Volunteer in South Africa
From social welfare and education to eco-tourism and wildlife conservation, this resilient and intriguing country offers a range of worth-while projects in need of volunteers. Explore the natural beauty and diversity of cultures while making a positive impact where it’s needed.
Volunteer Programs in South Africa
Find short and long term structured, low cost and free volunteer opportunities in South Africa.
Guide to Volunteering in South Africa
South Africa is very advanced nation but there is still extreme poverty and remote communities need help all year round. There are also shocking rates of wildlife poaching and more people are needed to raise awareness of conservation initiatives. Also there is currently a recession hitting the world hard and tourism is badly affected in South Africa, because of this a lot of local organisations which rely on donations and services of international travelers are struggling.
You can help by signing up to where you will get to experience this country, the people, culture and environment. By applying you will get to change your outlook on the world whilst also contributing to worthwhile projects. We work with a number of llocal volunteer organizations which are dedicated to improving living standards, helping people and preserving the wildlife heritage of South Africa.
Location of Projects
South Africa is one of our most popular destinations in the world and you can find programs throughout the country including Cape Town, Hermanus, Knysna, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban. Some programs with wildlife can be in very remote regions of the country. If you have a passion for wildlife you could become involved in the award-winning conservation programme at the world-renowned Shamwari Game Reserve which is spectacular. Volunteers are also given the opportunity to experience the local area, through activities such as Zulu dancing lessons, Zulu mat making workshops, a Big 5 Safari to Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park, and Zulu lessons. Once in country you will be able to organise other activities boat trips, cultural village excursions, surfing, snorkelling and combo experiences in Mozambique and Swaziland.
How You Can Help
Our partner organisations are looking for people work in carefully selected community development projects working with people in large cities and more remote locations. You can help in communities afflicted by and affected by HIV/AIDS, at creches, community centres, an orphanage and with women's empowerment projects. There is the opportunity to help with women's empowerment program, involving spinning of mohair wool, from our herd of Angora goats, which is then made up into mohair blankets and sold, the women involved in the project are mostly historical immigrants from Mozambique, and so subject to related problems, such as poor English knowledge, poor health, illegal status in South Africa and impoverished living conditions.
Some programs aim to provide a stable income from the sale of products and weekly community group sessions that provide an opportunity for the women involved to experience friendship and learn new skills. Each placement has been chosen to ensure that the project is worthwhile and will provide an interesting cultural exchange where you can give back and make a difference - education and awareness is a big part of community efforts. For anyone wanting to assist with some hard (and easy) manual labour, consider contributing to construction projects where you can build schools and community centres helping to renovate and uplift pre schools.
Volunteer in South African Townships
Due to historical reasons, townships are still today "taboo" zones for many people and it is only by "crossing the bridge" that the experience turns into unforgettable and rewarding times. We hope that through your commitment and our experiences, we can together make a humble but nonetheless significant contribution toward the empowerment of disadvantaged communities. The experience of sharing, learning and exchanging through exciting daily activities will create a better understanding between people as well as leaving you with lasting memories of an unforgettable human, cultural and work experience!
These areas are usually off limits unless on an organised trip but you can also volunteer to help community, humanitarian and relief efforts in townships. Tasks can include providing food, giving educational nutritional advice or giving out free clothing from donations. You could also help local people improve their practical skills which will help them find employment and possibly even give them a chance to escape the townships.
Education & Teaching Programs
You could join volunteer teaching projects helping charities, schools and community projects to provide education to children in genuine need of help and support. Township schools work with limited resources and benefit greatly from volunteer teachers. When working as a volunteer teacher in South Africa will work alongside local teachers with children of various ages. English language teachers and those with an aptitude for drama, arts, music and sport and a strong will to do good will really enjoy this experience. Most placements are really fun and the children will enjoy having you helping. South Africa teaching volunteers could be placed in rural and urban schools matched specifically to their own interests and skills or anywhere in the Rainbow nation. There are amazing teaching programs you can join in Townships and Zulu Villages. These teaching projects are usually located in rural communities so be prepared for a rustic experience.
Volunteer with Wildlife at Game Reserves
A hands on experience where you will be given the opportunity to assist in maintaining the reserve first hand. There are reserves located throughout the country, most are privately managed with the goal of creating a safe environment for indigenous wildlife. In addition to cheetah, leopard, and hyena research they also plan to start a lion re-introduction programme. The responsibilities will include (but are not limited to) cheetah research and monitoring, leopard project assistance, buffalo monitoring, fence checks, reserve maintenance and all aspects of wildlife conservation and management.
There are ranches which are a South African Natural Heritage Site and support the proactive breeding of rare Sable and Roan Antelope. Some reserves boasts over 2500 head of game, including leopard, buffalo, black and white rhino, giraffe, hippo, eland and kudu. Volunteers can get involved in a wide variety of activities ranging from daily feeding and counting of game, tracking and monitoring different animals on the ranch and helping out with the research and breeding programmes. Tasks can include tracking animals, collaring and monitoring, game capturing, management and relocating, reserve/vegetation management and maintenance including fence monitoring and poaching prevention.
A popular program in South Africa is run by the Born Free Foundation which is a unique chance to participate in the groundbreaking work of two world leading conservation organisations in the Shamwari Reserve. Volunteers will have the opportunity to participate in and be a part of the ongoing success of the Shamwari and Born Free Foundation projects, two of the world's leading conservation organisations. Shamwari is one of the largest Game Reserves in the Eastern Cape at approximately 25,000 hectares and is home to the famous Big 5 and a host of other species. The Reserve aims to conserve these species and their environment and provide sustainable solutions to the conflict between region’s natural environment and modern world.
From helping to educate the local populations to actually working hands on with animals you will be able to help. Elephants especially need daily attention, you will be able to find food to feed the, wash and bathe them, help them get exercise by walking them. To volunteer with rhinos and elephants in South Africa you do not need any previous experiece, full training will be provided. Some specific skills are welcomed though like if you have any vetinary experience this is very sought after.Sometimes you might just be assisting but there are occassions where you can get hands on experience helping the animals up close.
Wildlife conservation projects in South Africa really help animals, some target poachers whilst others help injured animals in the wild. On these types of projects you will be able to help save elephants and rhinos from dangerous situations, sometimes you might be on a rescue mission going into the bush and finding animals to help. At rescue centres the animals are rehabilitated to a position when they can be released again. You will help in the daily running of wildlfe sanctuarys and rescue centres, sometimes though elephants and rhinos are either too injured or can't be placed back into the wild and so are cared for by local volunteer organisations. The more volunteers there are to help, the more projects can function and be successful.
Volunteer & Coach Sports in South Africa
These projects operate throughout the country but there are well respected programs in the Kysnea region of South Africa which is spectacular with a beautiful coast and mountains inland. You will get to see a lot more of this country as there are lots of sightseeing excursions and extras available with these programs. If you share a love of sport and would like to make a difference in South Africa these projects will appeal to you. No previous sports coaching experience is needed and there are no eligiblity criteria.
There are start dates every month throughout the year and as a participate you will usually work Monday - Friday with weekends off.
Who Can Apply
You will need to be aged 18 and over for most volunteer programs in Africa. There are some group trips for students and people aged under 18 though, some organisations run summer volunteer trips for 16-17 year olds. On non-skilled placements no previous experience is needed but sometimes you might need to attend an interview to assess suitability. This is a good way where you can ask questions and discuss your skills, experience and of course, preferences to ensure that you’re assigned to the right project for you. If you already have training in a specific field of work e.g. medicine, construction, business then your skills will be much appreciated. A lot of programs are also open to families.
Housing can vary depending on the program you join. On some wildlife and conservation placements in the bush staff, guests and volunteers stay in a permanent tented luxury camps. Each tent has 2 beds and an open air bathroom with flushing toilet and hot running water. The tents are basic but very comfortable. Sometimes you can also live in shared housing or participate on a homestay. All meals are usually included and prepared for you. On community projects there are usually purpose built centres which house volunteers, you will stay in spacious, twin-bedded rooms, all of which are equipped with an en suite bathroom, which has a shower, toilet and basin.
There might be a separate canteen dining room area with a communal fridge and lounge equipped with a TV and DVD player. Volunteers have access to a telephone, computer and internet access can be purchased when available. There can also be a lecture room, where volunteers may enjoy some educational talks. Volunteers can relax on the end of the day in the swimming pool. There is a weekly laundry and room-cleaning service. Volunteers are provided with three meals a day. These are either served at the facility or taken as pre-packed meals depending upon the scheduled activities for the day.
How to Apply
On some placement you will need to pay a fee or give a donation to participate, this usually includes placements, transfers, training, orientation, meals and accommodation. This can be the case for large international charities and also local organisations - search programs above and apply today. If you need any help arranging a volunteer program in South Africa please get in touch.
How to Volunteer for Free in South Africa
South Africa offers more volunteer opportunities than most countries in the world and you can find free and cheap opportunities depending on what your interests are. You will need to apply direct with small NGO's but then some costs might need to be covered for example flights, accommodation and food. Also a lot of charities offer placements to internationals, you can find these by searching our featured organisations tab above.
South Africa Volunteer Reviews & Testimonials
If you have ever been to volunteer in South Africa and would like to write about your experience, review an organisation or share anyrecommendations write an article for our website.
"I worked at a place called Lionsrock Lodge along with their welfare organisation FOUR PAWS/VIER PFOTEN, I did daily guided tours to the lions and assisted with darting and relocating them to bigger enclosures. I also assisted the vet when she came out with anything that she needed, EG: Being her 3rd hand when vasectomizing the males. It was an amazing experience especially as I want to work as a vet in the future" - Jade N, UK
I volunteered in my Africa gap year. I joined a program with African Impact helping wildlife for one month. It was a trip that changed my life! I would recommend it to anyone who has a desire for adventure, conservation and a everlasting impact! - Roxy, Australia