Travel to a private game reserve near the Kruger National Park, and work on sustainable conservation projects that focus on the protection of elephants, rhinos, lions, cheetahs and other vulnerable species.
Welcome to South Africa, and your chance to work with and live among some of the world’s most beautiful, thrilling – and vulnerable – wildlife. Home to approximately 297 mammal species, 858 bird species and over 20,000 plant species. Joining a wildlife conservation program in South Africa is an extraordinary opportunity for anyone who is passionate about wildlife and protecting the environment. With its diverse landscapes, South Africa is home to a wide variety of wildlife species, including the famous Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino – as well as many other unique and endangered animals.
When you join a wildlife conservation program in South Africa, you’ll have the chance to work alongside experienced conservationists and researchers, learning about wildlife behaviour and ecology, monitoring and tracking animals, and participating in conservation efforts.
We offer a wide range of volunteer, internship, research fellowship and professional apprenticeship opportunities with a focus on wildlife and conservation in South Africa:
GVI has partnered with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, Elephants Alive and the Karongwe Reserve management team to offer you wildlife conservation volunteer programs, wildlife conservation internships, professional apprenticeships and research fellowships in South Africa.
Our wildlife conservation programs aim to protect the unique savannah habitat from the impacts of biodiversity loss, climate change, illegal poaching and animal trafficking.
These programs allow you to contribute to the preservation of ecosystems vital to the health of the African continent – and the planet – while learning valuable practical research skills and gaining first-hand knowledge of this incredibly diverse and special environment.
These are programs for nature enthusiasts or thrill-seekers who want to dedicate their gap year, safari holiday or career break to meaningful conservation work that makes a direct and positive environmental impact.
You can either join a more generalised wildlife conservation volunteer expedition or a volunteer program that specialises in a specific animal:
When you join a conservation internship, you’ll work alongside local and international staff and participants. Here you’ll assist with recording animal species and numbers, protecting the habitat, and conducting environmental education and anti-poaching initiatives. Participants will receive guidance from experienced mentors and gain work experience, relevant qualifications and skills in conservation.
If you’re looking to take the first step in your career as a wildlife conservationist or are looking to become a professional field guide, trained and certified by qualified experts trained from the Field Guide Association of South Africa (FGASA), we recommend joining one of our South Africa wildlife conservation internships:
This is an opportunity for you to learn from the best, and build valuable professional networks.
When you join our six-month wildlife conservation apprenticeship in South Africa, you’ll get a head start in your career in conservation. On this program, you’ll learn valuable wildlife research techniques and then put them into practice during a three-month work placement. Partnering with local and international conservation organisations like the Endangered Wildlife Trust and Elephants Alive, you’ll work with an international research team in a private nature reserve, just one hour from the Kruger National Park. You’ll gain skills identifying predators and megaherbivores – such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants and rhinos.
After your training, you’ll complete a three-month work placement at a South African conservation organisation or an ecotourism lodge. With four recognised qualifications, a LinkedIn reference and a guaranteed job offer upon successful completion, this program is the perfect way to gain international experience and build a network of industry contacts.
If you’re looking to gain hands-on research experience, then our wildlife research fellowship is for you. Located within a private game reserve in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere in South Africa with diverse flora and fauna, you’ll work on research projects that contribute to maintaining a healthy ecosystem and the species that live there. With the guidance of industry experts and access to scientific datasets, you’ll have the chance to collect data on a variety of species, including lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, buffalo, cheetah and spotted hyenas. You’ll learn valuable skills such as species identification, data presentation, project management, teamwork and time management.
You’ll also have the opportunity to complete three online courses and co-author or publish a scientific paper on a conservation topic, or complete your own thesis or dissertation. At the end of the fellowship, you’ll gain international experience, four recognised qualifications and a LinkedIn reference to boost your CV.
South Africa is a country on the southernmost tip of Africa. Famed for its temperate climate and beautiful coastline that stretches across two oceans, from the tropical Indian to the frosty Atlantic, its habitats include forest, savannah, desert and the unique Cape fynbos biome. It’s one of the most biodiverse countries in the world – and one of the only places where the natural world’s most elusive and charismatic animals can still be found in the wild.
GVI operates in two locations in South Africa: Limpopo and Cape Town.
Limpopo is one of South Africa’s northernmost provinces, and home to the famed Kruger National Park – which is easily accessible from our base.
Our Limpopo base is located in a private game reserve in the Greater Kruger area, offering the quintessential safari experience, a must-see travel destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Located just 45 minutes from the town of Hoedspruit, the reserve is home to a number of species – including elephant, rhino, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, impala, lion, leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena, honey badger, baboon, vervet monkey, mongoose, warthog, bushpig, porcupine, aardvark, civet, hippo, crocodile and terrapins. Many bird species can be spotted, particularly around the large dams and along the rivers.
As a wildlife conservation volunteer or intern in Limpopo, you will live in the heart of the African savannah, surrounded by big cats, elephants, rhinos, buffalos and everything in between.
If you are interested in our South Africa community development work, our base in Cape Town offers programs specialising in:
Travel to the south-west coast of South Africa and join a team of community volunteers in Cape Town. Visit our GVI People site for more information on our community development programs.
GVI is committed to adhering to the highest level of ethical best practices throughout all focus areas. We are governed by our ten ethical principles and five human empowerment principles. We also hold a badge of ethics – our dedication to continuously reflect on and improve our policies and practices.
Every GVI wildlife conservation program is planned and implemented in collaboration with local partner organisations – creating solutions that will have a lasting impact and can eventually be maintained without external support. Our partners in South Africa are the Endangered Wildlife Trust, Elephants Alive and the Karongwe Reserve management team.
GVI’s wildlife volunteer programs are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). Each of our wildlife or animal conservation programs is aligned with at least one UN SDG.
We also employ both environmental impact and science officers on the ground to ensure that our projects are up to date with the latest conservation best practices and most rigorous scientific standards.
As part of our efforts to run our programs as ethically and safely as possible, all of our wildlife volunteering programs are governed by both a strict stance on animal interaction and our robust health and safety practices. In this way, our expert staff ensure that animal conservation volunteering activities are safe, ethical and impactful.
You can read about the work we’ve done with the help of volunteers like you in our Impact and Ethics Report.
Maybe you are on your gap year abroad, or finding adventure (and your feet) out in the world. Maybe you are looking for a different kind of holiday experience – one where you can make a positive environmental impact. Maybe you are looking to take a career break. Or a summer volunteer internship. Maybe you’re a keen conservation student or a wildlife researcher on their first trip out in the field. Maybe you want to train to be a professionally certified safari field guide.
Whichever category you fall into, we’ve got a wildlife or animal conservation program that can help you live a wilder life.
You do. We don’t require any pre-existing qualifications or certifications.
Most of our adult volunteering programs require you to be 18 years or older, but we do offer specially curated teen volunteer programs for ages 15 to 17 in both Limpopo and Cape Town. Read more about teen volunteering with GVI here.
Extremely safe. We take every precaution to make sure our participants live and work safely, no matter where they are in the world. We have trained support staff on hand 24 hours a day to ensure that all participants across all our programs are well taken care of.
You can speak directly to one of our enrolment officers or alumni, who can answer any and all questions you might have about life in South Africa, life on the GVI base or the experience of volunteering with wild animals.
You will work alongside GVI volunteers of all ages, from all over the world. This is an opportunity to meet people from a range of backgrounds. Our international team of GVI staff will be at every location to guide volunteers throughout their time on our programs. On community-based projects, volunteers work closely with local community members.
Most people in South Africa are fluent in English. English is one of South Africa’s official languages, and all public and government communication is conducted in English.