Step out of your comfort zone and experience two amazing locations, brimming with iconic wildlife, rich culture and exotic scenery. Experience a side of South Africa and the Seychelles that few have seen, when you join a team of international volunteers committed to the conservation of these beautiful, yet endangered, ecosystems.
On this multi country project you will volunteer in a wide range of conservation projects, giving you a holistic view on how these fragile ecosystems rely on each other. In the Seychelles, you will be assisting the Seychelles National Parks Authority with crucial wildlife and island conservation projects while working with an abundance of flora and fauna. In South Africa, you will be volunteering with an international team in order to collect vital behavioural data on reintroduced predators and large herbivores on a private game reserve. In order to assist with this vital conservation work you will be trained to use research equipment to help locate predators in the reserve and you will receive invaluable training in large animal identification, tracking and behavioural study skills.
If you are looking to learn more about conservation, contribute to a meaningful project and want to spend time in two incredible locations, this is definitely the project for you!
No special skills or qualifications are required to join this program, as all training will be provided by our fully qualified field teams. All we ask is an enthusiasm to learn and become fully involved and immersed in this unique opportunity.
Please note travel between South Africa and the Seychelles is not included, but please speak to your Country Expert who will be able to advise you on your options and costs involved.
Travelling to two visually stunning countries; exploring the nearby regions such as the Drakensberg Mountains; visiting the National Parks; snorkelling in crystal clear water; travelling to the other islands of the Seychelles; contributing to the conservation of the endangered tortoises; mastering radio telemetry techniques; learning to track animals through the bush; living and working alongside FGASA qualified South Africa Guides and making a sustainable long-term contribution to the conservation of the incredible fauna and flora that call these two countries home.
"Taking part in this programme has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life, I had a fantastic experience and have found a career that I am determined to follow in. Every experience that I had was incredible.
One of the best parts about being a volunteer for GVI is that I immediately felt a part of the team amongst both the staff and the other volunteers – we all worked together and helped each other out. The staff are incredibly knowledgeable and keen to share their ideas and experiences which meant I came away with a new mind set."
What's Not Included
While living in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, your time will be spent rotating between a wide range of conservation efforts. Volunteers can expect to work from Monday to Friday with weekends free to explore the surrounding area. Volunteers will spend the majority of the time on foot, working in the forests and on the beaches, experiencing the different field techniques and varied project sites.
At the end of each workday, you will return to base with the rest of your team to relax and get ready for another exciting but rewarding day. Accommodation will be shared dormitory style and duties such as cooking and cleaning will be shared amongst the volunteers on a rotational basis.
On weekends you are encouraged to explore the nearby area and islands. Visit Praslin, home to the Valle de Mai (a world heritage site) thought by early explorers to be the original “ Garden of Eden, go snorkelling in the sparkling blue waters, relax on the beautiful beaches, trek through this tropical paradise alongside your fellow volunteers.
As you adjust to life in the heart of South Africa’s bush, you will undergo extensive training to give you the skills to carry out radio tracking, monitoring of all the collared predators of the reserve, mammal and bird identification, ecology and bush first aid.
A typical day on the reserve will see you tracking the wildlife and conducting research from the game vehicles for up to 12 hours. This is to develop a baseline and a holistic understanding of all aspects of the bush. Most of the research is on predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyena, but you may have the opportunity to monitor other wildlife such as elephants. Depending on the daily schedule, if you are not assisting on game drives you may be working on data entry or helping with camp cooking duties. Another aspect of life on the reserve, is our community work, where volunteers participate in educational days with local communities to help highlight the importance of conservation.
Accommodation will be basic but comfortable, with access to electricity and flushing toilets. Sleeping arrangements will be dormitory style with shared bathrooms, kitchen and outdoor social areas.
During your time off, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the surrounding areas and activities, including visits to local reptile parks and animal sanctuaries, as well as mountain trails.
What's Not Included
Our project aims vary between the two countries, but all are focused on conserving the natural resources and wildlife that call these regions home.
In the Seychelles, you will be focusing on several key conservation efforts within and around the Curieuse Island National Park. Volunteers can look forward to possibly participating in the following: endemic Coco Der Mer surveys, mangrove survey and census research, giant tortoise habitat management and restoration, turtle nesting, Lemon shark tagging, Coco de Mer monitoring as well educational campaigns to highlight the importance of conservation. Through our partner, The Seychelles National Parks Authority, the data collected will be passed to the Seychelles Ministry of Environment and participating NGOs to be used in creating local conservation policies and shared worldwide with other conservation teams and efforts.
In South Africa, we have regular contact with our partners, reserve managers and other members of the broader conservation and research community to determine our areas of focus. Depending on weather conditions, time of year and game movements, volunteers can expect to be a part of the following: detailed monitoring of predators (lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena); herbivore sex/age ratio and its effect on predator movement; elephant impact vegetation surveys; darting/fitting radio collars to predators; monitoring of sensitive areas; invasive vegetation species eradication; and community projects focused around conservation.
How this project makes a difference
In conjunction with our partners, we are one of the leading marine and terrestrial data collection organisations in Seychelles. We help local organisations execute projects that they do not have the manpower to do alone.
GVI spends up to 12 hours a day collecting data on large predators such as lions, leopards and cheetah at our South Africa hub. The information gathered is used to give an accurate picture of the predators’ impact on prey populations, determine social structure, genetics, and spatial movement. This vital information helps maintain a healthy balance of these natural resources and ultimately conserve some of Africa’s most important ecosystems.
What's Not Included
Volunteering with GVI not only allows you to participate on programs assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems, but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your down time or further afield either before or after your program. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on the programme.
Our long term field staff are a great source of advice and are here to help you make the most of your time abroad. Remember to ask about discounts on local activities and side trips through your association with GVI. Our field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in South Africa and the Seychelles!
Optional Side Trips
Volunteers may have the opportunity to visit the islands of Praslin and La Digue. Praslin is home to the Vallee de Mai (a world heritage site) that is the home of the famous Coco de Mer palm tree that produces the huge double nut famous for its provocative shape. La Digue is the picture perfect tropical island, small and intimate with quaint guest houses and arguably the most beautiful beach in the world – Anse Source d’Argent.
Public transport is cheap and frequent and all parts of Mahe can be explored easily by catching a bus. Many volunteers spend happy times bouncing around the island roads on buses taking in the beautiful scenery whilst enjoying the company of locals going about their daily business.
Volunteers at base have one day off per week. For longer duration volunteers, at the end of each 4 week cycle, there may be the opportunity to take 3 or 4 consecutive days off. Independent travel from Karongwe is best done by renting a car, something volunteers usually do in groups to make more economical. Bear in mind there is an additional cost associated with pickups or drop-offs at the reserve gate. Hoedspruit, the nearest town is about 45 minutes’ drive away. In the area around Karongwe Game Reserve you can visit the Kruger National Park, with entry gates no more than an hour drive away. There’s also the ‘panoramic route’ which takes you on various scenic drives along the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment, the Blyde River Canyon and to the historic towns of Pilgrims Rest, Graskop (where Harry’s Pancakes will serve you the best pancake on the planet!) and Sabie, where you can also book onto a variety of adventure activities such as zip-lining, quad biking, canyoning and hiking, or just chill out with a picnic lunch at one of the many nearby waterfalls.
Further Travelling Opportunities
With 115 islands in the Seychelles group stretching over 800 miles, the possibilities of exploring this tropical paradise are endless. The inner-islands, situated closer to Mahe are easily accessible by fast ferry. Praslin, La Digue, Silhouette, Felicity and Sister, to name a few, all have their own unique charms with hotels and guest houses within most people’s price range.
The outer islands such as Desroche, Bird, Dennis, Farquar and the Amirantes group are harder to get to and can only be reached by small plane or charter yacht. Most have small exclusive resorts which can be extremely expensive, but the marine environment and bird life at these outposts of civilization have been barely marked by the hand of man, and as such are in a pristine condition rarely found anywhere in the world today.
South Africa has such a wealth of fantastic opportunities for further travel. Possibilities include the spectacular Drakensberg Mountains, the beauty of the Kalahari Desert, historic Zululand, the vibrancy of Cape Town (check out GVI’s Cape Town volunteer programs!), the fantastic Garden Route along the Southern Coast, the world-renowned National Parks of Kruger and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, and many more highlights that will leave you wanting more of this amazing country.
Meet Kutullo, our brilliant research assistant in Limipopo, South Africa. He spent most of his childhood years in the bush looking at birds, trees and some reptiles. It is then that his love for wildlife began and he was fortunate enough to be part of the GVI Community programme when he was about 12 years old.
At that time they had a competition between the learners at his school and the prize was a research drive at Karongwe with GVI. Fortunately his group won the competition and he decided what he wanted to do. He worked hard at school and after high school he was offered a bursary to do Environmental Education Studies at the Southern African Wildlife College.
After his studies it did not take long for him to be reunited with GVI. He was offered a scholarship for three months and he then did his FGASA Level 1. Soon after that he was offered a job.
"That was the best day of my life to have finally reached my dreams with the company that gave me all the interest."
Assistant Base Manager
Meet Leah, our brilliant assistant base manager in Limpopo, South Africa. She spent the best part of her younger years at zoos or wildlife parks fascinated by the exotic animals behind enclosure walls.
It wasn’t long after leaving high school that she completed a diploma of animal technology in the hopes that she could win herself a position as a zoo keeper, which unfortunately proved much more competitive than she thought. After working as a veterinary nurse for 2 years, she knew this wasn’t where her heart was and applied for the 6 month internship at GVI Karongwe, South Africa.
During her internship she attained her FGASA Level One and her dreams of one day working with wildlife she had always been captivated by started to become a reality. In December 2015 she was offered a position with GVI.
“It took me all of 30 seconds to fall in love with the South African bush. Observing these incredible animals in their natural environment cannot be explained, it must be experienced. Not a day has gone past when I don’t consider myself extremely lucky and privileged to be living out my dream.”
Meet Kate, our research assistant in Limpopo, South Africa. Kate's first contact with GVI was in 2004, as a volunteer on the wildlife research expedition in Limpopo, fulfilling a childhood ambition to see lions in the wild.
After the program she returned home to the UK to study for a degree in Biology and spent time volunteering at a zoo giving talks to the public on reptiles and creepy crawlies, but never forgot about her experience in South Africa or stopped wanting to go back. Finally in 2015 she got the chance to return and gain her FGASA level 1, after which she was offered a job at GVI - back at the very same program she had volunteered on over a decade earlier.
Now a research assistant at the Limpopo hub, Kate is mainly involved with the Internship program giving educational drives and lectures. Her favourite thing about the job is giving the volunteers unforgettable experiences, in particular getting people their first close-up encounters with elephants. She is also a big fan of invertebrates and has secured her place as the crazy bug lady of the house
Eilene Janse van Vuuren
Meet Eilene, our awesome science officer in Limpopo, South Africa. Growing up in South Africa Eliene has a strong affection for the country. Being able to live and work in the bush together with her GVI family has given so much more value to her studies.
Together with this immense passion, she finds it extremely rewarding to educate volunteers and interns from around the globe on specific research focussed areas as well as general wildlife management in South Africa.
Assistant Director of Programs
Meet Shayle, our innovative and driven country director for all our projects in South Africa. She has two honours degrees, one in Industrial and Organisational Psycology, and another in Developmental and Education Psycology. Shayle also has over 10 years experience in setting up, managing and evaluating environmental and community programs across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.
She is well-practiced in facilitating meaningful and effective intercultural engagement and this makes her the perfect person for overseeing our operations in the multicultural country of South Africa.
When not attending meetings or planning her next endeavour, Shayle can be found spending time with her family or taking part in some or other exciting outdoors activity!
Director of Programs
Meet Danny, our Director of Programs. Although he’s based in Playa del Carmen, Danny oversees the development and running of all of our field operations. He started out with GVI as our Country Director in Mexico and quickly became an invaluable part of the team.
Although being Director of Programs is a pretty demanding job, Danny manages to find time to do the other things he loves in-between. He’s an avid photographer and is always training for a triathlon or ironman.
What’s Danny’s favourite aspect of his job? “Starting new projects – we get lots of request for assistance and it’s difficult to decide when funds are limited. The evaluation process and those initial talks with local partners are very interesting. Seeing projects grow from an idea to full programs is very exciting. I also love the relationships you create with local organisations, they become friends and we jointly work to achieve the project aims.”
Meet Veronica. In addition to being a Research Assistant on Karongwe, she’s also the resident ‘Mountain Coordinator’. To find out how one coordinates a mountain, we asked her to describe a typical day…
“Starting early, we head up and up and up the mountain and check our traps for any small mammals. If we caught any, we record the data and then release them. After that, there’s time to visit one of the many viewpoints or relax at the river. After lunch, we go to look for reptiles or check butterfly traps and then it is back up and up and up the mountain to check the mammal traps again.”
Veronica’s favourite aspect of her job? “Seeing the excitement on the volunteers’ faces when they help to locate a focus animal or seeing and sensing their awe at being at the top of the mountain, seeing the countryside below them.”
Meet Rosie, our Base Manager in Karongwe. A former Environmental Scientist for the New Zealand government, with an honours degree in Astronomy and Planetary Geology and a qualified Field Guide, Rosie is a total all-rounder!
Having volunteered herself since she was 18, Rosie understands the value of having volunteers on Karongwe and loves to see them progress in their knowledge, skills and passion. “I love watching how volunteers that have been here for a month step it up a notch when a new lot of volunteers arrive. You feel proud to see how much they have learnt when compared to the new arrivals.”
Her favourite experience on Karongwe so far? “Without a doubt, Ketswiri’s four little cheetah cubs. There is nothing cuter on this planet than cheetah cubs and as they have grown they have got more and more active and curious, and more interesting to observe. If I could, I would sit with them all day long.”
Meet Nico, a Research Assistant on Karongwe. He was a professional guide for over 4 years before joining GVI. Although He dreams of being a storm chaser, Nico seems pretty happy to spend his free time chilling out with the volunteers, playing pool and darts with them and playing Frisbee with Zuri, the base dog.
Our favourite story about Nico is how he saved Ketswiri, a resident female cheetah. “I noticed she couldn’t step on her left front leg, so I called the game warden and we got the vet in that same afternoon.” The vet removed a 10cm stick which was lodged in her leg – a death sentence without Nico noticing her limp. “It did feel amazing to know we had saved her life.”
What does Nico like about being based at Karongwe? Life in general! “Finding the animals, all the random awesome sightings, having a good time with the volunteers and staff and making some really good friends all round.”