South Africa Experience
Volunteer on a big 5 game reserve and explore the Garden Route
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Group Size: Varies
Trip code: SAEP
Duration: 2-3 weeks
If you’re looking for a trip that combines the best of volunteering and laid-back sightseeing, you won’t get better than our South Africa Experience. Spend two weeks in Africa’s breathtakingly beautiful Eastern Cape at an award-winning game reserve for your first week, followed by an epic journey through the mountains, forests, plains and coastal areas of the famous Garden Route. You’ll be volunteering with conservation experts to carry out valuable work to help protect incredible animals, including lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo, to name just a few, before going on to explore one of the most exquisite and bio diverse routes in the world. Starting your journey in Port Elizabeth and ending in Cape Town, you’ll get to experience top travel destinations for yourself, while getting a true taste of wild Africa.
- Stay on a beautiful award-winning game reserve
- Help monitor and protect wildlife – leaving a legacy for future generations
- Take in the beautiful views of Tsitsikamma National Park
- Discover the Knysna Heads by sea
- Visit the famous Oudtshoorn Crocodile Ranch
- Explore Table Mountain, Cape Point, or Robben Island
Day 1: Port Elizabeth
Welcome to South Africa! Today your team will pick you up from the airport and take you to the game reserve you’ll be calling home for the next week. You’ll be shown around, have the opportunity to talk to the team and ask any questions, get settled in and meet your fellow travellers before sitting down to dinner in the evening.
Day 2-8: Volunteer work at the game reserve
Staying within the 6000 hectares of this award-winning Big 5 game reserve, you'll stay in five star backpacker accommodation with other volunteers and can look forward to getting out in the bush to carry out valuable work that will help protect the land and wildlife. Waking bright and early each morning, you'll set out on the reserve with teams of zoologists, rangers, and conservation staff to help with fence patrols, tree planting and landscaping, game monitoring and counting, and animal capture and relocation, depending on where your help is needed most.
You'll be working in close proximity to Africa's amazing wildlife every day, so make sure you have your camera handy to capture these beautiful animals – it's an everyday safari! In your downtime you'll be able to make use of the reserve's excellent facilities, including swimming pool, tennis courts, cricket field, lounge and entertainment area, games room, and library.
Day 9: Port Elizabeth
From the game reserve you'll arrive in Port Elizabeth mid morning and be taken to your accommodation. The rest of the day is yours to spend exploring the town, where there's lots to see and do. Go horse riding through Sardinia Bay Nature Reserve, take a sand boarding lesson on the dunes of the Sundays River, experience the longest dual zip line in Africa, go on a coastal boat tour, peruse the market stalls, or simply chill out on the beach with a cold drink (please note all optional activities are at your own expense).
Day 10: Jeffrey's Bay
Leaving your accommodation in Port Elizabeth at 8am, we'll set ourselves up for the day with some breakfast before heading to laid-back 'J-Bay' – South Africa's answer to surfing heaven, to check in to your new lodgings close to the beach. You can choose from a morning surfing lesson in the bay, or a horse ride in the afternoon, with the rest of the day free to explore the town or chill on the beach.
Day 11: Tsitsikamma
Setting off to Tsitsikamma, home to one of the world’s highest bridges, we’ll be spending a couple of hours in the beautiful National Park where, if your legs are sturdy enough, you’ll have the chance to walk the rickety bridge trail. Tsitsikamma is chock-full of adventurous activities – great for adrenalin junkies – so why not spend your time here testing out one of the incredible zip line treetop safaris (R595), partake in a little white water rafting (R595), or plunge 700 feet on a bungee cord (R950)?
Day 12: Knysna
At the heart of the Garden Route sits the thriving coastal town of Knysna – today’s destination. Famed for its bright turquoise lagoon and vibrant waterfront, you’ll get to see the best bits by sea, as we take a boat tour to the Knysna Heads. Back on dry land you’re free to let your hair down, so have a look around the town, see the local sights, chill in the harbour, or if you’re still up for a bit of adventure, why not take to the skies and go paragliding (R1350)?
Day 13: Oudtshoorn
Heading away from the coast and into the Karoo, we’ll be driving the route to the ostrich capital of the world – Oudtshoorn. We’ll visit the Crocodile Ranch for a guided tour of the incredible wildlife and conservation areas, and afterwards you’ll get to do your own thing. Maybe sampling fine wine at a vineyard is up your street, or perhaps you’ll take a tour of the amazing 20 million year old natural limestone formations in the world-famous Cango Caves.
Day 14: Cape Town
Today we journey through the scenic route to Cape Town (known as the Mother City). Thought of as a city that welcomes all and caters for every individual, there’s reason to make the most of the time you have here. We have the choice of three arranged activities today – a trip to Table Mountain, Cape Point, or Robben Island, but you’ll want time to explore this fantastic city yourself, so we’ll make sure you have plenty of time to see the sights before sitting down to a farewell group dinner in the evening.
Day 15: Cape Town
Today we say goodbye as a group. For those heading straight home, transfers to the airport can be arranged for the morning, but, if you can, we recommend you stay on in Cape Town for at least a day or two more to make the most of this great city. Go on a wine tour, visit the museums, splurge at the market stalls and abundant city centre shops, or feed your hunger at numerous tempting eateries. How fearless are you? If the answer is very, then you could try a shark cage diving experience (R1900), which you might want to follow up with a beer tour – just a suggestion!
Please note, if you wish to spend more time volunteering on the game reserve before experiencing the Garden Route, you can choose to stay and volunteer for an extra week on the reserve. If you want to volunteer for an extra week, please select the 'South Africa Experience- 3 weeks' option when booking.
*Some details and activities on this itinerary are subject to availability/seasonal conditions. We will do all we can to advise you of any changes to this itinerary wherever possible.
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Your flight to South Africa should arrive at Port Elizabeth Airport (PLZ) before 4pm on your programme start date. Scheduled arrivals into Port Elizabeth Airport will be met by the game reserve's staff.
Your return flights should be arranged to depart from Cape Town (CPT). Morning transfers can be arranged at around 7am from Cape Town to the airport on the last day of your trip, although we recommend you stay an extra night or two in Cape Town following the last day of the programme.
Accommodation on the game reserve is made up of two five star backpacker lodges, with shared single sex dorm rooms and shared single sex bathroom facilities. The lodges are fully furnished with a lounge area, entertainment area with a television, and an on-site shop for essentials. During the final week, you’ll stay in a handful of backpacker hostels along the Garden Route in shared dormitory rooms.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be prepared for you while on the game reserve. The food served varies, but usually consists of cereals, bread, butter, jam, cheese, tea and coffee, and sometimes eggs, sausages, or beans for breakfast; and burgers, chicken and chips, vegetarian dishes, potato casseroles and a range of other meals for lunch and dinner. Please let us know if you have any dietary requirements when booking. Please note that the game reserve is an alcohol-free environment. You'll have the chance to drink and go out in the evening during the rest of the tour.
Lunches and dinners aren’t included during the second week of the trip, which gives you a great excuse to try out the local cuisine – there are plenty of excellent restaurants, diners and cafes at each destination.
Minimum age for this programme is 18.
UK nationals don’t require a visa to enter South Africa for stays of up to 3 months. You should ensure that your passport will still be in date for six months after your return. All visa information is subject to change and you should consult the nearest High Commission or Embassy for the most up to date information.
This trip is designed with your safety and wellbeing in mind. As a result of Covid-19, many of our suppliers and partners around the world are introducing new policies and procedures surrounding health and safety in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. As the state of travel is evolving these new safety measures will adapt over time, and will be different for each trip. Here are some of the changes you may see on your trip:
Arrival safety meetings
Most trips have an arrival meeting on the first day where the guide or local team will run through the trip, the safety protocols, and to answer any questions you may have. Now more than ever it is important you arrive in time for these meetings.
Updated hygiene and safety procedures
Our suppliers and partners have health and safety procedures in place on all of our trips. These protocols will be updated and adapted as a response to the Coronavirus outbreak, dependent on local restrictions and laws.
Transport and accommodation choices
Our suppliers and partners choose the accommodation and transport on our trips very carefully, and you may see a change to what would normally be used as a response to the outbreak. This may involve such changes as enhanced use of private transport or quieter accommodation.
Trained and knowledgeable staff
Our staff in the UK are trained to help you with your trip before you depart and answer any questions you may have. In addition, the local team and guides on our trips are there to help with any health and safety concerns and to ensure our trips run safely and smoothly.
Reduced group sizes
Some trips will run with reduced group sizes to start with. You may find that trips are more intimate and chilled, whilst still being packed with fun and adventure.
Your guide or the local team will be on hand to help you seek medical attention should you require it during your trip. As medical facilities and standards can vary around the world, you should ensure you have adequate travel insurance in place before you depart to cover you for any medical emergencies.
24/7 emergency support
We operate an emergency phone line for our travellers abroad. This is operated by a UK based member of staff 24/7 if you have a genuine emergency or urgent matter that you need attending.
It is important that you take measures to make travelling safer for yourself and others around you. Ensure you frequently wash your hands, cover your face when you sneeze and cough, bring and use your own hand sanitiser and facial coverings/masks, and enable social distancing where necessary. You should also ensure you listen to the instructions and guidance of the local team at all times, and follow all local laws and restrictions.