Live and work with a team of volunteers from around the world on this multi focused expedition in South Africa. Based in the Limpopo Province, home to Africa's 'Big Five' (lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffalos) you will gain an insight into both wildlife research activities and community development initiatives.
Living on our expedition base in Karongwe game reserve, you will experience life in the bush firsthand, getting out to view South Africa’s wildlife up close and personal. With the incredible backdrop of the African bush, the primary focus of this expedition takes a holistic approach to sustainable development, working directly with local communities in the area.
Please note, this program offers durations up to 24 weeks. Speak to your Country Expert for more details of extending your stay in-country
Experience a unique Africa bush adventure at the heart of a spectacular game reserve; make a very real difference in teaching the importance of conserving our natural world; immersing yourself in local communities and cultures; teaching English, environmental education and watching your class develop; explore nearby regions and breathtaking views such as the Kruger National Park, Blyde River Canyon and the Drakensberg Mountains.
We are always looking for enthusiastic and dedicated people to join our team. This expedition offers qualifying and high-performing volunteers the chance to stay on for a longer duration on a GVI Scholarship free of charge and as part of the staff team in the field in South Africa. If you would like to work towards a field career and make the very most of your time abroad, you might want to work towards a place on a GVI Scholarship. Successful scholars may find themselves offered full time employment with GVI, and many of our current staff have come through this route.
Please note the awarding of scholarships is at the sole discretion of GVI and may be offered immediately after the completion of your project or at a later date. Contact us for more information!
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.
Life on this expedition is truly unique, living on a game reserve in the heart of the African bush where you can be woken and sent to sleep by the roar of lions.
You will travel to local communities to provide educational reinforcement, English-language teaching and environmental-related activities that teach children the importance of conserving our natural world.
You will also work as part of our wildlife research team, collecting vital data on reintroduced predators and large herbivores on a private game reserve.
This all round expedition will increase your knowledge of the South African environment, developing a baseline and holistic understanding of all aspects of the bush and its nearest neighbours. Furthermore, by working with the local community, you get to contribute to increasing local knowledge and awareness.
Our camp is basic but comfortable, where you will share sleeping, kitchen and bathroom areas giving you a great opportunity to get to know your fellow volunteers.
The overall aim of this expedition is to increase the potential for children in the local community to access higher standards of living and increase their own knowledge of the unique wildlife and environment that surrounds them and the economic value of their natural resources.
The primary focus of your involvement will be on community development, teaching and environmental education. However, you will also receive training in wildlife research techniques and conservation, and some of your work time will be dedicated to this aspect. The scheduling of this will depend on our partners' needs, both in the community and on the game reserve and other variables, and therefore will change from week to week.
How this project makes a difference:
Some of the biggest pressures on wildlife populations throughout Africa come from human sources such as poaching and habitat destruction, often simply out of economic need.
Therefore, our teams are working with local communities to further educate on environmental issues, as well as supporting teachers who are under resourced and providing reinforcement to struggling pupils.
Participating with GVI not only allows you to work 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. Below is some 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
Both research bases 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 additional cost associated with pick-ups or drop-offs at the reserve gate. Hoedspruit, the nearest town is about 45 mins 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, quadbiking, canyoning and hiking, or just chill out with a picnic lunch at one of the many nearby waterfalls.
Independent travel from Zimanga base is not easy. It is also best done by renting a car as a group. The nearest towns for car rental are Richards Bay or St. Lucia, about 1hr and 30 minutes drive from base. Pick-up, drop-off rates are very expensive, so to avoid this volunteer groups sometimes rent for a week at a time, since we are in Richards Bay weekly for our town trip day. The area around our Zimanga Reserve base, if you are allocated there, has a number of 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 borders with both Swaziland and Mozambique are a mere two hour drive from 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
- First Aid & CPR training
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