Volunteering in South Africa
Volunteering in South Africa is an experience like no other. From the heat of the mighty Limpopo River on its northern border with Zimbabwe, to the waddling penguins of the Southern Cape, South Africa is one of the world’s most diverse, vibrant and fascinating countries. It is the perfect destination to combine conservation or community volunteering with a journey of exploration and discovery.
There is so much to offer volunteers in South Africa. We focus on wilderness volunteering, where you can undergo rigorous anti-poaching training with conservation professionals in the remote northern Limpopo, or work with endangered species in the National Parks of KwaZulu Natal.
In addition to the vital conservation and community work on our volunteer projects, South Africa is also home to the iconic Table Mountain (Cape Town), the most well-known national park in Africa (Kruger), and one of the greatest driving routes in the world (the Garden Route). We can advise and book tours and excursions, both guided or independent, to the country’s main and off-the-beaten-track attractions – giving you the opportunity to experience the country as, or with, a local.
South Africa is home to 10% of the world’s bird, plant and fish species, and more than 6% of the planets mammals and reptiles. This despite the country’s land area being just 1% of the Earth’s surface.
The country is an animal-lovers paradise and a bucket-list destination for wildlife enthusiasts. It is home to Kruger National Park, one of the world’s greatest national parks – at over 19,400km2, it is almost as large as Israel and bigger than nearby Swaziland. You can be sure of seeing a huge variety of big game, including all of Africa’s iconic animal species – elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo, cheetah, leopard, giraffe, hippo, and more than 3,000 crocodiles! In 2002, Kruger National Park, Gonerazhou National Park in Zimbabwe and the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique were incorporated into a peace park, the Great Limpopo Transfrontier park.
Our conservation volunteers in South Africa have unique opportunities to work alongside wildlife professionals, who dedicate their lives to the protection of vulnerable species. You will learn a huge amount about conservation issues, about wildlife and the environment, and monitor some of the world’s most iconic and endangered animals.
South Africa has some of the oldest archaeological sites in the world, with an area in Gauteng termed the Cradle of Mankind, suggesting that hominid species existed in South Africa from around 3 million years ago. Modern humans have inhabited the country for around 170,000 years. The indigenous Khoikhoi and San were the early artists of South Africa, as can be seen from the wonderful rock art found throughout the country.
Home to 11 official languages, 9 provinces and 3 capitals, plus a diverse range of cultures and customs, this “Rainbow Nation’ is home to amazing music, art and literature as well as a friendly and welcoming people. Despite a troubled recent past of colonialism, apartheid and huge financial disparity, traditional groups have held onto their unique cultures and traditions.
Today, many of the younger generation of all cultures have moved to the cities, living a western lifestyle and speaking English and Afrikaans, in addition to their home language. Many live in ‘Township’ areas, which developed their own individual and unique fusion of cultures, expressed in music, art and food. Art using everything from tin cans to bicycle spokes and plastic bags are amazingly inventive. Local music is everywhere and a visit to a shebeen is always a hit. A tour of Soweto, birthplace of Nelson Mandela, is a must for visitors to Johannesburg. South Africa has world-renowned artists, musicians and actors from every culture; the music industry is flourishing and film-making, writers and photographers are all flourishing.
South Africa is a country that has it all for volunteers and travellers. Roads are excellent, car hire is affordable, and whether you are looking for beaches, mountains, desert or cities, the country really can provide in spades. We highly recommend you allow some time to visit some of the countries finest and most iconic sights, as well as its less well-known attractions. To add any of these to your volunteer itinerary, please get in touch.
Kruger National Park is one of the world’s greatest national parks. At 19,400km2, it is almost as large as Israel and bigger than neighbouring Swaziland (now eSwatini). With almost guaranteed big game sitings of Africa’s most iconic wildlife – elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, cheetah, leopard and hippo, it would be hard to miss out on a visit.
Cape Town is located almost at Africa’s most southerly point. The Mother City is dominated by Table Mountain and Lions Head, home to fantastic sandy beaches and the swelling winelands of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Take a drive to Hermanus, a prime whale-watching destination, and continue your journey down the coast along the stunning Garden Route, driving along narrow mountain passes and along coastal roads.
Off-the-track and well worth a visit:
The flat-top mountains of the Drakensburg form the 200million-year-old boundary between South African and the mountainous kingdom of Lesotho and provide some of the country’s most awe-inspiring landscapes. An under-rated tourist destination and now A UNESCO World Heritage site, the mountain range has been inhabited by the San people for thousands of years.
St Lucia can easily fill a holiday on its own with sun, nature, and wildlife. Not just a pretty beach (although the beach is amazing), it is also home to one of the largest game reserves in the country and is perhaps South Africa’s premier place for scuba diving and snorkeling. Hluhluwe iMfolozi Game Reserve is your chance for almost guaranteed sitings of the Big 5 and is the best place in South Africa to find endangered white rhino. Once home to the Zulu King Shaka, it is Africa’s oldest proclaimed reserve.
Pilanesberg National Park is a protected wilderness area set in a transitional zone between the Kalahari Desert and the Lowveld. It is a habitat for all of Africa’s animal species including the Big 5, and an immense proliferation of birds, and is definitely a well-kept secret amongst South Africans. The upsides to a visit are multiple – it’s an easy 3-hour drive from Johannesburg; is a malaria-free location; its comparatively small size and high game density ensure satisfying wildlife encounters, and it offers a range of accommodation options.
Updated October 2022:
Requirements for tourists to enter South Africa – vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers:
- You do not need to show either a vaccination certificate or negative PCR test to enter South Africa. This applies whether you are vaccinated or not.
- You may need a PCR test to re-enter your destination country or it may be mandated by your airline. It is your responsibility to check the requirements well in advance of your trip. PCR tests in South Africa cost around ZAR 1,000. A credit / debit card can be used to make the payment.
For more information please visit the UK Foreign Office website, or the South African Embassy in your country of origin.
For the latest updates of countries affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) and for any travel restrictions, please visit the following websites:
World Health Organisation daily situation updates
UK FCO Travel Updates – South Africa
CDC Traveler’s Health (USA) – South Africa.
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