks as the first. We got to meet local people, visit villages, and see so many species of wild animals that live in Africa. Instead of riding elephants that is completely unethical we walked next to them in their natural environment so instead of training them to interact with humans on our terms we interacted with them on theirs, a beautiful thing that I am so happy I got to experience. That is the difference between ISV and other tour groups, ISV has a moral code unlike so many other companies and really care about the impact that they make and the volunteers make while abroad.

If you want to travel abroad and have the best experience of your life, believe me when I tell you to just do it and go with ISV, it was the best decision I ever made.

Yes, I recommend
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Ayesa
10/10

Nothing Humbles You More

Volunteering in South Africa through ISV was truly a once in a lifetime experience! I did the full 4 week tour which included 2 weeks of volunteering and 2 weeks of adventuring. The work I completed in my 2 weeks of Standard Conservation volunteering felt like it mattered, and it was even better being surrounded by people with the same common goals and passions! The accommodations exceeded my expectations and the staff was so incredibly helpful from planning the trip all the way to my flight home from the trip. It seems overwhelming to plan a month long trip to South Africa but ISV made it very easy and manageable, even with my busy school and work schedule! The 2 week adventure tour was also incredibly enriching because ISV chose activities that highlighted the beauty and charm of African culture. The entire experience was FUN, educational, and humbling. I couldn't have picked a better organization for my first time volunteering overseas.

How can this program be improved?
I felt like I could have been better helped in the fundraising aspect of the trip. The overall cost can be very intimidating at first, and I feel like there could have been ways of minimizing the financial stress.
Yes, I recommend
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Janeen
10/10

Best experience of my life

My experience in South Africa was an amazing one! The people of Walmer Township in Port Elizabeth, South Africa were the so welcoming and appreciative of our help. ISV did a great job of working with the needs of the people and giving us volunteers tasks to accomplish their needs. I met some of the most hard working and loving people. The culture is so different from America and I was able to appreciate their way of life. ISV made my experience educational by teaching us about sustainability and letting us know that what we are doing is making a huge difference for the people of the township. We worked a lot with the kids and they were so happy and they had so little. Everyone I met touched my heart and were the reason I left Port Elizabeth in tears. I felt such a great deal of love and appreciation from the community and it was the most rewarding experience of my life.

How can this program be improved?
This program was great and you go with the flow. Organization is a little bit hard because things can change based on weather or holidays or other things.
Yes, I recommend
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Taylor
10/10

It's time to change our lives

I know everyone says this program will change your life, and I will admit that it has changed mine. Africa helped me to find ME. But, I want people to know how they can change another life. When I volunteered my time over seas with ISV I learned what it truly meant to be a volunteer; to give my time to another person, and to pour my heart into supporting any and every human being in any way I can. Throughout my trip I was able to meet so many people and view life in a unique way that I wouldn't have experienced anywhere else. ISV made it possible for me to branch out and build schools, begin new teaching strategies, clean villages, and make life better for families and children throughout a small township in South Africa. SO yes, this program was life changing, for me and for those people I was able to help. And anyone can do it.

How can this program be improved?
The only improvements I could foresee would be to help more with the fundraising for students interested who have a hard time affording the expenses.
Yes, I recommend
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Angelica
10/10

Dreams Do Come True

I’ve heard about several countries that got under my skin but the one I’ll always call home, where the heart is, is South Africa. Since I was a little girl, when people would ask me “Where would you like to travel to and visit?” I would always respond, “Africa of course!” I would get good and bad reactions in regards of my response; they would obviously expect either France, Spain, or maybe Hawaii. Traveling to Africa has truly been a dream of mine and with the amazing help and guidance of ISV, my dream came true! I know that as a women I’m being subjective but then again, I’ve seen the aspects that visitors to the country don’t usually see and I still love the place, bugs and all. There is much to love about the land at the southern tip of Africa but for me its biggest strength is its environment. With ISV, we were able to support the conservation research activities with WTSA and WEI by helping restore a reserve to its formal nature state. As a volunteer, we had the chance to get hands on experiences with endangered species and help contribute on the conservation research on the reserve. ISV also gives you the option of an “Adventure Tour” where you get the chance to be a tourists! During the 2 weeks of the adventure, I had the chance to do visit other countries like Swaziland and Mozambique and had the chance to do so many activities. For example, we did elephant encounters, caving, cliff jumping, game drives, scuba diving and more! This foreign experience of travelling to experience different cultures, lifestyles and to help make an impact in this planet wouldn’t be possible without the help of ISV. I am so thankful and blessed that I had this opportunity to help make an impact to our world. This is just the beginning of my journey with ISV and I hope to return soon to make a bigger difference! Meanwhile, I’ll keep carrying my beloved country, South Africa, in my heart and in my veins, no matter where I go.

Yes, I recommend
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Acacia
10/10

Change your life with one trip

During the second half of the 4 week trip, we had the opportunity to cliff jump, or kloofing, in South Africa. The last jump was from 30+ feet and I didn't want to do it. If it wasn't for the support of the group with me, most of which I had just met a couple days earlier, I would have never jumped off that cliff. Not only can I say that I did, I ended up making amazing friendships with what is now my ISV family.

Yes, I recommend
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Mackenzie
10/10

Life Changing

I know when people go abroad and travel they call it a trip of a life time, I don't want to be like everyone else but thats exactly what this trip was. I can't say I have a favorite part of this trip but the one moment I knew this trip was worth it was when we were finished refurbishing the school and the children walked in and saw the inside and their faces lit up, that exact moment changed my life forever. After that my adventure changed, we travelled all around Southern Africa and got to see more things in that 2 weeks then most people get to see in their life time, it was incredible.

How can this program be improved?
I can't think of anything that could use improving.
Yes, I recommend
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Brianna
10/10

A Trip That Changed My Life.

ISV is an amazing organization that makes planning for a long overseas trip a lot more manageable. As a student in college I could not have planned such an elaborate trip by myself while studying. ISV provided me with everything I needed, and made sure to give me ample time to complete this work when due dates were approaching. The trip itself was an experience I will never forget, and it sure changed my life forever. We partnered with Izizwe a local organization in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. They housed us, took care of our transport, and fed us as well. The love I felt from them was amazing, it was like they were family. They welcomed us with loving open arms, and had us leaving with tears in our eyes because of the impact they had on our lives. The kids were the best though, and I will say whole heatedly they are the happiest kids you will ever meet. The first two weeks went by very fast, looking back we did a lot of work for that community. But, I can honestly say I think they changed my life more than I changed theirs, I miss each and everyone of them everyday but I left a piece of my heart there that I will never get back, nor do I want it back. ISV then gives you an option to do a second two weeks of adventuring around this amazing country (plus Swaziland and Mozambique too!!) I conquered some fears and had the time of my life!! The staff with ISV is WONDERFUL!! Courtney and Graeme were by far the most amazing people I have every met! They make your time overseas a blast, and with them I never worried about safety! They were born and raised there and know the area very well. I cannot begin to explain to you how amazing this program is, I would 10/10 recommend traveling with ISV if you are looking to make a difference and have a ton of fun while you do it! Also add on the 2 week adventure tour and the OAP it's all worth the money and you have experiences you will never forget (Kloofing, Caving, Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, Swimming with Dolphins, Kruger National Park Game Drive, and so much more!) Check out their website for a great detailed list of everything you can do!

How can this program be improved?
NA
Yes, I recommend
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Sarah
10/10

African Adventure

I have dreamed of a trip to Africa for as long as I can remember and as my college graduation present, it finally came true! I was traveling for 28 days: 2 weeks volunteering and 2 weeks adventure programming. I had the BEST experience where I met the most amazing friends, got to interact with elephants, go scuba diving, bungee jumping, caving, cliff jumping YOU NAME IT! It was unlike any other trip. Besides just the adventures, I got extremely close to the community we worked in getting to know the young kids, teens and adults. I got to see my direct impact of helping teach in the schools, run programs for the kids, plant new gardens, paint old buildings and help teach adult literacy. It was the trip of a lifetime that I would recommend to anyone looking to make a difference in the world.

Yes, I recommend
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Arianna
10/10

A Chance of a Lifetime

Traveling for the first time out of the United States honestly scared me, and not knowing a single person who I was traveling with also scared me. After the first hour of landing in South Africa starters quickly became friends. Throughout my five weeks in Africa I worked with and met the most amazing people, form the staff of International Student Volunteers to the other volunteers to the other travelers and locals. I did more in those five weeks than I could have ever imagined doing in my life. I have an unreal fear of heights but I went bungee jumping from the highest bridge in the world. I do not like the ocean very much because of the unknown but I learned how to scuba dive and surf. Also, I went caving, cliff jumping, white water rafting, and more! I saw over a hundred giraffe and elephants, many lions and buffalo, and even rhinos. I was able to sleep inside a national park listening to lions roaring and leopards purring. I saw a night sky that was filled with countless stars. It was the most breath taking sight I have ever seen. I did this all with the support and encouragement of my leaders and fellow volunteers. No matter what adventure we faced and took on that day, we had such an amazing support system for each other. I couldn't have done any of that without being apart of ISV. This program allowed me to make memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. We are already making plans for a reunion and to return to Africa! You can choose different countries and lengths of your program, but I recommend five weeks. "You can never spend to much money traveling."

How can this program be improved?
ISV is a very solid program and is very well put together and organized, but all of the cost could have been laid out better before hand.
Yes, I recommend
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Brandon
10/10

A Once in a Life Time Trip

Ever since I was young I always had a lot of curiosity in the continent of Africa. I fell in love with the land after what I read and saw in movies, and I hoped one day I would be able to take a trip there to experience it in real life. When that opportunity came my through ISV I had to jump on it. I signed up to go on a 28 day volunteer/adventure trip to South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique. It was 2 weeks of volunteer animal conservation on De Wildt Cheetah Centre and then 2 weeks of fun traveling through the 3 countries. It was a tough decision choosing what country you wanted to travel too and what type of project you wanted to be on, but once I landed in South Africa, I knew I made the right decision. Now let me share with you my story....

For my first 2 weeks of the trip I stayed in a house right outside of the Cheetah Centre with 9 other student volunteers. It was an amazing house we lived in, it was surrounded by beautiful flowers and vegetation with a great big hill behind the house where baboons would run by on. The people that were in charge of the house welcome us in with open arms and we had lots and lots of food cooked for us. Through the first 2 weeks, all 10 of us volunteers became a pretty tight group that formed nto some amazing friendships and memories that I will never forget. From staying up late in the night just having great conversations, playing board games that way too intense, or doing some great volunteer work, my time with these other 9 people changed my life.

The volunteer work that was done during my time here was time well spent. This Cheetah Centre was huge and it needed people like us to get the work done that they didn't have time to get to. Doing fire breaks, feeding cheetahs, and cleaning animals enclosures were just part of the volunteer work done over the 2 weeks. Probably the best part of the volunteering was meeting the Cheetah Centre staff. They really took us all in and got to know us on a personal level, and best of all was they were all genuinely great people that wanted the best for you in life. That helped me have a better outlook on my life.

The last 2 weeks of my trip was the adventure tour. Through these 2 weeks we made multiple stops through northern south Africa and one stop in Swaziland and Mozambique. This was the super fun part of the trip where we met up with the other ISV volunteer groups at that time and formed a giant group of 36 student volunteers and travled on a big coach bus. Each place we stayed at had great living accomodations. We got to choose who we wanted to stay with and each cottage/house usually held between 4-7 people.

The destinations we traveled to were beautiful, but my three favoirite places and activities on this adevtnure tour were the cliff diving in Blyde River Canyon, caving in Swaziland, and swimming with WILD dolphins in Ponto de Ouro, Mozambique. The cliff diving showed me views of a lifetime that were so beautiful and maginificent. The cool part about it all was that that there were 4 separate cliff jumps to do and we had to hike to get to each one of them which it a fun challenge. Hiking and jumping off cliffs in the middle of the wildnerness with other wildlife around is a surreal feeling. Caving in Swaziland was an adrenanline pumping event that was scary yet conquerable. The goal of the caving was to see an underwater river that flows that through the cave and it was super kool to see. two fun facts about the cave is that it is 1 of only 2 granite caves found in the world, and also they have discovered a spider like type animal that is a new species but is yet to be named. My final favorite activity was swimming with the wild dolphins. Groups of 10 would go out into the Indian Ocean, about 400 yards, jump into the water with our guide and snorkel up close with wild dolphin. It was something I will never forget.

That right there is my trip in just a a few words because there will never be enough words to describe the impact this trip had on me. Sure all of that was fun stuff, but the thing I will cherish most from this trip is the amazing friends I made and that great life conversations I had with them.

I'm not writing this to convince you to go on an ISV trip, I'm just here to share my story. You know if this kind of trip is right for you or not. But if you do decide to go, be open to everything that comes your way and just invest in the opportunity you embarked on.

Yes, I recommend
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Rachel
10/10

ISV community development in South Africa

This program was amazing and inspired me to spend more time volunteering abroad. Traveling to South Africa with ISV was my first time leaving the country, and the amazing staff and program made me feel totally comfortable. I 100% recommend this program to anyone who is interested in benefiting a community in a huge way. It was amazing to have your own project and experience change that you have created first hand, start to finish.

Yes, I recommend
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Katie
10/10

An Adventure of a Lifetime!

I went to South Africa with ISV to volunteer on the Zingela Game Reserve not knowing anyone. Now I have 30 new friends from all over the country! Everyone on the same trip is basically on the same boat (not knowing anybody and ready to make an impact), so it was very easy to make friends. Volunteering was so much fun. I felt like I was on a safari every day. I also felt like I was laughing for 2 weeks straight. The project leader (Leti), and our host always made us feel like we were right at home. So much so that I didn't get home sick even once. They also teach you very valuable lessons on the environment you're in and on sustainability and the environmental impact we have every day. The volunteer part of it was collecting data from the camera traps and then identifying all of the animals on them, game drives, bird counts, and VCA's (which is basically collecting data on the environment). The Zingela Game Reserve was out in the middle of nowhere with no wifi and very limited cell service. I had never experienced the sound of only nature and no cars or planes or machines anywhere and a night sky full of shooting stars and the milky-way. I loved Zingela so much that I cried when we left to start the adventure tour.
The adventure tour is definitely worth the extra money if you can afford it. It was 2 weeks full of adrenaline rushes and humbling experiences like visiting the orphanage and getting to donate food, clothes, and toys in person. We did activities like cliff jumping, caving, surfing, elephant encounters, petting a cheetah, snorkeling, scuba diving, cultural villages, and a ton more. I will never forget this trip, all of the experiences I had, all of the people I met, and this beautiful country!

How can this program be improved?
Like everyone else will tell you, it is very expensive. They give you the initial cost of the program, but they don't tell you how much your flight, shots, and medications will cost. On the plus side, South Africa is very cheap once you get there.
Yes, I recommend
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Makayla
10/10

Life Changing Experience!

Before leaving for South Africa I didn't know what to expect. I would have never guessed I would leave with a new outlook on life. ISV South Africa was the perfect place for me because I love to travel to see exotic places, but I also enjoy volunteering for those in need. South Africa was just the place! The first two weeks were some of the most rewarding weeks of my life. The children I got to meet were children with so much joy and sparkle in their eyes. They were genuinely happy to see us each and everyday as we helped them refurnish their school. Some of these children had no reason to smile, but everyday, without fail we would see 100 children smiling and ready to have fun with us at break time. It is one of those moments that I think about quite often when something isn't going right in my life. Those amazing humans had that effect on me! I also learned so much about their culture through the outstanding leaders we had. It is so exciting to learn more about a culture that you have never been introduced to before. It was also important to me to learn more about protecting our planet. Volunteering starts with you. I am trying to make a difference in my life everyday to make this world a little better. That is something I didn't do before traveling to South Africa. What a humbling experience my first two weeks in South Africa were.

Let's just say I wasn't ready to leave my new little family after two weeks, but I didn't realized the amazing opportunity the next two weeks would have in store for me. The adventure tour was a once in a life time opportunity! I have never felt so at home with the group of people I was with and it was a time to do crazy things with new friends. Everyday I woke up to a new adventure. This was a chance to really get to see new cultures, new people, and new places everyday. I will never forget the quote from Back to Basic Adventures in Mozambique, " There is no adventure within your comfort zone". I lived by those words throughout the trip and I am still living them today. The adventure tour wouldn't have been as amazing as it was without our incredible tour leader. He was a great leader that gave us so many learning opportunities throughout the trip. He was also one of the most laid back people I have ever met. Without him, our group of 20 would have been so lost in Africa.

If you are looking so some of the best weeks of your life filled with adventure and humbling experiences then this is the right trip for you!
Ubuntu.

How can this program be improved?
I would say the cost would be the hardest thing for college students. It is so worth your money, but I know it can be very difficult for a college student to come up with that much money.
Yes, I recommend

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Meet the Alumni

About ISV (International Student Volunteers)

ISV’s mission is to support sustainable development programs around the world through life changing student volunteer programs designed to positively impact our world and to educate, inspire and result in more active global citizens.

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