Wildlife Conservation Internship in South Africa

See the wildest side of Africa while gaining pivotal field experience on this private nature reserve in the heart of the South African bush.

Durations:  24 weeks

Program information

Kick-start your conservation career when you join our six-month wildlife conservation internship in South Africa. Learn techniques used by private wildlife reserves and international organisations to conduct wildlife research. Then put your new skills into practice with a three month work placement.

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undefined 31 May 2022
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Included in your program

Make the most of our unique programs with these exclusively curated local adventure and wellness experiences.

Learn to make a potjiekos

Develop your wildlife photography skills

Discover the medicinal uses of indigenous plants

Master basic bush survival skills

Watch a magical sunset at a watering hole

Enjoy a night sky safari

Walk through a prehistoric cycad forest

Sleep in the open bushveld

Connect with our alumni
Want to connect with some of our past participants about their adventures? Get in touch with hundreds of friendly ambassadors all over the world who would be more than happy to answer any questions.
Testimonial bg

Heather Limond

14 Jan, 2020
Hello, my name is Heather from the UK and I am currently a student studying Conservation Biology at the University of Chester. I took part in the Wildlife Conservation Short Term Internship in Limpopo during the summer of 2018 after searching online for a volunteering abroad. I spent 2 months with GVI and the days consist of two game drives which are always full of surprise as you never know what your going to see. As well as game drives you get involved in reserve management which is great fun as you get involved in many different projects. They teach you a lot in the first week, so that everyone has the same knowledge no matter of previous experience and makes sure you get the most out of the experience. The staff are really knowledgeable and great fun, always there to answer any questions. Life on base is basic but a welcome change to normal life and the food is incredible. After coming back from GVI it has help me realise where my strengths lie and given me many options for career development where I was lost before. You truly see once in a lifetime sightings and make friends for life. I had the most incredible time and never wanted to leave which is a feeling I have never had when volunteering abroad before.

Jessica McGovern

11 Oct, 2018
I have always known that two of my greatest passions are making a difference to the world we live in, and animals; animals of any size or shape, even if they’re not cute and fluffy. After leaving behind the sciences when I went to study at university, I thought my opportunity to work with animals or the environment had completely slipped away. However, to my absolute delight I found out about GVI wildlife conservation programme in Limpopo, South Africa. Finding this programme was a dream come true, but I had no idea the impact this trip would have on my life. The four weeks I spent on Karongwe were unarguably the most valuable four weeks of my life. Every day held new awe-inspiring moments, from the breath-taking sunsets every night, the variation of wildlife around you out on drive everyday, or even just the stories shared with other volunteers while sat around the braai, under the clearest night sky imaginable. For me, one of the most amazing aspects of the experience was how lovely and knowledgeable the staff are, and how they would never tire of you asking them questions about anything and everything. I cannot get over how much I learnt about the wildlife and I am so grateful for that. I also gained so much from the reserve work as it is great to physically see what you have done, even if it is absolutely exhausting, knowing that you have made a difference. The trips into the near community were also a huge highlight for me as it really opened up my eyes to a whole other world. I could not recommend volunteering for the wildlife conservation programme in Limpopo more. I have made memories that will last forever, made friends from all over the world and been inspired to pursue a career in conservation.

Sam Whitall

11 Oct, 2018
I genuinely believe there is a Neanderthal part inside all of us that dreams of returning to the African continent, at least I know I certainly do and have done since a small child. Growing up my closeness to South Africa and its wildlife, came in the form of wildlife documentaries and seeing acacia trees with a giraffes slender neck rising above or hearing the powerful roar of a lion. Suddenly after years of this, I found I was seeing and hearing these things for real in Karongwe, and nothing could have prepared me for how that felt. Seeing the burning sun rise and fall in the bush for one month, was the most incredible time of my life and by no means long enough. As well as the incredible experience of simply spending a month in Karongwe, however, I was also trained and supervised to help the project record vital scientific data on the various species in the reserve. We have all seen worldwide media publication regarding the plight of much of Africa’s wildlife, so to be able to spend a month making a genuine difference to their conservation was a one in a lifetime opportunity. To try and put how I feel about my month in Karongwe into 300 words is impossible, it was a life’s dream come true and fulfilled every expectation and hope I could have ever had. All I can truly say is that I will be returning one day soon or in the future, as I remember what the staff said whilst on project “once you go to South Africa, you never want to leave”.

Ryan Hyland

11 Oct, 2018
This was my first ever solo travel experience, so to begin with I was nervous about what the people whom I would be working with were like... However, once I arrived I was greeted by a great team and they all made me feel welcome! My first day in South Africa didn`t go exactly to plan as I was involved in an accident but in saying this, the GVI team were there to support me and help me recover!! The 6 months that I was in South Africa, I became aware of how beautiful the country was and how hard the GVI team worked to help with the conservation efforts of the reserve! There were many staff members who stood out and made everyone feel extra welcome. There was one staff member who to me made the whole experience so much better. That member of Staff was Matthew Hopkins, the reason he made it so much better was because during my time he would go the extra mile to teach me about the wildlife there, mostly the birds!! Back to the experience, the whole thought of waking up at 4/5am worried me, no one likes getting up that early....but here when you wake up at that time, you are filled with excitement knowing you will be going out in search of the lions, elephants and cheetahs!! No day was ever the same nor boring for that matter. I loved this experience so much that it has got me wanting to revisit my GVI family out in Karongwe. There are no words to describe the experience other than magical. For anyone who is a lover of wildlife and mother nature then I would recommend this project for you will not be disappointed.

Kathleen Retourne

11 Oct, 2018
I came across GVI after searching review sites for a wildlife internship. Following positive feedback and a varied programme, I decided to give it a go. I have no regrets - it was an incredible experience where I got to learn about conservation, mammal and bird identification, tracking and monitoring the cheetahs. This was alongside learning how to track other animals by their spoor, while also helping at the local school. It was very varied – but the focus was on cheetah monitoring. Days are long as it is early starts, but I never tired of watching the African bush come to life. You will see some amazing wildlife and you will be shocked at how much knowledge you will walk away with. I made some incredible friends with both the staff and other volunteers, of all ages, from all corners of the globe, who were all equally as passionate about conservation. The staff were extremely knowledgeable about the bush and, if there was something that a volunteer had a particular interest in, they were very happy to help them in any way they could. For me it was the experience of a lifetime and I would 100% recommend it. For anyone who is thinking about joining the project, I would say don’t just think it, do it – you will not regret it.

Jack Broadley

11 Oct, 2018
My time at GVI Karongwe was some of the best of my life so far! After finishing my degree and not really knowing what direction I wanted to go in career wise, GVI provided me with an immersive and practical learning experience that has taught me new skills and developed a passion for the African bushveld. I would recommend any of GVI’s projects because I feel the immersive learning system on the projects is the best experience of education I have been through and it does this all within a friendly supportive environment provided by the staff teams.

Chloe Vollebregt

11 Oct, 2018
I was able to intergrade the internship into my university degree, meaning I was earning university credits to partake in the Short-Term Wildlife Conservation Internship. I absolutely loved my time over at the GVI base located at Karongwe Private Game Reserve in South Africa; not only did I learn a lot that I would not have been able to experience in a classroom, but I also made life-long friends. Some of my most memorable highlights of my internship have to be the drives and the guided bush-walks; the reserve is absolutely stunning and the animals are just incredible. I am working towards returning sometime in the near-future, and would love to become a larger part of the GVI family.

Alison Brooks

11 Oct, 2018
So far, I have been lucky enough to volunteer twice with GVI. The first time was in Phang Nga, Thailand, in April 2015, the second time only this June/July in Karongwe, South Africa. Before I get into my two testimonials, I have to mention that I had booked Phang Nga for a month, but I had to leave after two weeks as I broke my foot one evening. Therefore, I spent two weeks volunteering in each project. My main focus was always conservation, in Thailand more specifically marine conservation and in South Africa wildlife conservation. My time in Phang Nga was my first volunteering experience and I made one crucial mistake with it. I booked with STA travel Switzerland and my advisor suggested the more expensive private room option with airconditioning and a proper bathroom. Even though that was obviously quite agreeable, it made it difficult to bond with everyone as that room was a bit away from base and I had to leave by some point at night. If that option is still available, I definitely would not recommend it. After I had broken my foot a bit less than two weeks into the project, I moved to the base for a couple of days and I got along very well with the basic conditions. There are no flushing toilets or and cold showers, but with the heat that is perfectly fine. As there is no air conditioning, I would not recommend going at the hottest time of the year, but there are fans you can snatch to sleep and that is just fine. Dinner is provided for by a Thai cook from the village and is delicious. Moreover, GVI volunteers and staff are an amazing crowd of open-minded people and great fun to be with. As the base is located in an authentic Thai village, we were taught some basic Thai to interact with the community. Naturally, you have to adjust the way you dress and respect their rules in order to fit in. That done, the Thai people are amazingly welcoming and always happy to see volunteers around the village which gives the project a great vibe. Project work involved biodiversity surveys in the jungle and on an island close to the village. Even though that was great fun, I felt that those surveys were lacking strategy and thus professionality and I was not sure how useful they could ever be for research. Additionally, we went to sea turtle centres once a week to clean the turtles and their pools which I enjoyed the most. Furthermore, we did beach cleans, collected seaweed for the sea turtles and were responsible for data entry collected by divers on sharks and rays. Moreover, we taught about conservation and natural phenomena at the local school, played sports with the children at the school and at an orphanage. Needless to say, I enjoyed every single task on the programme. We also had two and a half days off at the weekend, which made travelling the region as a group of volunteers an amazing experience. Overall, I had a great time despite my broken foot and I would love to go back to Phang Nga one day and see what has become of the project since I later found out that it was fairly new when I volunteered there. South Africa absolutely stole my heart. The GVI base is located within a game reserve making it a unique experience to live with wildlife at your doorstep and in an ecological way which restricted power use. There is solar power so naturally, more light was available if there were clear skies during the day. GVI base has their own water source which even makes it possible to drink the tap water and renders hot water. However, Elephants are smart and sneaky. One night they travelled though our garden and we could watch them tear down trees next to our volleyball pit. They also drank our water resources that night which meant scarce water the next day for us and some time without hot showers. That experience was absolutely amazing as you learn to live with nature in an exceptional way. Otherwise, the base is more luxurious than I would have imagined, there are bathrooms with real toilets and showers and the kitchen offers everything you need. As there is no air conditioning, I would definitely recommend going in the dry season (which is actually fairly cold as it is South African winter). Additionally, there are not mosquitos during that time which makes life a lot easier. The GVI staff is amazing and very well trained and my fellow volunteers and interns were the most amazing international crowd. Project work usually consists of general research drives which go out at least twice a day to find the cheetahs and other species. Moreover, some drives go out for transecting which means counting prey species in a certain area of the reserve. There are also hippo count drives, fence line patrols to collect litter and on a voluntary basis community work such as teaching in local schools. Once a week, there is the opportunity to go to town and Sunday is usually the only day off and tours to Kruger or the Panorama route are offered by GVI. Each person is regularly on base duty which means that two people per day stay in base to do their fair share of cooking and cleaning, but also to sleep in. This is the case as the daily routine for drives involves leaving promptly at 5.30 am, then coming back for an extended lunch break and leaving again at 3 pm for the second drive. That makes it normal for everyone to go to bed right after dinner around 8 or 9 pm. Generally, the rule appears to be the later a drive returns the more exciting things they are seeing. I have had the luck to come very close to the Big Five as well as to Karongwe’s cheetahs Khwezi and the three Boys as well as many other amazing animals, but I have not nearly had enough and I am already planning on returning to that magical place next year.

Lars Nelson

16 Oct, 2017
I’ll start in saying I got MUCH more out of this program than was offered by the brochure. This was entirely in thanks to the passion and initiative of the GVI staff there. They are a singular group of people. The extra efforts made by staff provided so much more than the opportunity to observe and learn about spectacular wildlife. Their efforts greatly advanced our experience in the field of wildlife conservation and research. Easily one of my favorite parts of my time on Karongwe, apart from incredible wildlife sightings, was learning how to track animals. Furthermore, the experience I gained working with camera traps and taking data for cheetah kill sites was contributory to my landing a research assistantship with a PhD student at the University of Washington this fall. My time with GVI Limpopo was so much more than voluntourism. I would not hesitate to urge anyone with the remotest interest in this program to take part in it and assure them they will gain from it much more than is offered. My time there provided me with an education that no classroom could match, experiences I could not possibly forget, and skills that have already begun to open new doors for me in the realm of wildlife research and conservation.

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