South African Wildlife Conservation Teen Volunteer Program

Conservation discovery in South Africa!


Program Information

Travel to South Africa’s iconic bushveld and gain a well-rounded base of conservation knowledge. Learn to identify and track animals, survive in the wild and navigate by the stars in the protected areas of the magnificent Limpopo Province.

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals

Overview

Wake up to the sight of the dazzling African sunrise; hear the majestic roar of a lion as he greets the new day; absorb the sights of nature untouched; listen to the singing of thousands of cicadas on a warm summer's day; experience the ultimate African safari in the heart of the bushveld.



Are you between 15 and 17 years old and interested in volunteering? GVI has developed this project especially for you!  You will have greater supervision, training, and world-class leaders in the field who have been chosen for their mix of relevant experience and ability to mentor and inspire young people.

The Project

Travel to the colourful country of South Africa and discover the famous Big 5 (the lion, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros and leopard) and more when you join this adventurous conservation awareness project.

This project gives you a real and unfiltered look into Africa’s incredible iconic wildlife. Get ready to get a first-hand experience of what it's like to get a glimpse of nature's untouched beauty; seeing nature scenes that others dream about - how a lion hunts down its prey, how elephants bathe in mud, or even something as simple as a herd of giraffes gracefully grazing in the veld.

Unlike a simple tourist safari, you will receive the wildlife experience with added top field training. This experience will open your eyes to real conservation issues and potential solutions, as well as allowing you to explore South Africa’s natural resources in this stunning region of the world.

You will learn interesting facts about the local ecosystems and learn exciting techniques how to identify animals and their behaviour. This African wildlife adventure will be refined with various topics from the local history, the fascinating plant life of the area, and astronomy facts.

Highlights include…

Experiencing a unique African bush adventure at the heart of a spectacular game reserve; be woken by a dawn chorus and sent to sleep by the roar of lions; learning to track animals through the bush; getting acquainted with big game and all the main predators, including lion, cheetah, leopard, elephant and rhino; exploring nearby regions to experience such breathtaking views as from the Blyde River Canyon in the Drakensberg Mountains; living and working alongside FGASA qualified South African Guides getting constant learning and inspiration; having the chance to sleep out in the bush under the spectacular African stars and wake up to a beautiful sunrise.

Program Details

Program Type:
Location: Africa - South Africa - Limpopo

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Project Life

Once you’ve arrived at your base camp you’ll get a chance to meet fellow volunteers and GVI staff from around the globe before learning about African wildlife conservation and heading out into the bush.

Over the next few days, you will learn about animal identification and behaviour, as well as how to track animals and navigate your way in the bush. Most importantly, you will learn about how the African ecosystems work and receive real life insight into subjects like geology, local history, soils, plant life and the climate.

If learning new bush skills, making new life-long friends and making yourself better equipped to tackle your education is not enough, this trip will give you the amazing opportunity of experiencing a stunning bush sleepover, where you will be able to truly appreciate the stars in the southern skies while the sounds of the night carry you away to dreamland. The weekend will be packed with trips, including a visit to the world famous Kruger National Park, where you may spot the sought after big 5 (rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard and elephant).

How this project makes a difference

GVI works in this beautiful part of the world collecting data on large predators such as lion, leopard 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 important ecosystems. GVI offers young people the opportunity to make a difference and contribute to this exciting project.

Project Details

Health and Safety

At GVI we know how to have fun, but the well-being of our volunteers, staff and the local communities in which we work is something we take very seriously too. Ultimately, upholding our high safety standards comes down to having well-trained and managed staff, good protocols and finally, well-trained and managed volunteers. We have a strong staff structure, incorporating experienced, trained and dedicated personnel into a fun, professional and caring team. Here are just a few of the protocols we have in place to ensure that our young volunteers have the best possible experience:

  • All our staff are first aid trained and qualified.

  • All Under 18s volunteers receive a high-level of supervision. During downtime on the program, staff organise enjoyable games, discussion topics and fun activities to ensure there are no opportunities to get bored!

  • All of our activities and locations are risk assessed, using an internationally recognised system of matrix. We have Emergency Action Plans in place for all major foreseeable incidents, written by trained experts and reviewed periodically, with numbers and contacts for local emergency services.

  • We hold night-time debriefings to discuss how the day went and the plan for the next day and the week ahead. We allow time for jokes, funny occurrences, and share stories from the bush. There is also time for health and safety considerations and questions.

  • We conduct regular checks on our first aid kits, vehicles, fire extinguishers and record these checks.

  • GVI has a strict “zero tolerance” policy for alcohol, drug-use or breaking local laws.


This fun-filled experience promises to be the adventure of a lifetime. Still have questions or concerns? Our Country Experts are here to help you!

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

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
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Welcome meeting

What's Not Included

  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal kit
  • Police or background check (where necessary)
  • Visa costs

Adventure

Although this trip follows a structured itinerary, don’t think you won’t be seeing and doing some amazing things! You’ll embark on a cultural day trip of awesomeness and will discover all the phenomenal sights the region has to offer!

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

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