Join an international conservation team, deep in the South African bushveld and experience an internship experience like no other! Wake up to the roar of lions, spend your days out in the reserve tracking wildlife, conducting valuable research and learning a variety of new skills to kick start your career in conservation!
This internship will give you the opportunity to contribute directly to the long term conservation of the wildlife and ecosystems that call this part of Africa home. Alongside your team members, you will be trained to collect vital behavioural data on the local predators and large herbivores as well how to use various pieces of equipment and identify and track various animals.
As with all our Internship programmes, there will be a strong focus on developing professional skills and being able to apply them with a holistic approach to conservation. Participants will also be given the opportunity to undertake additional leadership responsibilities, an assigned mentor who will monitor their progress on a weekly basis and a professional reference on successful completion of the programme.
After a successful internship, qualifying candidates may be given the opportunity to work for GVI or selected partner organisations in South Africa, or in other countries around the world where GVI operate. Over 50% of GVI staff are recruited from our alumni database. Qualification for positions is at the sole discretion of Global Vision International.
Experiencing a unique African bush adventure at the heart of a spectacular game reserve; be woken by a dawn chorus and sent to sleep by the roar of lions; mastering radio telemetry techniques and learning to track animals through the bush; getting acquainted with big game and all the main predators, including lion, cheetah, leopard, elephant and rhino; gaining valuable leadership and teamwork skills and experience; living and working alongside FGASA qualified South African Guides getting constant learning and inspiration; having the chance to sleep out in the bush under the spectacular African stars and wake up to a beautiful sunrise.
"What an amazing experience this has been! Each day here at GVI base is a gift, although the base is rustic and has no electricity or hot water. I found that didn’t matter. The game drives are the primary focus of each day, some days are more fruitful than others but in time the rewards are huge with animal sightings. So far I have over 1600 photos to sort through when I get home!"
These updates cover all programs in this location
Life on the Internship
Life on this project will be basic but filled with lots of hard work and rewarding experiences. As you work on the reserve for the next few weeks, camp will be basic but comfortable, with bedrooms, bathrooms and communal areas shared as well as cooking and cleaning duties on a rotational basis.
Upon arrival at the Karongwe reserve, volunteers will be given a short orientation around the camp, an introduction to the field staff, and some formal lectures on African Wildlife Conservation to prepare them for life as much as possible while on the programme.
Before you head out onto the reserve, you will undergo extensive training to ensure that you will be able to effectively contribute to the research on the local wildlife. Some of the training participants can expect to add to their skillset is how to carry out radio tracking and monitoring of all the collared predators, mammal and bird identification, ecology and bush first aid.
Participants should expect some long days, with a typical day involving up to 12 hours collecting data. While out on the reserve, you will be tracking the wildlife and conducting vital research, usually between dawn and dusk when the weather is cooler and the animals are most active. Our main focus is usually on the large predators such as the lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyena but occasionally also involves herbivores such as elephants. When not out on the reserve, your time will either be spent working on data entry, miscellaneous camp duties or conducting educational days within the local communities, highlighting the importance of conservation.
Afternoons and early evenings will be spent with your assigned mentor, where you will undergo extra training and activities in order to further develop your skills. This may involve watching presentations on certain theory topics which you will then need to base an assignment upon as well as weekly written assessments and oral and field discussions with your mentor. At the end of the internship, there will be a final evaluation, which will assess your competencies against the criteria set out as well as a professional recommendation.
What's Not Included
As well as being prepared for changes in what is an evolving project, exact project details are also always subject to change due to weather conditions, time of year and game movements.
Overall, we have regular contact with our partners, the reserve managers and other members of the broader conservation and research community to determine our areas of focus.
A typical expedition may involve the detailed monitoring of predators (lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena); herbivore sex/age ratio and its effect on predator movement; elephant impact vegetation surveys to monitor the impact on sensitive areas of the reserve; community projects that teach the importance of conservation. Other activities and ecological studies can also include darting/fitting radio collars to predators or invasive vegetation species eradication.
From a personal perspective, you will increase your knowledge of the South African environment, its importance and the threats to it, and help to increase both local and global knowledge and awareness, while contributing to our overall goals and objectives.
We also try to assist where required with off-site studies or mini-projects that may focus on different biota if we believe them to be relevant in the conservation context of the region. Such studies allow staff and volunteers to get a broader knowledge of conservation research across more than one ecosystem. Examples could include documenting bird of prey nesting sites; Celebrating environmental calendar days. Any such mini-projects are as required, would make up the minority of your time on this program, and only for durations of 4 weeks or more.
GVI Leadership Course
The focus of this course is to develop the participant’s teamwork and leadership skills by equipping them with skills to lead teams and support logistics. Interns will be completing weekly written assignments as well as oral and field discussions. The course will involve the participants watching presentations to learn theory or working on their assignments during the evenings or afternoons after having completed their field work. A mentor will be assigned to the intern and there will be weekly one-on-one meetings to provide feedback and weekly assessment on their progress. After successful completion of the internship and the final evaluation, a certificate and professional reference will be given to the qualifying participants.
How this project makes a difference
GVI spends up to 12 hours a day collecting data on large predators such as lions, leopards and cheetah. 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 program.
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 Limpopo field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in South Africa!
Included Side Trips
At our Karongwe Base, volunteers will visit the renowned Khamai Reptile Park as part of the training. Later on during the phase, volunteers are also taken to a local curio market where a variety of quality carvings and other gifts are sold.
Optional Side Trips
You 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 minute 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 bungee jumping, quad biking and hiking, or just chill out with a picnic lunch at one of the many nearby waterfalls.
Further Travelling Opportunities
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.
Senior Country Expert
Meet Michael, our laid-back country expert for our South African wildlife and Seychelles marine hubs. He is passionate to make a difference in the world and GVI’s dedication to make a long-term impact in the field sparked his interest.
Mike is a keen diver and has had the opportunity to travel to the Seychelles as well as various other stunning dive locations to explore the underwater world. If not diving he enjoys spending time in game reserves and loves being surrounded by nature.
If sarcasm is your thing, Mike will ensure for endless entertainment! He’s also quite the music enthusiast and has an impressive knowledge of different genres. His favourite travel memory? “Flying over the Okavango Delta and witnessing the vastness and beauty of Botswana.”
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.”