Explore the wild side of South Africa when you join a global team of participants to take part in big cat research. Your time in the field will help you develop a thorough understanding of these animals and improve your wildlife research skills as you contribute to valuable data gathering to ensure their long term survival. Your efforts will make a substantial contribution to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #15, Life on Land. Expand your conservation knowledge, gain new skills, and kickstart your career in wildlife conservation.
Work alongside our international research team collecting behavioural data on big cats, including lions and leopards, in partnership with international conservation organisations such as the Endangered Wildlife Trust.
Learn how to use radio telemetry equipment to track lions across the savannah recording their location, number of individuals, sex, and behaviour with others of their species, other predators, as well as prey species. You might also have the chance to work on maintaining identification kits of the local leopards. The information gathered is used by reserve authorities to track the impact of predators on prey populations and help them make decisions about maintaining the health of the ecosystem within the protected area.
Please note you can spend up to 12 hours a day collecting data which can be tiring, in the heat of the African sun.
Live in the heart of the South African savannah, sharing a renovated farmhouse with qualified guides from the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa, other GVI staff, and participants from around the world. The base is incredibly remote, and tourists are unable to visit. Completely open to the bush and close to a dam, animals frequently visit the property, including elephants, buffalo, impala and leopards.
Boasting more than 20 thousand acres of open savannah, Karongwe features some of the best wildlife viewing of any private South African wildlife reserve. It’s home to all of the Big Five, including the elusive leopard, as well as cheetahs and spotted hyenas.
Rise each morning to the sound of African birdsong at dawn, before heading out in an open-topped safari vehicle to conduct research vital for the conservation of key predator species, like cheetahs and lions. Heading back to camp when the sun is at its height, you’ll input data, study, assist with cooking or tidying, or relax with the team in our shared outdoor social space. In the early afternoon, when the sun starts to set over the Drakensberg mountain range, you’ll head out again to conduct further research. Returning when the stars are at their brightest, you’ll share a meal and the day’s stories with your team. In your free time, visit Kruger National Park, an hour’s drive from your accommodation, or travel to the scenic Panorama Route, which takes you through the magnificent Blyde River Canyon.
With one of most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, and home to many of the most threatened African wildlife species, South Africa is a nature, wildlife, and adventure lover’s paradise.
Lodgings consist of large dorm-style rooms with shared bathrooms. The base is solar-powered to ensure less impact on the environment. When it’s time to relax, there are hammocks...
Transport to conduct field research is provided by our vehicles and drivers. We have one 15-seater taxi for organised transfers, which includes weekly trips into town, fortnight...
Our base has good connection to local cell phone towers, and participants with unlocked mobile devices can purchase local SIM cards during weekly trips into town. There is Wi-Fi...
Participants make their own breakfast, which is continental style, including bread and spreads. For lunch, it’s usually sandwiches and salads. Dinner might be anything from a tr...
Limpopo is well-known for its warm climate. Sunny days and low rainfall are the norm on most days throughout the year. Summer, starting in October and ending around March, coinc...
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.
For over 20 years, GVI has prioritised the health and safety of our staff, participants, partners and local community members. In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, GVI has created the GVI health and hygiene team to put in place new standards of cleanliness, norms and behaviours that meet or exceed international recommendations to ensure the ongoing safety of GVI’s participants, staff and communities around the world. Internationally recommended practices, such as advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the governments Australia, UK and US, continue to be monitored and the standards are likely to change if and when international advice changes.
The work GVI is contributing to across the globe remains important and the following measures allow our participants to continue to join GVI’s programs and continue impacting positively on their world and the communities we work with. The following changes to our existing protocols have been made by the GVI health and hygiene team to strengthen our health and hygiene protocols and ensure that international standard safeguards are in place to protect our participants, staff and host communities.
Reef Conservation UK 13th Annual Meeting, Zoological Society of London
Reef Conservation UK 13th Annual Meeting, Zoological Society of London
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.
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. In most locations, we also set up a Whatsapp group to help with managing airport arrivals. 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.
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.
All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). 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 visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.
Prior to your arrival on base, you will be educated about the UN SDGs. Then once you arrive on base, you’ll learn about the specific goals we have in this particular location, our various objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these.
Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to be an active global citizen after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Our Limpopo based programs are primarily aimed at developing the wildlife conservation sector, boosting the local economy by providing additional skills in the field, and providing high quality training to students from all over the world.
As such, the main UN Sustainable Development Goals of this project include #15, Life on Land, #10, Reducing Inequality and #8 Decent Work and Economic Growth.
GVI Mahlahla, Limpopo’s Long-term Objectives:
1. Focusing on training students to the highest standard possible, in both theoretical knowledge and practical experience.
2. Improving the employability prospects of field guides within the conservation industry, providing them with the skills necessary to specialise within their areas of interest.
3. Teaching up to field guiding level 2 field guide standards, providing more than just the basics offered at training providers elsewhere on the continent.
4. Growing Bushwise Recruitment, a branch of the business dedicated to finding jobs for participants after the successful completion of a six month program, and a six month placement.
5. Protecting and preserving the natural wildlife habitat of the Limpopo area.
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.
We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.
We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.
We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.
We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.
We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.
For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.
We aim to ensure that every participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.
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.
We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.
We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.
We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.
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.
25 Nov, 2013
Assistant Program Manager
This is Sophie, she is our Assistant Program Manager at GVI Limpopo here in South Africa. Originally from Northern Ireland, Sophie’s journey with GVI started after attendi...
Pleased to introduce you to Zoe, who is the Program Manager at our base in Limpopo. Her journey started out with a six month internship with GVI back in 2016. Prio...
We don’t support or allow participants to work in institutional residential care facilities, also known as orphanages. We partner with ReThink Orphanages and Freedom United.
Our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy requires all our staff and participants to complete a criminal background check and to learn why you shouldn’t reveal a child’s identifying factors in photographs. We support the ChildSafe Movement.
We don’t offer any programs where our participants engage in medical treatment. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country. Our participants only assist with public health programs.
We don’t offer any programs where our participants work directly with people with disabilities. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country.
Each one of our initiatives is aligned to objectives set by a local organisation or professional. Our staff and participants work to support these local actors in achieving their specific goals.
Our participants don’t replace the staff employed by local organisations. Rather, they support currently employed staff with achieving their objectives. Our goal is always to increase local capacity to address local problems.
Participants require training and support to ensure that they carry out tasks correctly. Our staff provide this training and support so that local staff can focus on what is truly important to their organisation at the time.
We don’t support the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes. This includes riding animals, having them perform tricks, feeding or bathing them or getting close to them to take photos
We don’t encourage, support or allow the rearing of “orphaned” wild baby animals kept at a “sanctuary”. The conservation value of these types of programs is negligent and would only ethically be used in extremely rare cases
When wild animals are restricted for conservation purposes we follow the guidelines of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
We ensure that the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare are followed. These include the freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from distress, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear, pain, injury or disease.
We ensure that conservation efforts are also always locally led, that community needs are front-and centre of any conservation effort and that our participants, projects and partners work to increase local community engagement in local conservation efforts.
We don’t offer any veterinary programs or animal rescue and rehabilitation programs. We don’t allow participants to do any work they would not be able to do in their home country.
If you have a passion for wildlife conservation then this course will provide you with the foundational skills and understanding needed to achieve your conservation-related goals. You’ll learn about the various methods of wildlife monitoring, as well as exploring the delicate balance involved in terrestrial ecosystem management. After successfully completing the course, which you have the option of doing prior to your in-country program, you’ll receive a certificate from the University of Richmond.
This online course, valued at £295, is included in all volunteering programs. Full course details can be found here.
A GVI program is an investment in your career. No matter which you choose, you will be working toward improving your employability by mastering new social skills, gaining further technical expertise and earning qualifications in many cases. Most of our staff are, in fact, GVI Alumni, and we have helped many of our Alumni discover, move toward, and earn their own personal dream jobs. Each program includes introductory workshops, ongoing presentations, as well as on-the-ground professional support provided by our very own trained staff members. In addition, our training programs are critical for helping us to ensure the long-term impact of our sustainable development projects around the world.
Learn about COVID-19 pre-departure guidelines, base expectations, personal and area hygiene practices and what we are doing to keep you safe.
Learn about the importance of child and vulnerable adult protection best practices and how to apply them while on project.
Introduction to the history and evolution of sustainable development, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and how these related to your project work.
Learn about our country locations and further opportunities available to you during or after your program.
Learn about gender equality, skills development and examples of income generating activities.
Learn about our empowerment principles.
An introduction to different survey techniques and best practice guidelines for surveys; introduction to different types of data and how to record information via a datasheet.
Learn about biodiversity and how biodiversity is measured, and classifying different species and how to identify species that indicate the health of the habitat.
Learn how to apply first aid protocols and carry out cardiopulmonary resuscitation, CPR. This is only offered for participants staying for two weeks or longer.
Learn different teaching techniques and develop your confidence teaching students in a range of age groups.
GPS, global positioning system, coordinations are a popular means of recording locational data important for conservation work. It is used to determine a specified area, record distances between points of interest and locate previously recorded points, animal sighting data. Participants receive training on how to use GSP systems to record this data.
Learn how to monitor the movement of animals using VHF, Very High Frequency, telemetry.
Learn about the many birds in Southern Africa and specifically those that are found in Karongwe Private Game Reserve. Find out how to identify key bird species.
Using the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, learn how small changes to your daily routine can make a big difference to the planet’s resources.
Learn about measures South Africa, and other countries, are taking to preserve their iconic natural habitats and wildlife as well as how you can contribute. This includes exploring about the importance of wildlife and wilderness for the wellbeing of generations of humanity.
Data is collected daily and recorded by an allocated data person under the supervision of a staff member. This is to ensure that the data is kept as accurate and consistent as possible. We use numerous data sheets and participants will learn how to complete each of these during the training week.
Learn about best practices for conducting a biological survey in any environment.
Learn about the many reptiles in Southern Africa, and how to identify the main ones of importance in Karongwe Nature and Wildlife Reserve. This is only offered for participants staying for two weeks or longer.
Most of the research we carry out in Karongwe is on mammalian species. Learn about the main mammals found in the reserve and how to identify them.
Joining a GVI program not only allows you to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems – but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer over weekends.
Field staff are a great source of advice and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. You can choose to travel before or after your experience with GVI (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships you’ve established on the program. Please note that the below options are not included in the program fee, and would be up to you to arrange at your own expense.
The Panorama Route in Mpumalanga Province is one of the most scenic parts of South Africa. This area is most often visited en route to Kruger Nat...
Learn more about Southern African reptiles at the nearby Hoedspruit Reptile Centre, where you’ll see species of chameleon, snakes and lizards, to...
Further south, In the province of KwaZulu-Natal, you’ll find the historic Zululand, as well as the grave and memorial of the famous leader, King ...
Experience the unique cultural milieu of the coastal town of Durban. On the coast of the Indian Ocean, its warm waters make the city a haven for ...
Watch the sunset from the top of Table Mountain (you can hike to the top or take the cableway up and down) or walk the circular route to the top ...
The rusty sandy expanse of the Kalahari stretches from South Africa to Namibia and Botswana. Home to dunes reaching the heights of several buildings and a diverse range of wildl...
The Drakensberg mountain range is dotted with canyons, and many people experience the exhilarating thrill of bungee jumping for the first time he...
South Africa might not be top of mind when considering skiing destinations. Tiffindell Ski Resort in the Drakensberg mountains is South Africa’s ...
There are 19 national parks you can visit during your stay in South Africa. Run by South African National Parks (SANParks) the closest park to us is the famous Kruger National P...
Engaging intimately with a new context teaches global awareness, adaptability and critical thinking – skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and will also be one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many different activities that you can get involved in during your free time, or before and after your program.
On our community programs, the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore topics like local cuisine and religion, or how sustainable development challenges are affecting local contexts.
Boasting more than 20 thousand acres of open savannah, Karongwe features some of the best wildlife viewing of any private South African wildlife ...
The Northernmost region of South Africa and home to the Kruger National Park, the Limpopo province features some of the best opportunities for wi...
Possessing one of the highest biodiversities in the world and the home to many of the most threatened African wildlife, South Africa is a nature, ...
‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, 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.’
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 and high participant ratios.
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.
We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.
Upon arrival at the airport, participants will be greeted by a GVI staff member. All GVI staff are our own and all our programs around the world are run by our staff. All GVI field staff are background checked, Emergency First Response and safety trained. The minimum staff to participant ratio on GVI’s programs is one to six, although on several bases we have a ratio of one to three. When finishing the experience, participants will provide feedback on all aspects of their program.
Once a participant books, they will be assigned a personal support coordinator who will oversee their pre-departure journey. The support coordinator helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. Your personal support coordinator will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.
It takes courage to book a GVI program, get on a flight, and head off to somewhere new. Volunteering offers a level of cultural immersion that typical backpacking or holidays ju...
As the saying goes: ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst’. Cliched or not, we take it to heart. This tenet is at the core of how GVI operates when it comes to promoting the heal...
The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes ...
Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations a...
|24-hour emergency desk|
|24-hour in-country support|
|Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)|
|All project equipment|
|Food (except on long-term internship placements|
|Safe and basic accommodation (usually shared)|
|Group introductory call|
|Endorsed GVI Specialisation Course|
|Endorsed Leadership Course|
|Sustainable project work|
|Data collection and research|
|Real projects with partners|
|Remote Internship Supervisor|
|Remote Academic Internship Supervisor|
|Remote Career Internship Supervisor|
|Preferential recruitment on GVI positions|
|Job portal access|
|Endorsed Careers Course|
|Career coaching sessions|
Certificates and achievements
|PDF reference - upon request|
|Linkedin reference and skills endorsement|
|Additional drinks and gratuities|
|Extra local excursions|
|International and domestic airport taxes|
|Medical and travel insurance|
|Personal items and toiletries|
|Police or background check|
Learn to make a potjiekos
Develop your wildlife photography skills
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
Walk through a prehistoric cycad forest
Sleep in the open bushveld