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Wildlife Conservation Internship in South Africa
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Wildlife Conservation Internship in South Africa

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

6 month wildlife conservation internship at GVI Karongwe

My time at GVI Karongwe was some of the best of my life so far! After finishing my degree and not really knowing what direction I wanted to go in career wise, GVI provided me with an immersive and practical learning experience that has taught me new skills and developed a passion for the African bushveld over the course of the 6 month internship.
The project itself means you get to go out on research drives twice a day, seeing amazing animals and their behaviour in a natural setting. Whilst recording important data from your sightings for the research projects to improve wildlife conservation. Alongside this you are taught my an incredibly knowledgeable staff team all about the animals themselves, their ecology, conservation issues and the rigorous process and challenges of conducting scientific research in the field.
As an intern I was impressed by the well-constructed program to teach me even more in depth knowledge and leadership skills, as well as one on one guidance from staff members as part the 3 month training/volunteer period. I spent the latter half of the internship on placement, I was lucky enough to stay at the base becoming Staff Intern. There I gained further skills and took responsibility over volunteers, their education and safety within the reserve. Whilst also having a more involved role in the scientific work the staff undertake and being able to learn and assist all the behind the scenes work that goes into running a research base and volunteer program.
It doesn’t matter what your background is or your career goals; you will have an amazing experience, learn a tremendous amount and have a lot of fun with both the other volunteers there and the staff. I would recommend any of GVI’s projects because I feel the immersive learning system on the projects is the best experience of education I have been through and it does this all within a friendly supportive environment provided by the staff teams.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

My time there provided me with an education that no classroom could match

I’ll start in saying I got MUCH more out of this program than was offered by the brochure. This was entirely in thanks to the passion and initiative of the GVI staff there. They are a singular group of people. The extra efforts made by staff provided so much more than the opportunity to observe and learn about spectacular wildlife. Their efforts greatly advanced our experience in the field of wildlife conservation and research.
In particular, Robbie, our internship coordinator, should be commended for his passion for his work and his diligence in offering a superior educational experience. Robbie was constantly going the extra mile in arranging educational opportunities outside our day to day research drives. He is driven to provide a rounded experience, offering perspectives from every possible angle and a deeper understanding of the complex subject of wildlife conservation in South Africa and neighboring countries. He invited guest speakers from the Endangered Wildlife Trust to come to base and talk to us about subjects like reintroducing carnivores to national parks in Malawi or cheetah conservation and meta-populations across Southern Africa. The latter especially drove home the purpose and importance of the research we conducted as it focussed on the cheetahs in Karongwe. Robbie’s initiatives took us outside the reserve as well, broadening our scope beyond Karongwe. During my time with GVI, we attended several lectures at Letaba in Kruger National Park on issues such as managing elephant populations, biodiversity within the Kruger, and rhino poaching; we, furthermore, were able to learn about the workings of both national parks and private reserves in South Africa. We also visited other reserves in order to learn about the parts trophy hunting and ecotourism have to play in wildlife conservation–both subjects I was entirely unenlightened on prior to these experiences. None of these learning opportunities would have been possible without Robbie’s orchestration or without his vision to offer more than was expected.

Easily one of my favorite parts of my time on Karongwe, apart from incredible wildlife sightings, was learning how to track animals. A skill that, again, was not in the brochure and would not have been honed without Robbie’s guidance. Through Robbie’s networking efforts, we were fortunate enough to have lunch with Lee Gutteridge. As it turns out Lee is well networked in my native New England and was able to put me in touch with some tracking experts here. I will be attending a week long tracking course this August as a result of this meeting. Lee also put me in touch with some trackers in Washington state where I will be moving this fall for grad school.

Furthermore, the experience I gained working with camera traps and taking data for cheetah kill sites was contributory to my landing a research assistantship with a PhD student at the University of Washington this fall.

My time with GVI Limpopo was so much more than voluntourism. I would not hesitate to urge anyone with the remotest interest in this program to take part in it and assure them they will gain from it much more than is offered. My time there provided me with an education that no classroom could match, experiences I could not possibly forget, and skills that have already begun to open new doors for me in the realm of wildlife research and conservation.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

It felt like home

I instantly felt comfortable on base thanks to all the staff who were always approachable and friendly. It felt like home and made it easy to learn and have fun.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

I learned a lot

Working daily with White sharks, and learning how the collected data was used were the most positive experiences. The team I spent my month working with (both field staff and other interns) made the trip hugely enjoyable.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

I thoroughly enjoyed every second of my trip

I thoroughly enjoyed every second of my trip. The staff were excellent and made me feel part of the group from the moment I arrived. The group was also brilliant. Seeing Great Whites is always an amazing experience and one that is impossible to get bored of. I just wish I had stayed longer, if not forever!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

I loved everything

I loved everything. I honestly cannot pin point one thing much more than the other. Something that really made my experience though, more than I would've initially thought, was the staff. The staff were amazing at both locations and it could've been a slightly different story if it was a different make up.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

I felt like I was doing exactly what I was meant to be doing with my life

The staff were absolutely amazing and knowledgable at there jobs. Living conditions were even a little higher than i expected. I felt very safe with the staff and knew if something happened that they would be able to handle it. Learning about wildlife, Africa and conservation was amazing and i hope to continue with it and hope to have a future career with it!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

It was the most amazing experience of my life so far

My most memorable experiences were seeing a leopard for the first time, walking with a cheetah, getting 8 meters away from a rhino and her calf, seeing lions and cheetah on a kill, having hyena cubs come right up to the truck, seeing a pair of Perigrin falcons, having elephants walk alongside our truck , holding a snake and seeing a pangolin and brown hyena.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

It was a life changing experience for me

My most memorable experience during my stay as an intern in South Africa with GVI was the opportunity to be out in the field all day, every day. It was a life changing experience for me. I would come again if finances would allow.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

It was the best time ever in my life!

What I enjoyed the most during my stay with GVI was being out in the field every day, tracking the animals and learning about them at the same time. If given the chance to join another program, I would because it was the best time ever in my life!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    9

I love Africa

I loved the interactions and helping the new volunteers. It gave me such great pleasure to answer their questions and to know that what you say and do will have an effect on their stay, of course i was aiming to help them have a great time and to learn as much as possible about the wildlife and GVI. I juat had a great time with both volunteer groups i was an intern with. I also loved the drives and the wildlife in general, going to sleep with the sound of hippos and jackals, waking up in the middle of the night to hyenas. I love Africa so my surroundings were definitely a great factor to making my stay magical.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    8

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Just do it

I wanted to volunteer, but worried that I did not fit the stereotype. But, the truth is, there is no set ‘type’ of person. All you need is a passion to make a difference and to not be afraid of getting your hands dirty.
So, despite some people saying I was crazy, I chucked in my life in London and hot-footed it to South Africa for a six month wildlife internship.
I can categorically say it was the best decision I have ever made.
Three months was spent at the GVI base in Karongwe, and then three months on a work placement with The Wild Volunteers in KwaZulu-Natal.
In Karongwe, days are spent collecting data on the animals, either on game drives or by the camera traps we have placed. There are also bird surveys, game counts and general reserve work.
Twice a day we tracked and reported data on the resident cheetahs. They are habituated to humans so, although wild, they will tolerate us walking in.
It is not all wild animals. For conservation to succeed, education is vital. As part of the community outreach programme we produce a presentation on rhino poaching to teach the local school children. We also teach them about respect and women empowerment.
I have experienced things which would never have been possible at home. I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I have laughed and cried at animal sightings. I have met some incredible people - from all corners of the world – and been humbled and awed at the measures they will go to create a better future.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    8

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    7

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

The field staff were fantastic

The field staff were fantastic, very knowledgable and passionate for what they are doing.

This was my second GVI program, and I was quite disappointed by it, in comparison to my previous experience. Having did wildlife research in Kenya, I felt able to contribute, whereas with this program, I felt quite useless in the work we did, and would be hesitant to do a program again, and feel the same way. I would also lean more towards a grassroots type NGO, rather then such a large organization, and have my money make a positive impact on the place I am working.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    7

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

I loved the field research

I loved the field research I took part in at Zimanga. It is an amazing place that has great potential.

But I was supposed to be given a list of options as to where I was going to do my placement. I was not given these options and was instead told by Peter that I only had one place that I could choose to go to or not go anywhere at all. This was unacceptable and because of it I will not be participating in any other GVI program.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Its something I'll always remember!

I loved being out in the game parks everyday tracking animals and its something I'll always remember! Seeing the animals in their natural habitats and sharing their daily lives and getting to know them was so special to me!

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

I got what I wanted out of it

I got what I wanted out of it - I wanted to try something new, see if I could do it, stretch the boundaries etc a bit, and I did. I even ended up getting offered sponsorship by the lodge I worked at!! Really happy about that. Learning about, and working with these incredible animals was amazing. Honestly, I don't know how much good it did in the long run. GVI genuinely find animals for tourists in Karongwe, doesn't matter how much you 'sex it up' so to speak - I've seen both sides of it. Working at Karongwe and working for one of the lodges there. The problem is, the volunteers know this - and it takes away from the experience. I was also disappointed not to be more involved in the research. It didn't feel like we did that much - all we did was head out into the field each day and find animals. This was interesting to fill the boxes on the data sheets in, but I'm not walking away thinking I've made a massive difference to animal conservation which is how this program was sold to me.

Institution Affiliates:

World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation