Volunteer in South Africa

Contribute to wildlife conservation in Africa!

Ready for a game-changing conservation adventure in South Africa? In Limpopo, near Kruger National Park, you’ll participate in conservation projects to protect elephants, rhinos, lions, cheetahs and other vulnerable species. Or, head to Gansbaai, near Cape Town, and contribute to the well-being of penguins, dolphins and whales. Whether you’re into land or sea, make a positive impact and leave a lasting mark on our planet’s biodiversity.


Welcome to South Africa, and your chance to work with and live among some of the world’s most beautiful, thrilling – and vulnerable – wildlife. 

Along with our wide range of wildlife conservation programs run from our research station in Limpopo, we also offer a penguin, dolphin and whale conservation program in Gansbaai, a small coastal town 2.5 hours from Cape Town.

Wildlife conservation

Home to approximately 297 mammal species, 858 bird species and over 20,000 plant species. Joining a wildlife conservation program in South Africa is an extraordinary opportunity for anyone who is passionate about wildlife and protecting the environment. 

With its diverse landscapes, South Africa is home to a wide variety of wildlife species, including the famous Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino – as well as many other unique and endangered animals.

As a volunteer in South Africa, you’ll work with experienced conservationists and researchers, learning about wildlife behaviour, monitoring animals, and participating in conservation efforts.

In Limpopo, participants also take part in community development initiatives alongside their conservation efforts. Through our partnerships with local schools and education centres, participants assist with education projects, promoting community engagement and connections between people and wildlife.

We partner with Karongwe Game Reserve Association to offer wildlife conservation volunteer programs, internships, apprenticeships and research fellowships in South Africa.


Marine conservation

In Gansbaai, near Cape Town, our marine conservation program is your ticket to a world of underwater adventures. You’ll engage in hands-on activities with penguins, dolphins and whales, contributing to eco-tourism, research and education. This unique opportunity involves initiatives like habitat monitoring, underwater exploration and research projects. 

Our programs

Wildlife Research Expedition in South Africa
Penguin, Dolphin and Whale Conservation in South Africa
Wildlife Conservation Internship in South Africa
Research Fellowship
Wildlife Research Fellowship in South Africa
Professional Apprenticeship
Wildlife Conservation Apprenticeship in South Africa
International Field Guide Course in South Africa
Big Cat Conservation Internship in South Africa
Bushwise 60-day Safari Guide Course
Big Cat Conservation Research in South Africa
Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo Research and Conservation in South Africa
Rhino Poaching Awareness in South Africa
Under 18
African Wildlife Conservation Teen Volunteering in South Africa
Cheetah Conservation and Research Project in South Africa
Included in your program, at no extra cost

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

Offered once a month, expand your adventure with GVI Experiences. These are just some of the activities offered on your program!
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

In Limpopo, GVI has partnered with the Karongwe Game Reserve Association to offer you wildlife conservation volunteer programs, wildlife conservation internships, professional apprenticeships and research fellowships in South Africa.

In Gansbaai, just outside Cape Town, we work in collaboration with a local partner on a marine conservation program where volunteers contribute to penguin, dolphin and whale conservation.

Why it matters

Our wildlife conservation programs aim to protect the unique savannah habitat from the impacts of biodiversity loss, climate change, illegal poaching and animal trafficking. 

Our penguin, dolphin and whale conservation program contributes to eco-tourism, research and education efforts. 

When you carry out volunteer work in South Africa, you’ll contribute to the preservation of ecosystems vital to the health of the African continent – and the planet – while learning valuable practical research skills and gaining first-hand knowledge of this incredibly diverse and special environment.

South Africa volunteer programs

Our volunteering experiences are great for anyone who loves nature and adventure. They offer you the opportunity to spend your gap year, safari holiday or career break making a real difference for the environment.

When you volunteer in South Africa you can join a general wildlife conservation expedition or focus on a specific animal program.



Wildlife conservation internships in South Africa 

When you join a conservation internship, you’ll work alongside local and international staff and participants. Here you’ll assist with recording animal species and numbers, protecting the habitat, and conducting environmental education and anti-poaching initiatives. 

Participants will receive guidance from experienced mentors and gain work experience, relevant qualifications and skills in conservation.

If you’re looking to take the first step in your career as a wildlife conservationist or are looking to become a professional field guide, trained and certified by qualified experts trained from the Field Guide Association of South Africa (FGASA), we recommend joining one of our South Africa wildlife conservation internships:



This is an opportunity for you to learn from the best, and build valuable professional networks. 

Wildlife conservation professional apprenticeship in South Africa 

When you join our six-month wildlife conservation apprenticeship in South Africa, you’ll get a head start in your career in conservation. On this program, you’ll learn valuable wildlife research techniques and then put them into practice during a three-month work placement. Partnering with local and international conservation organisations, you’ll work with a research team in a private game reserve, just one hour from the Kruger National Park. You’ll gain skills identifying predators and megaherbivores – such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants and rhinos. 

After your training, you’ll complete a three-month work placement at a South African conservation organisation. With four recognised qualifications, a LinkedIn reference and a guaranteed job offer upon successful completion, this program is the perfect way to gain international experience and build a network of industry contacts.

Wildlife research fellowship in South Africa 

If you’re looking to gain hands-on research experience, then our wildlife research fellowship is for you. Located within a private game reserve in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere in South Africa with diverse flora and fauna, you’ll work on research projects that contribute to maintaining a healthy ecosystem and the species that live there. 

With the guidance of industry experts and access to scientific datasets, you’ll have the chance to collect data on a variety of species, including lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, buffalo, cheetah and spotted hyenas. You’ll learn valuable skills such as species identification, data presentation, project management, teamwork and time management. 

You’ll also have the opportunity to complete three online courses and co-author or publish a scientific paper on a conservation topic, or complete your own thesis or dissertation. At the end of the fellowship, you’ll gain international experience, four recognised qualifications and a LinkedIn reference to boost your CV.

Penguin, dolphin and whale conservation program in South Africa

In Gansbaai, a quick ride from Cape Town, you can soak up the coastal vibes and jump into marine life protection with our penguin, dolphin and whale conservation program.


South Africa is a country on the southernmost tip of Africa. Famed for its temperate climate and beautiful coastline that stretches across two oceans, from the tropical Indian to the frosty Atlantic, its habitats include forest, savannah, desert, sea and the unique Cape fynbos biome. It’s one of the most biodiverse countries in the world – and one of the only places where the natural world’s most elusive and charismatic animals can still be found in the wild. 

GVI operates in three locations in South Africa: Limpopo, Gansbaai and Cape Town.


Limpopo is one of South Africa’s northernmost provinces, and home to the famed Kruger National Park – which is easily accessible from our research station.

Our research station is located in a private game reserve, offering the quintessential safari experience, a must-see travel destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Located just 45 minutes from the town of Hoedspruit, the reserve is home to a number of species – including elephant, rhino, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, impala, lion, leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena, honey badger, baboon, vervet monkey, mongoose, warthog, bushpig, porcupine, aardvark, civet, hippo, crocodile and terrapins. Many bird species can be spotted, particularly around the large dams and along the rivers.

As a wildlife conservation volunteer or intern in Limpopo, you will live in the heart of the African savannah, surrounded by big cats, elephants, rhinos, buffalos and everything in between. 


Nestled along the Cape Whale Coast, Gansbaai is a short 2.5-hour drive from Cape Town. It’s known for the Marine Big 5 – sharks, whales, seals, penguins and dolphins – thriving within the Dyer Island ecosystem.

In neighbouring Walker Bay, there’s an annual whale migration that draws quite a crowd. Gansbaai pulls in around 80,000 global visitors each year, and it’s not just for the marine life. If you’re into shark cage experiences or exploring nature in Fernkloof Nature Reserve, Gansbaai has a bit of everything.

Cape Town

If you are interested in community development work, our community hub in Cape Town offers programs with a focus on early childhood development, teaching, public health and women’s empowerment.


GVI is committed to adhering to the highest level of ethical best practices throughout all focus areas. We are governed by our ten ethical principles and five human empowerment principles. We also hold a badge of ethics – our dedication to continuously reflect on and improve our policies and practices. 

Every GVI wildlife conservation program is planned and implemented in collaboration with local partner organisations – creating solutions that will have a lasting impact and can eventually be maintained without external support. 

GVI’s wildlife volunteer programs are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). Each of our wildlife or animal conservation programs is aligned with at least one UN SDG. 

We also employ both environmental impact and science officers on the ground to ensure that our projects are up to date with the latest conservation best practices and most rigorous scientific standards. 

As part of our efforts to run our programs as ethically and safely as possible, all of our wildlife volunteering programs are governed by both a strict stance on animal interaction and our robust health and safety practices. In this way, our expert staff ensure that animal conservation volunteering activities are safe, ethical and impactful.

You can read about the work we’ve done with the help of volunteers like you in our Impact and Ethics Report

GVI is a British Standards 8848 compliant provider.


Who can volunteer in South Africa?

You can! 

Perhaps you’re on your gap year abroad, seeking adventure and self-discovery. Maybe you’re after a holiday where you can make a positive environmental impact. Considering a career break or a summer volunteer internship? 

Are you a passionate conservation student or a wildlife researcher venturing into the field for the first time? Or dreaming of becoming a certified safari field guide?

Whichever category you fall into, we’ve got a wildlife or animal conservation program that can help you live a wilder life.

Who qualifies as a wildlife volunteer or wildlife intern?

You do. We don’t require any pre-existing qualifications or certifications.

Most of our adult volunteering programs require you to be 18 years or older, but we do offer specially curated teen volunteer programs for ages 15 to 17 in both Limpopo and Cape Town. Read more about teen volunteering with GVI here

Is it safe to volunteer in South Africa?

Extremely safe. We take every precaution to make sure our participants live and work safely, no matter where they are in the world. We have trained support staff on hand 24 hours a day to ensure that all participants across all our programs are well taken care of.

You can speak directly to one of our enrolment officers or alumni, who can answer any questions you have about life in South Africa, life at our research station or the experience of volunteering with wild animals.

Who will I live with?

You will work alongside GVI volunteers of all ages, from all over the world. This is an opportunity to meet people from a range of backgrounds. Our GVI team will be at every location to help volunteers during their programs. On community-based projects, volunteers work closely with local community members.

Do I need to know any other languages to volunteer in South Africa? 

Most people in South Africa are fluent in English. English is one of South Africa’s official languages, and all public and government communication is conducted in English. 

I’m interested. What are the next steps? 

We’d love to have you! You can enquire or apply here.