Interns will be based in one of two locations, in the Limpopo Province or the Kwazulu Natal, areas renowned for their abundance of wildlife. Depending on your location, you could get up close and personal with the ‘Big Five’ of South Africa (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo).
The first 12 weeks of the internship are based on our wildlife research expedition. Here you will assist us with predator research on big cats, learn about conservation techniques, as well as other wildlife and their habitats. Gain internationally recognised qualifications, track animals using bush skills and telemetry equipment and watch the sunset over the African bush.
On successfully completing the expedition you will have the necessary skills to undertake your 12 week work placement. During this phase, depending on your skills and our partners requirements, you will be based at a conservation organisation or a safari lodge catering to tourists.
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. Field work positions can be paid or unpaid, range in duration from one month to one year, and availability varies. Qualification for possible GVI positions is at the sole discretion of Global Vision International.
GVI is real volunteering
Our projects are constantly evolving according to the needs on the ground at any given time. All the information displayed here will give you an overall feel for the project, but you should be prepared for any changes in the field when you travel. An evolving project means that we can constantly meet the needs and requirements of our partners, who dictate the work that we do. The way it should be.
Most of your time is spent in game viewing vehicles out in the reserve, especially at dawn and dusk when the weather is cooler and the wildlife is most active. The main research focus varies depending on your location and could involve big cats (lions, leopards, cheetahs), hyena, and elephants.
The work varies according to the schedule but all interns will be involved with locating the wildlife, predator research, data entry, personal projects and camp duties.
Work placements are typically with local conservation organizations, game reserves and lodges in South Africa's Bushveld region. Specific positions range across many fields. Some examples include terrestrial and wildlife conservation, hospitality, reserve management and wildlife research.
Your work placement will offer you the opportunity to put into action the skills you learned on the expedition, practice leadership scenarios and gain one of a kind experience in a professional work environment.
While on the training phase of the expedition camp itself is fairly rustic with shared sleeping arrangements in either an old farm house or tented camp whilst on the expedition. Accommodation at the work placements varies but all offer basic to comfortable accommodation.
GVI gathers data around local animal species populations and the conditions of their surrounding habitat to give an accurate picture of current challenges many of these species are facing. This vital information is used to maintain a healthy balance of natural resources and ultimately to help conserve some of Africa’s most precious wildlife.
Here are some examples of the initiatives that this project works on:
- Detailed monitoring of predators such as lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena
- Monitoring and tracking of significant food sources for main predators
- Habitat observation and restoration
Local community outreach to teach local children about our efforts and the importance of conservation.
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 mountain biodiversity surveying; 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 programme, and only for durations of 4 weeks or more.
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 important ecosystems.
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!
There is so much to say and so much I have seen with a group of people from all around the would with similar interests. It was the most memorable time of my life. Some of the highlights: seeing lions less than 5 metres away; hyenas nosing around the land rover; seeing elephants on foot 10 metres away and then hearing three more just 15 metres behind us – how can something so big be so quiet!
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 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!
Side Trips Included
If 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. Of course, there is also the beautiful Mariepskop Mountain satellite camp that takes volunteers to the top of the Drakensberg Mountains overlooking the spectacular Blyde River Canyon, and there will be a routine stop in Hoedspruit en route to Mariepskop.
For those allocated to our Zimanga Reserve base, volunteers will be taken on a full day visit to nearby Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. This historic game reserve is Southern Africa’s rhino mecca (both species can be seen here) and there is also a plethora of other wildlife such as Wild Dogs, Lion, leopard, elephant etc. Our weekly re-supply runs also take us to the tropical coastal town of Richards Bay for a slice of civilisation and an hour or two on the beach (weather permitting)
Optional Side Trips
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, canyoning and hiking, or just chill out with a picnic lunch at one of the many nearby waterfalls.
The area around our Zimanga Reserve base, if you are allocated there, offers just as many options for travel and adventure- Zimanga is unexpectedly close to the warm waters and white beaches of the Indian Ocean coast. The big attraction in the area is the Isimangaliso Wetland Park and World Heritage Site and this includes the remote beach camp of Cape Vidal, the festive-chilled St Lucia and the diving and fishing mecca of Sodwana Bay. If this is not enough to whet your appetite there are also a number of other game reserves to choose from, anglo-zulu battlefield tours, and of course the border with both Swaziland and Mozambique are a mere two hours’ drive of Zimanga base!
Further Travel 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
Build Your Program
- Pre-departure support and discounted services
- 24-hour emergency phone
- Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
- Arrival orientation
- Long term experienced staff
- Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
- All meals (unless otherwise stated in field manuals)
- Welcome meeting
- Location orientation
- All necessary project training by experienced staff
- All necessary project equipment and materials
- 24-hour in-country support
- Leading biological surveys course
- Teamwork and leadership experience
- Reserve fees and permits
- Research training
- Wildlife identification techniques
- Telemetry training as relevant
- First Aid & CPR training and certification
- Weekly evaulation with your mentor
- Final evaluation
- Certification and summary of training and experience received
- Confidential professional reference
- Work placement
What's Not Included
- Medical and travel insurance
- Visa costs
- Personal kit
- Additional drinks and gratuities
- Extra local excursions
- International and domestic airport taxes
- Airport and reserve transfers