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 61 - 75 of 151
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Mackenzie
10/10

Incredible

This trip went above and beyond my expectations. I was a first-time out-of-the-country traveler, but I felt like I had been travelling for years because the trip was a fantastic blend of comradery, exploration, and excitement. Months after the end of our trip the memories we made are still fresh and I think about the trip everyday. For me, the work we did was profoundly personal and everything I learned while I was there has only stoked the fire in me that wants to make a difference in conservation around the world. The work we did was all encompassing, we helped both the environment and the community, as well as had oodles of fun. Such an amazing experience I think everyone should try to have.

How can this program be improved?
It was sometimes hard to get information from ISV before the trip. I definitely spent a lot of time getting in touch with them to find out information. Because I earned college credit for this trip, I needed more specific information from them that they weren't very forthcoming with. It was also on the expensive side, but, it was worth every penny to me and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Joe
10/10

For all travelers

Working as a volunteer through ISV this summer was hands down the best experience of my life. I met some life-long friendships, made experiences I'll never forget, and felt like I made a difference in the world. It sounds clichè but I feel like a new person once I was completed with my ISV tour. I would recommend to any traveler out there who wants to explore the world while making a difference.

How can this program be improved?
Perhaps be more clear on what you're signing up for. A lot of people wanted to work with cheetahs but we weren't told that was only a specific time frame.
Yes, I recommend this program
Eisa
10/10

Best experience of my life. Period.

Travelling with ISV was an incredible experience that I strongly believe, has changed my life.
I volunteered in South Africa with ISV in the summer of 2015 and ever since I came back, I would not stop talking about it. I miss the people that I met during my trip and I always remember the impact that we made while being there and also the extreme adventure touring we had.
I volunteered at a nature reserve in South Africa for wildlife conservation and biodiversity and also got to take part in environmental education by teaching at an elementary school. Working with kids and seeing their reactions towards us was one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had and it was so much fun too!!
After the two weeks, we went adventure touring and also had the chance to visit two other countries (Mozambique and Swaziland)!!
Everyday during the adventure tour was an insane adrenaline rush! We got to swim with wild dolphins, interact with elephants and other wildlife and animal rehabilitation centres and also got to experience scuba diving, jumping off cliffs in canyons and seeing some of the best nature views this world has to offer. I would recommend this program to anyone who is interesting in not only changing their own life but also create an impact on the life of others!

How can this program be improved?
The only issue I have with this program is that it might be too expensive. Yes, there are resources that the program provides to help with fund raising but still, in order to experience the whole deal, it is worth a lot of money. But it is all worth it.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Sara
10/10

Real-Life Magic

My recent trip to Africa ignited my passion for traveling, and I don’t think this flame will ever die. What I discovered through traveling is that the world is a much more beautiful place than I had ever imagined. There are many places I have been to, from Costa Rica to Spain to Mexico. All of these places hold their own unique beauty, but my heart belongs to Africa. Much of what I had heard of Africa was true. Many of the houses are not what would be considered livable by an American standard. In a nearby village from where I was living, a lot of the homes had no running water. These aspects never astonished me; what did was the people. These people welcomed me like I was a long-lost friend. What shocked me about these people even more was the joy they emanated. Although they owned little, yet their happiness was immense. Even the orphans I met in Swaziland radiated this joy. Like a ray of light, these people lit up my world brighter than I had ever seen it.
The students I traveled with touched my heart as well. I am a shy person, but I made so many friends on this trip who I felt like I had known my whole life. They are what completed my trip and made it one I will never forget.
Lastly, the beauty of Africa is breathtaking. The landscape is a mixture of jagged mountains and sparkling waterfalls interspersed with vast grasslands. There's something magical about Africa that I cannot explain. It felt like I was living in a dream. I will never be the same after traveling the roads that our ancestors once walked upon. Africa is the cradle of mankind, and it is a beautiful place.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Raiden
10/10

Amazing Times in South Africa! (volunteer + adventure tour)

This was the first trip I have ever been on, but I can tell that it will definitely one of my most treasured memories. To start: the staff provided by ISV are amazing! They are always positive and read to go!
This program is split into two parts: a volunteer portion and an adventure tour. The volunteering portion though, for me, was just as enjoyable as the adventure tour. The volunteer portion was comprised of habitat assessments and visiting a local school to educate students on the importance of their environment and taking care of it. These kids are amazing, extremely enthusiastic about learning.
Our group was also informed about issues that are problematic in South Africa. For instance, we learned about there being TOO MANY elephants. This is just one of the many things we learned.
The day-to-day activities wouldn't have been complete without the breathtaking scenery; each early morning was a treat, with the sun rising from behind the mountain and its heat beginning to warm the day (it was actually cold in the mornings 1-4 degrees C where we were). Honestly, I could go on further about the volunteer portion, but you have probably gotten board of hearing about mountains and cold weather and such.
The adventure tour was.... honestly I don't have the words to do it justice. This was the best time of my life. Every day has you doing something that may be outside of your comfort zone, but it is all 100% worth it. During the adventure tour we traveled from SA to Swaziland, to Mozambique.
Writing this, looking back on this trip, I recommend every person take a trip like this in their lifetime. The animals, the food, the culture, the scenery, the adrenaline rushes; these are things you will keep with you forever. However, I know this trip wouldn't have meant as much to me without the people who I embarked on this trip with. Over the course of the month they became more than just acquaintances, they become your closest friends.

TLTR? I understand. So, in the words of Shia Labeouf: "JUST DO IT!!"

How can this program be improved?
I would have enjoyed one extra day in Mozambique.
Yes, I recommend this program
Alyssa
10/10

Fell in Love

This was my second time traveling with ISV. I chose them for a second time since I didn't feel comfortable traveling to South Africa without a group, for safety reasons. We also went to Swaziland and Mozambique for the adventure part of our tour. I got to volunteer on a cheetah reserve, which was amazing. We also helped out with other animals on the ranch, in rehabilitation and mating. It was a unique experience since we did many different aspects of the care that happens on a daily basis. The best part was we actually lived on the ranch, which meant on walks we would often see giraffes and impalas. The travel/adventure part was also amazing, we got to: cliff jump, repel down a cliff, go white water rafting, scuba-diving, visit an orphanage and of course go on safaris :) I fell in love with South Africa.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Taylor
10/10

There's no reason not to travel with ISV to South Africa!

ISV provided a sensory-exploding experience for me in South Africa. From building a school, to playing with children, to picking up trash, to going on a safari and feeding elephants, I was overwhelmed in the best ways possible. ISV challenges you, encourages you, and then changes you. I can't imagine re-creating a better trip; it was truly one for the soul.

How can this program be improved?
We had talks on certain nights after volunteering about South Africa's history, or sustainability, and other topics, but I would encourage the program to do more of those, because I learned so much about the country that I was in and important issues in the world.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Aithne
10/10

Great value for money!

I know traveling is expensive, but with ISV almost everything is included in the cost when you get to your host country! There are so many adventure activities and traveling packed into that short month that you will be glad you spent every penny! I know its cliche, but i genuinely had the time of my life and i cant wait for my next adventure with ISV!

Yes, I recommend this program
Ceily
10/10

Best decision I have ever made

I am so thankful that ISV came to my University to recruit students. I fell in love the moment I went to the informational meeting. When I found out I was going to South Africa summer of 2015, I was more than ecstatic! It was truly the best decision I have made in my life so far! I met so many wonderful people from across the world. My volunteer group was fun and outgoing. It was so easy to connect with everybody and create a lifelong friendship. My volunteer leader and the project leaders were more than amazing. I learned so much from every one of them. They were such wonderful people which made them some of my new role models. They care about everything and put your safety and fun first. Leaving my volunteer project was so hard. I did not think leaving people I met after two weeks would be so hard. They really changed my life. Then I got to go on a two week adventure tour. My tour leader was awesome! He was so fun, outgoing and hilarious. We could really relate to him and bonded with him immediately. He made all of our adventures great! I got to go cliff jumping in Blyde River canyon (which was beautiful), crawl through caves in Swaziland, shop at local markets. Help donate food and toys to an orphanage in Swaziland then playing with the kids. Swam with wild dolphins in Mozambique, and even scuba dive with out a licence through a great beginners program called "back to basics." We traveled a lot over our adventure tour (3 countries) and we got to meet so many wonderful people and see breathe taking sites! Every day I miss Africa. I would go back in a heart beat and I would go with ISV again. They are an amazing program that opened my eyes and helped me learn and grow. I would highly recommend them!

How can this program be improved?
There were a few hidden costs of some extra activities that we were not aware of until we got there. Luckily Africa is not expensive and it wasn't much of a problem, but knowing this before we go would be more helpful to financially plan.
Yes, I recommend this program
Jennifer
10/10

Shingwedzi, Swaziland, and Mozambique

This was the most amazing experience of my life! I had travelled outside of the US before but only to close places, Mexico and Canada. This was my first real international flight, and first time flying anywhere by myself. Africa is my second home because of this trip. I met so many amazing people, eager for my return, so many awesome animals that I miss dearly, and have memories to last a lifetime. I hope to go back someday soon! Hopefully I will have the money to go back soon, I can't wait to explore more of Africa, and even more of the world! Travelling is one of my favourite activities.

How can this program be improved?
Nothing at all would need to be changed, the program was amazing!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Anneliese
9/10

Snorkeling with Sprained Ankle

Part of my adventure tour was the awesome opportunity to go into the Indian Ocean in order to find dolphins to snorkel with. Sadly, I sprained my ankle a few days prior to this, but I decided not to let that stop me. I was carried to the boat, and it was a bumpy ride. It was a mix of one of the most painful/awesome experiences of my life. It was hard to swim, but the dolphins were amazing.

How can this program be improved?
A safer bus driver.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Jennifer
10/10

Fantastic Experience

This program absolutely changed my life. I loved every minute of it, and despite the fact that I went on this program several years ago, I have stayed in touch with many of the girls I met during the program from around the world. From meeting and working alongside local men and women, to petting elephants and lions, seeing some absolutely gorgeous scenery and traveling all across Southern Africa, this is not an experience that I would trade for anything. I have traveled many places in the years after I was in this program, but Southern Africa will always hold a special place in my heart and I will be back one day. If anyone has the opportunity to go on this tour, I strongly suggest you grab the opportunity and run with it! You will not regret it.

Yes, I recommend this program
Cassidy
10/10

Simunye. We are One.

When you travel abroad, you expect to see the popular sites, take pictures, and make memories. However, the most important thing for a traveler like myself is to make a difference every place you go. Change someone's life. Leave a place better than it was when you entered. Make an impact on the world. My ISV program in Chintsa, South Africa allowed me to do just that, and I learned more than I realized I would. I didn't just touch the lives of those around me, but they touched mine. I had young children not only teach me how to do the "clicks" in the Xhosa language, but they taught me to appreciate the little thing. An older man, Tata Goodman, taught me more than just how to plaster walls; he taught me a good work ethic. In South Africa, I learned the power of sustainable energy, and I witnessed the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. My volunteer experience left me with a passion to help those in need, and I learned that I didn't just help them, but they helped me become a better person. And I owe that knowledge and gratitude to the opportunity ISV gave me.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Ceily
10/10

Best decision I've ever made

This was the best experience of my life! I learned so much about the South African culture, met so many wonderful people and saw so many amazing sites! I would do it a second time in a heart beat! My favorite moment was while we were in Ponto do Ouro, Mozambique and I had the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins. I got so close to three adult dolphins and one "child" dolphin. I got so close to each dolphin. It was one of my favorite experiences. The Dolphins were so playful and friendly. Our guides told us it was one of the best encounters they've had. The whole time I was in Mozambique, I never had to wear shoes, the whole town has super soft and white sand in place of roads. ISV made my trip so wonderful. I'm so glad I chose them to explore South Africa. I want to go to one of their other destinations now!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Conner
10/10

Once in a lifetime opportunity. Don't miss out on this amazing experience!

Traveling to South Africa and getting to spend a month working with animals and becoming immersed in the culture was unbelievable. I met some amazing people and the memories from this trip will last a lifetime. Bottle-feeding baby antelope, sitting by a watering hole for hours watching the wildlife, going on safaris, making friends, swimming with dolphins, cave exploring, spending the day with elephants, and going kaloofing are just a few of the awesome things we got to do on this trip. Coming home after being in Africa for a month has changed me forever in a positive way and my hope is that I can use these experiences to enlighten and encourage others to experience this for themselves.

How can this program be improved?
The program was fairly expensive but for an opportunity like this, who knows if you'll ever get to go back! So it's definitely worth it.
Yes, I recommend this program

Interviews

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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