Travel to South Africa and immerse yourself in a country known for its rich history, culture and natural beauty! Explore two provinces and volunteer on sustainable childcare and conservation projects, ensuring that you truly leave an impact on this beautiful country.
In Cape Town, you will be living in the coastal town of Gordon’s Bay, situated just outside of Stellenbosch, where you will be volunteering at a local educare centre. The children here are in desperate need of educational enhancement and development. With your help we can help create a safe, fun and creative environment for these children, giving them the opportunity to develop to their full potential.
You will be involved in planning and implementing a project which uses educational games, song and dance, arts and crafts, gross and fine motor coordination and storytelling to allow these children to have fun while learning and developing at the same time.
In Limpopo, you will be staying at the Karongwe Game Reserve, where you will be volunteering with an international team in order to collect vital behavioural data on reintroduced predators and large herbivores on the 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.
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 Cape Town and Limpopo is not included, but please speak to your Country Expert who will be able to advise you on your options and costs involved.
Experience two different but equally amazing locations in South Africa; contribute to the care and education of disadvantaged and orphaned children; meet volunteers from all over the world; climb to the top of Table Mountain; visit the penguin colony in Simon’s Town; experience a unique African bush adventure; mater radio telemetry techniques and learning to track animals in the bush; gain new skills; learning from FGASA qualified South African Guides; experiencing breath-taking views from the Blyde River Canyon in the Drakensberg Mountains and be safe in the knowledge that you are making a sustainable contribution to the conservation of local wildlife and ecosystems for future generations.
"Their sense of fearlessness, persistence, confidence and ability to recover came from an amazing sense of community they created themselves at such an early age. This was something I hadn’t seen in any of my previous travels or experienced in primary school in Boston. Those kids are able to overcome obstacles by learning from each other. I can honestly say that they have inspired me to be fearless and persistent in everything I attempt."
What's Not Included
From Monday to Friday you will travel by minibus from your accommodation to the townships to work with the children. Training will be provided on arrival and includes teacher training, lesson planning, a local language lesson and class management.
A typical day will see you working with the kids from 9am to 4am with an hour break for lunch. Activities may include basic English lessons, educational games, art projects, sport lessons or simply just spending time with the kids out on the playground. After returning to your accommodation, you will have time to relax with your fellow volunteers while also planning and preparing resources for the next day’s lessons.
Accommodation will be in houses or apartments with shared rooms and bathrooms, access to hot water, electricity and the internet. Weekends will be yours to explore the local area with the many different side trips and activities available.
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
In order to attend formal school in South Africa students must be at a certain academic level and you will be helping the children we work with to reach this standard. For the children, a good understanding of English opens up many more opportunities in the future.
Sessions are intended to help the children develop their fine and gross motor skills as well as their English language ability. You will help organize and run outdoor exercises and games, arts and crafts, storytelling, music and drama lessons and assistance with homework.
Basic resources, art materials and games will be provided. If you would like to get involved in helping some of the children with special needs, you may have the opportunity to learn the required skills needed to play with and assist these children.
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 the 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
GVI have partnered up with educare centres and nurseries in townships across Cape Town to implement and deliver educational programs to underprivileged young children. We have been working with our current partners in the Nomzamo Township for over five years and see the relationship as a long term commitment and one with underlying sustainable principles.
Prior to our involvement, these children received the safety and security that the sanctuary provides, food and clothing, but little to no access to education. GVI work with nursery age children, primary school age children that have not yet been placed in a local school, children with special needs and others with a variety of behavioural and learning difficulties. In all cases, without GVI’s involvement, they would not be receiving the bridging educational and developmental stimulation that they need to enable them to re-join mainstream government education. We have seen a remarkable improvement in the children, but there is still a desperate need for extra hands and skills to help deliver and run these educational activities.
We have a very strong child protection policy, implemented across our sites. Staff who take photos are required to ensure they are up to a standard approved by a social worker. We do not use faces or children’s names on social media or in any public domain. We have strict expectations of volunteers as far as how they interact with the children. We also give no information to the volunteers about the children’s backgrounds.
In Limpopo, 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!
Side Trips Included
While at the 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
Cape Town Cultural and Activity Weekend – This trip includes 2 nights in Cape Town near Long Street so that you can sample the lively weekend city life. On Friday afternoon you will travel through to Cape Town after finishing your volunteer work... The Saturday is a free day and you may wish to take the opportunity to visit some of the following iconic Cape Town attractions: Robben Island, Table Mountain, District 6 Museum, Castle of Good Hope or the Green Market Square craft markets. Sunday includes a full day in Cape Point and a visit to an African Penguin colony. You will have the opportunity to explore the Cape Point nature reserve on a mountain bike where you may see antelope, zebra, ostrich, seals and possibly even whales. During the day you will enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the reserves beautiful beaches.
Wildlife Safari – Visit a private game reserve which is located one and a half hours from Cape Town. Here you will enjoy lunch and an afternoon safari before returning home. Transfers to and from the project accommodation are included. There are many other fantastic trips in the area around Cape Town that can easily be arranged once in-country such as shark cage diving, skydiving, wine tasting tours, Hermanus day trips for whale watching (seasonal) or a typical township experience.
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
South Africa has such a wealth of fantastic opportunities for further travel. In Cape Town, you have easy access to the famous Garden Route, chances to explore the Cederberg Mountain range or take more time to enjoy the vibrancy of Cape Town. From our Karongwe base, other opportunities include the spectacular Drakensberg Mountains, the beautiful Kalahari Desert, the historic Zululand, the world-renowned National Parks of Kruger and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi and many more highlights that will leave you wanting more from this amazing country!
Meet Andy, our brilliant community officer in Cape Town, South Africa. In the States he was involved with Habitat for Humanity and volunteering at the local soup kitchen, but coming to South Africa with GVI was his first time volunteering abroad.
He first heard about GVI through a friend who had nothing but good things to say about it. So he looked into it a bit more and saw how much of the focus is on sustainability which he really appreciated and so shortly after signed up to come out as a volunteer. Since then he has joined the Cape Town team as a valuable and energetic member.
His favourite part of the whole experience of GVI has been working with all the kids and our project partners at the sanctuary where the Cape Town team operates.
"Seeing them grow and progress and being able to contribute to it has been beyond rewarding."
Transport and Logistics Manager
Introducing the amazing Moses, our transport and logistics manager in Cape Town, South Africa. What he loves most about working at GVI is seeing the hard work volunteers do in the township as well as creating a positive environment for the little ones.
Moses is an invaluable member of the Cape Town team, ensuring all the projects run smoothly.
He was recently married (2015) where he travelled for the first time in his life to the UK. He enjoyed the vast differences between the ways the British celebrate Christmas to how it is celebrated in South Africa.
Meet Alex, our awesome education officer in Cape Town, South Africa. She got the travel bug from a very young age but only travelled solo from the beginning of 2014. She circumnavigated the globe, starting in South Africa volunteering with another organisation teaching in KwaZulu-Natal and continued to Indonesia, Australia and across the USA before finding her way back to Cape Town and GVI. As soon as she left South Africa, she knew she wanted to come back and GVI stood out as the organisation she wanted to work for.
She has a degree in philosophy and psychology and believes an open mind is a must-have for any traveller.
"If you try to over plan or over-prepare, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Just go with whatever happens. The best travelling experiences I’ve had are when everything has gone wrong."
Meet Karissa, our vibrant country expert for our Cape Town and Thailand, Phang Nga, hubs. She loves travelling and has had her fair share of travelling too. Her first solo travel was to New Zealand to work as an Au Pair, followed by Fiji for over a year. She then travelled to Thailand, where she met her South African partner and worked as an English Teacher at a public High School.
Karissa is TEFL qualified and has first-hand experience of working abroad. What first attracted her to join GVI? “The amazing volunteer projects and stunning locations across the world.”
She moved to Cape Town in November 2015 from her home country, the USA, and is loving every minute of being able to call South Africa her new home!
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!
Service Learning Manager Cape Town
A sustainable development extraordinaire with a great commitment to create sustainable solutions for local communities. Katie has worked in South Africa for many years before her role with GVI and after completing her Master's degree in International Education she joined our team of professionals.
Her credentials include over eight years of volunteering, teaching, managing, and leading international education programs around the world. This includes working in zero-waste policy communities in New Zealand, and in an orphan bear refugee center in Croatia.
As our Service Learning Manager she is excited to use her experience designing experiential education programmes and managing community programmes.
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.”