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 136 - 150 of 151
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AfricanGirl
10/10

Definitely would do it again

ISV is a perfect combination of volunteer work and fun. I was nervous to go to Africa for my first time but it ended up being so safe with ISV that I am returning again this summer. You get to meet locals with ISV, which is not something you would get out of traveling alone, and they truly know all the best things to do for fun.

Every single day was full of action and there was never a dull moment. We were either doing something cool and unbelievably crazy (microlight flights, caving, kloofing, safari, surfing, sailing, bungee jumping), or hanging out with our new best friends (who I have plans to see this summer also, because the friends you make on this trip really do become a permanent part of your life).

Best yet is knowing that the kids who's school I fixed up will be able to continue their education without the government shutting their classrooms down because we made them safe and sanitary. I know I made an impact, and that's priceless to me.

In terms of cost/value for money, don't kid yourself if you want to go to Africa for 5 weeks, of course it will have a price tag attached. I've looked into cheaper, purely volunteer-work organizations but would still choose ISV over them because with ISV I got to see 5 countries in Africa and have so many amazing experiences from doing the activities they include, and this isn't something you get from most other organizations.

Bottom Line: I don't know a single person who went on my trip who regrets that decision.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Stella
9/10

See Africa from a new perspective

ISV is a great way to combine tourism and volunteering in a compacted, busy and meaningful way. I saw parts of South Africa and Swaziland I would never have though of seeing with ISV and really enjoyed my experience. ISV encourages active participation in sustainable tourism and contributing to a community. I would encourage everyone and anyone to take the opportunity to experience this gorgeous country with the local ISV leaders and have a meaningful and fulfilling holiday!

Yes, I recommend
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travelling
10/10

ISV South Africa

The only difficulties I had were with the taste of the water and apparent lack of meat hygiene! I never got sick and this has more to do with the area than the tour company. I could honestly say it was up there with, if not the best, month of my life. The host organisation is amazing and such a good resource for learning about the sad history of South Africa.
Some would say it's too expensive and I was inclined to think the same before I went, but it is worth it to have everything done, a perfect balance of fun and more meaningful work.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
sweetie
10/10

I miss...

Food: deliscious, lots of different kinds of meat

Safety: couldn't have been safer if I was wrapped in a bubble, the people around you [both from the program and not] educate you on what you should know about the country and stay with you all the time

People: they are some of my greatest friendships now : )

Travel: no thoughts, as in I never had to think about it; all travel arrangements from our everyday volunteering to our weekend activities were made for us.

Volunteering: I miss the kids, they were the sweetest, most adorable children who just wanted to have fun and be held. I got a work out for sure, chasing them and picking them up [sometimes 2 at a time]. I still stay in contact over there. I want to go back and see them because emails are not the same. Their backgrounds and current lives are not usually pleasant and brought tears to many of our eyes, but every day that we saw them, they had the biggest smiles on their faces.

Adventure Tour: So many beautiful sites from so many angles. We did more than anyone I know will probably ever do. It was great to not have to worry about if something or someplace was safe because it was checked into already and our leader knew the people personally. We were on the ride of our lives and the track was already set, inspected, and tested. My highlight was definitely swimming WITH a whale shark.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
sammyp
10/10

You haven't really traveled until you have traveled with ISV

My experience with ISV is something that I will never forget. I worked for 2 weeks with cheetahs, wild dogs, vultures and other various animals that I could only imagine being near in my dreams. Between feeding and working with the cheetahs, I had once in a lifetime experiences on a daily basis! I learned so much about the different animals and culture in the area that it gave me a whole new appreciation for the wildlife and how people are affecting the environment, good and bad. I also helped clear the roads in the centre to make it easier to get around the grounds. I don't think I have ever laughed so hard while doing physical labor in my life! It was such a blast and each moment has a special place in my heart.
After work was always a blast as well no matter how tired I was. Whether we went to play with some lions or go on ziplines, it was never dull! I had an amazing group of people as well that all share a passion for helping the world and was able to relate and connect! I am now fortunate enough to call them some of my best friends and my family. Before I left I was nervous that I would be spending every moment with strangers but after we all spent time in the airport going to South Africa, I couldn't imagine my life without them and still talk to them constantly.
For the third and fourth weeks of my trip, we travelled around South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique. It was fast paced and absolutely fabulous to see so much! Honestly, who can say that they went on a horseback riding safari and caving in Swaziland, snorkeled with whale sharks while watching humpback whales breach and pods of dolphins swimming around our boats, surf in the Indian Ocean, ride horses on along the beach, ride quads to remote areas and interact with a beautiful culture all in Mozambique and then go through Kruger National Park and watch a lion take down a warthog along with many other fabulous animals! And there was so much more! We went kloofing and bonded around fires while the wild animals surrounded us. All packed into two weeks it was insane but the best time in the world!
ISV took care of everything and it was so planned out, I felt I was in the best hands possible. They honestly were there around the clock providing us with the best food and best accommodations. The thing that really impressed me was that ISV received one bad review on an accommodation and refused to use them again. They always makes sure that everyone is taken care of and happy. While on the trip, I lost someone very close to me at home. I had a lot of pain but my ISV family was there to keep me cheerful and support me in any way. ISV also made sure everything was ok and they put me in contact with home to make sure everything was alright.
I have had such an amazing experience traveling with ISV that I really can't imagine going anywhere without them. Everything was made so easily and they were always there when there were questions or concerns. Their organization is the best that is offered and provides life changing opportunities. I have gained so much new insight to the world and to see the true beauty that it has to offer and it is all thanks to ISV.

Yes, I recommend
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Focusm
9/10

Do more in one month than most dream of doing in a lifetime.

As a kid, I’ve always wanted to go South Africa and to have that opportunity and to be able to make a difference in the lives of young children, was something I was not about to miss out on. I had the opportunity to not only volunteer for two weeks, but add an additional two weeks in adventure travel too.

Upon arriving, I worked in a school where we kept children occupied by playing games with them, doing arts and crafts, and played sports. After they went home, we helped further by planting a garden, building a preschool at a local settlement, and painting. It was very difficult at times, but well worth the effort. I will never forget the looks on the kids' faces when I left.

All of our accomodations were set up and varied depending on where we were. All of our meals were paid for during the first two weeks and half during the 2nd two weeks.

After two weeks of volunteering, I went on an Adventure Tour where I did such things, but definitely not limited to skydiving in Cape Town, abseiling down Table Mountain, visiting an Elephant Sanctuary, snorkeling with Whale sharks in the Indian Ocean, Quad Biking through a field of palm trees in Mozambique, Horseback Riding in Swaziland, and an infamous 2-Day Safari in Kruger National Park. I guarantee you that this will be one of the best decisions you will ever make and be something that will stick with you for the rest of your life. You will indeed do more in one month, or even two weeks, than most people can dream of doing in their lifetime. ISV opened up the world to me and I can't wait to volunteer with them again.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
JJ
10/10

Cheetah Kisses and Broken Heart Pieces

Volunteering with ISV in Africa was a life changing experience. After I graduated from high school, I took a year off to work and save money. I saved relentlessly despite not knowing what I was saving for. Then one day I came across a flyer on a bulletin board at the University of Victoria and immediately knew what all my hard work was going to go towards. I applied right away and was the second person that year to be accepted. After a year of working and a year of waiting to leave, I finally departed for my adventure on August 4th, 2011. Now, two months later, I still think about Africa and the people I met there every single day. I volunteered at the De Wildt cheetah reserve in South Africa with some of the most amazing and diverse people I have ever met. We spent our first two weeks feeding cheetahs and wild dogs, cleaning their dishes, and removing invasive plant species that threatened the native ecosystems there. Before I went to Africa, I didn’t care much for cheetahs and was honestly more excited to see a lion or leopard; however, all of that changed the minute I was licked by a large, purring cheetah. I went cliff jumping, caving, saw lions in the wild, swam in one of the seven natural wonders of the world (Victoria Falls), and still that moment, that cheetah kiss remains the highlight. On the last day of my trip, while in Zambia, I went microlighting, which is sort of like a chair with wings, and while I soared above Victoria Falls, soaking up all the beauty of Africa, my pilot said something that meant more than any of the other famous quotes about Africa that I’ve heard (and trust me, there are many of them). He said, “When you go to Africa, it breaks your heart, so you have to go back to pick up the pieces.” De Wildt and Scarlett the cheetah both have pieces of my heart, as do Victoria Falls in Zambia, Chobe National Park in Botswana, a small island off of Mozambique that we kayaked to, and every single amazing person we met along the way. And one day, I will revisit them all to pick up the pieces. I think this is a trip everyone needs to take at some point in their lives and find out what will steal and break their heart while there.

Yes, I recommend
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Staciebrown91
9/10

My Time in South Africa

I absolutely loved the time I spent in South Africa. I did my service project at the Ann Van Dyke Cheetah Center. One of my favorite parts of my whole service project was waking up every morning, going to the Cheetah Center, and going up to one of the cheetah's cages, Scarlett, and letting her lick my fingers to say hello. After we left, this was by far one of the things I missed the most. The staff were great and were super nice and friendly. I'll never forget the time I spent with the workers learning Africaan and other dialects. I will also never forget the great spell of dead horse meat, and how fun it was to chuck a hunk of it over a fence to feed the cheetahs.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Brionna
10/10

BEST TIME OF MY LIFE

Day to day was the same yet so different. It was june so it was winter over in South Africa. The children had a 3 week holiday. We ran a holiday camp in the morning for them from 8-2. We did things like arts and crafts and playing games. We also had some local athletes come and teach soccer and rugby camps. We really got raw interaction with these kids and developed close relationships with them. The non-profit organizer is names Toni and she was amazing. She told us the stories of the kids and made us cry and laugh and really dug into our emotions and for me personally how I see a lot of things now. In the afternoons we usually did some sort of manual labor like painting or digging out trenches or planting a garden. We also helped build a primary school on a settlement (township) and while there we got to interact with those children too. The highlights of my trips was definitely the kids, so happy and worry free, yet with so much darkness in their lives. The difficulty that I encountered was leaving. I couldn't bear the fact that I was helping these children, these beautiful children and then I had to leave.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
pk31823
10/10

I Was Blind But Now I See

Some people say that in order to find yourself, you must lose yourself. You must take chances, step out of your comfort zone and test yourself. If I had not taken this initiative and gone to South Africa over the summer I would not be the person I am today.

I personally worked with children in South Africa; I went to help them when in return they helped me even more. We are all aware that poverty is an extreme issue. We see movies about it, study it, and do what we can to help through clubs and organizations from where we live. But we aren’t challenged enough to experience it, live it, and see it. I took that challenge.

Going abroad with International Student Volunteers opened my eyes. I am able to live my life with so much more happiness and appreciation then I have ever been able to before. I have become a better person and learned more about the world and myself.

ISV guided me and other volunteers through the entire application process, during the trip and even after. Everything we did and had a chance to do was beyond my expectations. The ISV staff, people who ran the programs we worked with, and the other volunteers have all been more than amazing and most of them are still part of my life today.

My experience is not something I can justify through a couple of sentences. All I can say to you readers is that if this opportunity is possible for you do not waste one more second deliberating it. It was the most fun and self-rewarding experience I have gone through and think I will ever go through.

Do not let this chance get away.

Apply, travel, open your mind, open your heart and you most certainly will be rewarded.

Yes, I recommend
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Ailee.
10/10

Community Development in South Africa

My volunteering experience in South Africa has been the most rewarding and enjoyable experience I have ever had. For the first two weeks, I lived in the Eastern Cape of South Africa in a town called Chintsa and we were helping with the construction of a classroom in a nearby township.
I was in a group of ten and we lived in a house provided by the host organisation Volunteer Africa 32degrees South. Almost every day we went to the school, interacted with the children and helped build an additional classroom. I really felt like I was making a difference to the township and especially the education.
Both the VA32 and ISV were available to support you at ANY point from the lead up to the trip, whilst you were there and even after the trip.
The second two weeks were spent travelling across South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique completely immersing ourselves in the local culture and participating in so many activities. ISV certainly aims to push you out of your comfort zone, but it is so rewarding and fun and you get to meet some absolutely amazing people along the way.
Before I went on the trip, I did think the costs were a little high, but having been there and seeing where the money was going, I think I actually got a great deal! From swimming with a whale shark to kloofing down a canyon, from caving to riding an elephant and seeing the big 5 or even just interacting with the kids in the township, I certainly gained a lot from my trip and I plan on going back again. I would also recommend this trip to EVERYONE.

Yes, I recommend
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epear
10/10

Going to Africa is like Coming Home

International Student Volunteers had us working on a private game reserve in South Africa called Lapalala. It was the most incredible place I could imagine. Our group of 23 people split into three working groups and everyday two of the groups would go out and do field work and the third group would stay on cite. Days that we did field work, we would wake up around 5:30 in the morning and after breakfast we drove into Lapalala's vast 36,000 acres and do three bird counts in different areas (each one for 10 minutes where you listen and look for birds and identify them). Then, we would do a habitat assesment (measure the biomass; ie height and amound of grass, trees, bushes, etc; of a given area). This lasted approximately 2 hours. After eating lunch in the field, we would go out on a game transit. On game transits you drive around the game reserve and look for animals and count them. Typically we would see rhinos, impala, wildebeast, worthog, giraff, zebra, nyala, hippos, and crocodile. On the off days, we would have lectures in the morning and then relax in the African sun. The accomodations were very nice, eight people to a rondauville, four to a room and there is also a common room. There is also a fire pit, pool, kitchen, dining area, bar, and group common room. In our free time we hung out, read, jumped in the pool, went on game drives, hiked, and looked at the stars (you could see hundreds). The entire experience was so incredible and everyone on the trip got really close. This trip really gave us a very different view of the world and made us appreciate everything we were given more. Another unique option about ISV is that after your two week volunteer trip, you can go on another two week adventure tour trip and do things that you would probably never do on a family trip like caving in granit caves, kloofing (cliff jumping), go to Kruger National Park, go to the Tofo beaches, and a lot more. I would recommonend this program to anyone, it was one of the best experiences of my life and is something that I will talk about for the rest of my life.

Yes, I recommend
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GuinneaHen
10/10

A life changing adventure

Volunteering through ISV has changed my life completely. After arriving in Johannesburg, doing conservation work in the Lapalala wilderness reserve, and trekking through Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia, and briefly to Zimbabwe, I realized that the world we live in such a beautiful, unique, friendly, and amazing place.

During our time volunteering we went on game drives and counted populations of zebra, impala, kudu, wildebeast, giraffe, hippo, and more. We watched the sunrise while doing 6 am bird counts. We hiked through african bush and were scratched from head to toe by the impenetrable thorn bushes. We were taught about the plight of wild rhino populations suffering from poachers, and we discovered that the stars in an unpolluted African night sky are unbelievably brilliant. The meals we shared were basic but hearty. The bungalows we stayed in became home. And the people we worked with became good friends.

On the adventure tour we swam with whale sharks, jumped off of cliffs, and sang songs around camp fires. In a beautiful open air craft market traded a tee shirt for a handmade bag. In Kruger National Park I was 5 feet away from a pride of Lions. In Mozambique we learned to surf on one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. We ate delicious seafood, warthog, crocodile, ostrich, eland, and impala. In Botswana elephants trumpeted around our camp. In the cities we were stunned by the sadness of the children living in poverty. We haggled with fishermen, rode in a tuk tuk, and saw traditional african dances. The local people were incredibly friendly and welcoming. Nights at local backpackers made me feel more like family than a tourist. Listening to someone speak Afrikaans is a magical thing. I spent a month with new friends who shared every sleep, every meal, every hike, every early morning, and every late night with me. They are now friends for life.

ISV made international travel safe and fun. The tour leaders were very responsible, knowledgable, and exciting. I chose to go to South Africa because I had always been drawn there, and I knew the trip would change me, but I wasn't prepared for just how profound that impact would be. ISV has inspired me to plan future trips abroad, and to volunteer more. I feel like I have made a difference in this world. It was worth it in every way. A trip with ISV will change you. You will learn about a new place, meet new people, eat new food, try new things, and ultimately see this world with a new perspective. If you have the money do it. If you don't have the money; fundraise, hit up your parents, search through the couch cushions, sell your stuff and go!

I have recommended volunteering with ISV to everyone who will listen. The only thing I would have done differently would be to have cancelled my flight home. I discovered a wide open world and have the International Student Volunteers to thank. I will cherish the time I got to spend in South Africa and the lifelong friends I made while I was there. It was an epic adventure!

Yes, I recommend
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ndowns
10/10

A great mix of meaningful volunteerism and adventure travel!

ISV was the perfect choice for me. I knew I wanted to spend time in Africa and looked into other volunteer programs there. However I wanted to see more of Africa than just one village or country. With ISV I was able to volunteer with an organization that matched my background perfectly, as a biology student and hopeful teacher I was placed teaching health and sex ed to township teens. But what made this experience really unforgettable was the guided adventure travel after my volunteer project. Through ISV I was able to see 3 separate countries including South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique, an opportunity I'm sure I will never have again. Along the way I did things with a group of new friends that I never thought I could, like cage dive with great white sharks, go on safari, caving and cliff jumping. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. It is without a doubt the best way to travel.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
howzit
10/10

Good times on the Cape!

It was such an incredible experience! We were facilitating health/life skills education seminars for at-risk youth at a school in Hout Bay (just outside of Cape Town). During the day, we were at the school teaching and playing games with the kids! We had evenings and weekends free so we got to experience the many crazy experiences of Hout Bay and Cape Town! We went cage diving with great white sharks, rappelled down Table Mountain, and toured Robben Island! This is just a sample of the fun we had! The only difficulties I had were transportation costs which added up. ISV has a number of volunteer programs in South Africa, all of which are can't-miss opportunities! I would do it again in a heartbeat!

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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