Wildlife Conservation Internship in South Africa

Study wildlife conservation and then gain work experience on a game reserve or with a South African conservation organisation


Program Information

Kick-start your conservation career when you join a wildlife conservation internship in South Africa’s iconic bushveld. Gain invaluable experience when you learn conservation techniques, animal tracking and how to use telemetry equipment. Use your knowledge when you join a project focussing on predator monitoring, habitat restoration or community outreach while getting up close and personal with the famous Big Five.

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals

Overview

Interns will be based in the Limpopo Province, an area renowned for its abundance of wildlife and getting 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 research on big cats and other mega-fauna, learn about conservation techniques on enclosed private game reserves, help with hands on reserve management projects and community outreach initiatives. 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 partner's requirements, you may stay on with the GVI team taking on new responsibilities, or be based at a partner conservation organisation or an ecotourism 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.

All internships are geared at developing your leadership and role model skills, allowing you to develop a variety of key soft and hard skills that will put you a step ahead the rest of the pack. GVI have been running community development, education, and conservation projects since 1997 and our highly experienced field staff will help you gain and improve vital skill sets to improve your future job prospects.

Program Details

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Life on the Internship

Your First 12 Weeks

During your first 12 weeks, the majority of your time will be spent in game viewing vehicles out in the reserve carrying our various research activities. This usually happens between dawn and dusk when the weather is cooler and the wildlife is most active.

Your main research focus area will vary according to your location and could see you involved with the big cats (lions, leopards,cheetahs), hyena and elephants. You will also spend a lot of your time in the bush on reserve management and conservation projects, where you could be involved in erosion control, river clean-ups and invasive alien plant removal.

The work varies according to the schedule, but all interns will be involved with locating the wildlife, predator research, data entry, reserve management work, personal projects and camp duties.

Work Placements

Work placements will only be available to interns who have a successful 12 week expedition phase. Our interns typically receive work placements with local conservation organisations, game reserves and lodges in South Africa's bushveld region. Examples of possible available positions include terrestrial and wildlife conservation, environmental education and wildlife research.

The work placement will offer you the opportunity to put into action the skills you learnt during the expedition phase, practise leadership scenarios and gain sought after career experience in a professional work environment.

Accommodation

During your 12 weeks on the expedition phase of your internship, you will be staying in a fairly rustic setting with shared sleeping arrangements in either an old farmhouse.

Accommodation at the work placements vary, but all offer basic to comfortable accommodation for their staff.

Project Details

GVI gathers data on local animal species and populations 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, elephant and hyena

  • Monitoring and tracking of significant food sources for main predators

  • Habitat observation and restoration such as removal of old farm infrastructure, alien invasive plant control and many more


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 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 program, 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 most important ecosystems.

Work placements are typically with local conservation organisations, game reserves and lodges in South Africa's Bushveld region. Specific positions range across many fields.  Some examples include terrestrial and wildlife conservation and wildlife research.

Your work placement will offer you the opportunity to put into action the skills you learned on the expedition, practise leadership scenarios and gain one of a kind experience in a professional work environment.

Limpopo's short, mid, and long-term objectives


All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualize their contribution to the UN SDGs.

Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.

Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfill our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.

Learn about the long-term objectives you will be contributing to in Limpopo:

  1. To provide long term and consistant data for Karongwe Reserve Management to assist with Reserve Management decisions based on scientific data

  2. Increase local awareness of GVI's purpose and impact on Karongwe PGR

  3. Increase scientific output

  4. Contribute to three large scale reserve management projects alongside the Warden in accordance with the Reserve's Management Plan

  5. Increase our in-country capacity by providing environmental and conservation education and training

  6. Increase our in-country capacity through community upliftment projects


What's It like?

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.

We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.

Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.

Our Ethics

Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.


Our 10 Ethical Commitments

 

Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.


 

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.


 

Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.


 

Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.


 

Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.


 

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that ever participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.


 

Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.


 

Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conduct, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.


 

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.


 

Child and Vulnerable adult policies

We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.


Continual Development

As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.


However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.


What's Included

  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • Certification and summary of training and experience received
  • Confidential professional reference
  • Final evaluation
  • First Aid & CPR training and certification
  • Leading biological surveys course
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Research training
  • Reserve fees and permits
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Teamwork and leadership experience
  • Telemetry training as relevant
  • Weekly evaulation with your mentor
  • Welcome meeting
  • Wildlife identification techniques
  • Work placement - if successful during the first 12 weeks of the internship

What's Not Included

  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • Airport and reserve transfers
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • Food during the placement portion of your internship
  • Internal transport to placements
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal items and toiletries
  • Police or background check
  • Visa costs (where necessary)

Exploration

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 Limpopo field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in South Africa!

Side Trips Included

At our 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

Our research teams 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 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, quad biking, canyoning and hiking, or just chill out with a picnic lunch at one of the many nearby waterfalls.

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

 

The Team

Kutullo Shai

Research Assistant
Meet Kutullo, our brilliant research assistant in Limipopo, South Africa. He spent most of his childhood years in the bush looking at birds, trees and some reptiles. It is then that his love for wildlife began and he was fortunate enough to be part of the GVI Community programme when he was about 12 years old.

At that time they had a competition between the learners at his school and the prize was a research drive at Karongwe with GVI. Fortunately his group won the competition and he decided what he wanted to do. He worked hard at school and after high school he was offered a bursary to do Environmental Education Studies at the Southern African Wildlife College.

After his studies it did not take long for him to be reunited with GVI. He was offered a scholarship for three months and he then did his FGASA Level 1. Soon after that he was offered a job.

"That was the best day of my life to have finally reached my dreams with the company that gave me all the interest."

Leah Brown

Assistant Base Manager
Meet Leah, our brilliant assistant base manager in Limpopo, South Africa. She spent the best part of her younger years at zoos or wildlife parks fascinated by the exotic animals behind enclosure walls.

It wasn’t long after leaving high school that she completed a diploma of animal technology in the hopes that she could win herself a position as a zoo keeper, which unfortunately proved much more competitive than she thought. After working as a veterinary nurse for 2 years, she knew this wasn’t where her heart was and applied for the 6 month internship at GVI Karongwe, South Africa.

During her internship she attained her FGASA Level One and her dreams of one day working with wildlife she had always been captivated by started to become a reality. In December 2015 she was offered a position with GVI.

“It took me all of 30 seconds to fall in love with the South African bush. Observing these incredible animals in their natural environment cannot be explained, it must be experienced. Not a day has gone past when I don’t consider myself extremely lucky and privileged to be living out my dream.”

Kate Arbon

Research Assistant
Meet Kate, our research assistant in Limpopo, South Africa. Kate's first contact with GVI was in 2004, as a volunteer on the wildlife research expedition in Limpopo, fulfilling a childhood ambition to see lions in the wild.

After the program she returned home to the UK to study for a degree in Biology and spent time volunteering at a zoo giving talks to the public on reptiles and creepy crawlies, but never forgot about her experience in South Africa or stopped wanting to go back. Finally in 2015 she got the chance to return and gain her FGASA level 1, after which she was offered a job at GVI - back at the very same program she had volunteered on over a decade earlier.

Now a research assistant at the Limpopo hub, Kate is mainly involved with the Internship program giving educational drives and lectures. Her favourite thing about the job is giving the volunteers unforgettable experiences, in particular getting people their first close-up encounters with elephants. She is also a big fan of invertebrates and has secured her place as the crazy bug lady of the house

Eilene Janse van Vuuren

Science Officer
Meet Eilene, our awesome science officer in Limpopo, South Africa. Growing up in South Africa Eliene has a strong affection for the country. Being able to live and work in the bush together with her GVI family has given so much more value to her studies.

Together with this immense passion, she finds it extremely rewarding to educate volunteers and interns from around the globe on specific research focussed areas as well as general wildlife management in South Africa.

Shayle Havemann

Director of Programs
Meet Shayle, our innovative and driven director for all our projects around the world. 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!

Veronica Baas

Research Assistant
Meet Veronica. In addition to being a Research Assistant on Karongwe, she’s also the resident ‘Mountain Coordinator’. To find out how one coordinates a mountain, we asked her to describe a typical day…

“Starting early, we head up and up and up the mountain and check our traps for any small mammals.  If we caught any, we record the data and then release them.  After that, there’s time to visit one of the many viewpoints or relax at the river.  After lunch, we go to look for reptiles or check butterfly traps and then it is back up and up and up the mountain to check the mammal traps again.”

Veronica’s favourite aspect of her job? “Seeing the excitement on the volunteers’ faces when they help to locate a focus animal or seeing and sensing their awe at being at the top of the mountain, seeing the countryside below them.”

Rosie Miles

Base Manager
Meet Rosie, our Base Manager in Karongwe. A former Environmental Scientist for the New Zealand government, with an honours degree in Astronomy and Planetary Geology and a qualified Field Guide, Rosie is a total all-rounder!

Having volunteered herself since she was 18, Rosie understands the value of having volunteers on Karongwe and loves to see them progress in their knowledge, skills and passion. “I love watching how volunteers that have been here for a month step it up a notch when a new lot of volunteers arrive. You feel proud to see how much they have learnt when compared to the new arrivals.”

Her favourite experience on Karongwe so far? “Without a doubt, Ketswiri’s four little cheetah cubs. There is nothing cuter on this planet than cheetah cubs and as they have grown they have got more and more active and curious, and more interesting to observe. If I could, I would sit with them all day long.”

Nico Kritzinger

Research Assistant
Meet Nico, a Research Assistant on Karongwe. He was a professional guide for over 4 years before joining GVI. Although He dreams of being a storm chaser, Nico seems pretty happy to spend his free time chilling out with the volunteers, playing pool and darts with them and playing Frisbee with Zuri, the base dog.

Our favourite story about Nico is how he saved Ketswiri, a resident female cheetah. “I noticed she couldn’t step on her left front leg, so I called the game warden and we got the vet in that same afternoon.” The vet removed a 10cm stick which was lodged in her leg – a death sentence without Nico noticing her limp. “It did feel amazing to know we had saved her life.”

What does Nico like about being based at Karongwe? Life in general! “Finding the animals, all the random awesome sightings, having a good time with the volunteers and staff and making some really good friends all round.”

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  • 2019
  • 2020

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Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Herritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.

We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.

Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’

Parent Info Pack

Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:

Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.

live base updates

Follow GVI Limpopo's Facebook page for live updates straight from the field. Get an idea of the types of projects you might be involved in, meet our staff and participants, experience life on this GVI base, hear about free time activities, and learn about the local culture and environment.
 
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Arrivals

When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from your initial contact with the GVI Family, all the way through your program, and even after, as you become part of the GVI Alumni Team.


As part of this promise, we will ensure, whenever possible, that one of our dedicated staff will be available to meet you at the airport. We will arrange with you prior to your departure that, should you arrive in the agreed upon pick up window, a member of our staff will be there to welcome you, easily identifiable in a GVI t-shirt or holding a GVI sign and wearing a friendly smile. This means there will be someone there to greet you as you land, and from there you will be transported to your GVI base to start your adventure and meet the rest of your team.