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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

Experience the best of South Africa with this incredible combo tour. Spend 1 – 2 weeks (you choose) volunteering on an award-winning game reserve with a team of zoologists, rangers and conservationists. You’ll have the kind of close encounters with Africa’s iconic wildlife (including the Big 5) that you just can’t get on a normal safari. Then hit the world-famous Garden Route, for big surf, wine-tasting, horse riding, hikes through national parks, boat trips and beautiful beaches. Finish up in cosmopolitan Cape Town for some of the most epic scenery on Earth. What are you waiting for?

Trip highlights

  • Spend 1 – 2 weeks volunteering at an award-winning game reserve
  • Choose between a surf lesson or a horse-riding session in chilled-out Jefferey’s Bay
  • Walk the leafy trails in Tsitsikamma National Park
  • Take a boat trip round the jaw dropping Knysna Heads
  • Explore Cape Town’s spectacular scenery, vibrant centre and epic nightlife
Gap 360 Trip Notes

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What's included
  • All accommodation
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner every day at the reserve
  • Breakfast every day on the Garden Route
  • Airport transfer on arrival
  • All on-trip transport
  • Volunteer programme on game reserve
  • Reserve project t-shirt and cap
  • Access to the reserve's facilities
  • Experienced guide for Garden Route
  • Surfing or horse riding in Jeffrey’s Bay
  • Tsitsikamma National Park entry
  • Knysna Heads boat trip
  • Oudtshoorn Crocodile Ranch
  • Table Mountain, Cape Point, or Robben Island tour
  • Help with onward travel
  • 24 hour emergency support
What's not included
  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas
  • Some meals
  • Snacks and some drinks
  • Optional activities
  • Return airport transfer
Further trip information

Day 1: Port Elizabeth. Well, hello South Africa! One of the staff from the game reserve will pick you up from Port Elizabeth Airport and take you to the reserve where you’ll meet the gang and enjoy a welcome dinner together.

Day 2-8: Volunteering at the game reserve. Spend the next 7 days exploring the award-winning 6,000-hectare game reserve. Stay in five-star backpacker accommodation and work with zoologists, rangers and conservation staff. Get up close with amazing animals every day, doing work such as game monitoring, animal capture and relocation – it’s like a non-stop safari. In your free time, the reserve’s swimming pool, tennis courts and lounge area are yours.

Day 9: Port Elizabeth. If you’ve chosen the 2-week option, head to Port Elizabeth today. Spend the afternoon exploring or sign up for one of our epic optional activities, including sand boarding on Sunday River and the longest double zip-line in Africa!

Day 10: Jeffrey's Bay. J-Bay is on the menu today for total surfing heaven. Check into the accommodation and choose from a morning surf lesson in the bay or a horse ride in the afternoon. The rest of the day is yours – that beach is calling!

Day 11: Tsitsikamma. The garden of the Garden Route, Tsitsikamma is seriously gorge. Walk the bridge trail (if you dare - the park is home to the world’s highest), join a treetop safari, do a spot of white-water rafting, or take on the 700-foot bungee.

Day 12: Knysna. Next up it’s gorgeous Knysna. Check out the bright blue lagoon and take a boat tour to Knysna Heads. Back on dry land, explore the town, grab a drink harbourside, or do an optional spot of paragliding. 

Day 13: Oudtshoorn. Say ‘see ya later alligator’ to the coast and head to Oudsthoorn (the ostrich capital of the world) for a guided tour of the Crocodile Ranch. The afternoon’s yours – sample some fine wine at a vineyard or check out the amazing Cango Caves.

Day 14: Cape Town. Our last stop is epic Cape Town. You get to either take a cable car up Table Mountain, visit Cape Point or Robben Island (activity is dependent on availability). Later, tuck into a slap-up farewell dinner with the gang.

Day 15: Trip end. Say goodbye to your travel fam and either head to the airport (your group leader can help with transfers) or spend a couple more days in gorgeous Cape Town. Start planning your next trip on the way home!

Want to volunteer for longer? If you’d like to spend an extra week on the game reserve choose the 3-week option when booking.

*Please note: Some activities on this itinerary will depend on seasonal conditions. We’ll do everything we can to advise you of changes to this itinerary wherever possible.

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Arrival information

You’ll need to arrive in Port Elizabeth before 4pm on your trip’s start date. Fly into Port Elizabeth Airport (PLZ) where a member of the game reserve’s staff will meet you.

The trip ends on day 15 if you take the two-week option, or a week later if you opt to stay for three weeks. You should arrange return flights to depart from Cape Town (CPT). We can arrange airport transfers for you from 7am on your last day (extra cost), but we’d recommend that you stay on to enjoy Cape Town for an extra night or two.

Accommodation & meals


You’ll spend the first part of your trip staying on the game reserve (8-15 nights, depending on whether you opt for an extra week at the reserve). Accommodation here comprises of two five-star backpacker lodges with dorm-style rooms and shared bathrooms. Both the rooms and bathrooms are single sex. Lodges also feature a lounge, entertainment area with TV and an on-site shop.

For the rest of the trip, you’ll stay in backpacker hostels along the Garden Route. These have shared dorm style rooms.


During your stay on the game reserve, breakfast, lunch and dinner are included. The menu changes, but breakfasts usually consist of cereals, bread, jam, cheese, tea, and coffee (and sometimes cooked breakfast). Examples of the kind of lunch and dinner you can expect, include burgers, chicken and chips, veggie dishes and casseroles.

During the second part of the trip, we’ll provide breakfast, but you’ll need to buy your own lunch and dinner. It’s a great opportunity to explore the local cuisine.

Minimum age & eligibility

You’ll need to be a minimum of 18 years old to take part in this tour. This trip is designed for those aged 18-35.

UK nationals don’t require a visa to enter South Africa for stays of up to 3 months. Your passport should be valid for at least 30 days beyond your intended date of exit, but some immigration officials ask for at least 6 months validity, so it’s best to have this, just to be sure.

Please note: Visa, passport and entry requirements can change without prior notice, so please check requirements at the time of your trip. It’s your responsibility to obtain the necessary visas for your time away.

Covid safety

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.

Proof of vaccination or negative covid test
For the safety of all travellers, at the start of some trips you may be required to show evidence that you are fully vaccinated (14 days after your second dose) and/or show evidence of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the tour start date in order to join the programme.

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.