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Wildlife Research Expedition in South Africa
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Wildlife Research Expedition in South Africa

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    7

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Looking for something new

I’ll start with just a brief history of myself I’m 31 years old, left school at 18, decided against going to university and since then worked within the retail sector as a floor manager.
I have no previous education in relation to wildlife or wildlife conservation but I have always had a keen interest, just never really knew where to begin.
The decision to quit my job and try something new was slightly daunting, but I can happily say that I made the right decision. My experience with GVI has given me the direction and inspiration I’ve always lacked to get more involved and hopefully have a career doing something I feel so passionate about.

The day to day life on base involves going out on drive each morning (5am) and afternoon (3pm) with the main focus of tracking the animals using telemetry and collecting data. This is where you will get up close with an array of animals including the big 5 (lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, rhino) so be sure to bring a camera you will definitely need it. Twenty minutes into my very first drive we encountered a mother cheetah and her four beautiful eight week old cubs about 50 meters away feeding on a freshly killed Impala.

The impact of the program on the ground was a privilege to be a part of, waking up at 4.30am for morning drive and not knowing what you might see is a great feeling to wake up to. Everything you do on a day to day basis is a learning experience, but its done in a such a way that you don’t realise its happening. No classroom or website could have taught me in a month what I learnt during my time on Karongwe and not just the surrounding wildlife, but conservation, culture and history.
The staff were all phenomenal and went above and beyond to make everyone feel at home and within two days it was. Facilities on base are basic, depending on the weather you could go without power for a couple of days and the elephants love to play with the water pump which meant we had no showers for 24 hours. I personally dont look back on these as negatives and just the reality of being where you are and becoming fully immersed in the experience.
Saturday night is braai (bbq) and an opportunity to enjoy a few drinks, sit around a huge fire and take in the nights sky, seeing the Milky Way spread across the sky is something you to experience yourself. Sunday is your day off with the opportunity to take a day trip out (Kruger national park) or simply relax on the veranda, nothing more surreal than reading a book and noticing two giraffes walk into your yard.

To anybody taking a gap year or looking for a career break or simply wanting to try something new I cannot recommend GVI enough, you will meet some incredible people and get to be apart of something truly worthwhile and rewarding.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Best and worst month of my life

My experience at GVi Karongwe is inexplicable. I have never met such interesting, kind hearted people in my life. My entire experience here was simply incredible. This was the best part. The worst part was that upon leaving I had to say goodbye to all of those I called my true friends and family. To come from spending a month in heaven on earth, being as fulfilled as one can be, to go home where nothing really fits, is shattering. But I treasure my time at GVi Karongwe. I truly am grateful for all of those who enhanced my time there, and of course to the incredible staff who work tirelessly day in day out. I will one hundred percent be returning as soon as I have the time off to do so.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    8

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

GVI wildlife research and conservation, Limpopo, South Africa.

The four weeks I spent on Karongwe were unarguably the most valuable four weeks of my life.
As this was the first time I had travelled on my own I was absolutely terrified that I would get something wrong when booking flights/ transfers and general travel to the base. However, from the moment you are accepted on the course the GVI team send you emails containing help and advice for every aspect. A recommended kit list, what you need to buy, travel insurance providers, and everything you need to think about medically. Even a recommended mini bus company, Ashton tours, who would take you straight from the Johannesburg airport to the meeting point (I'd also like to mention that Ashton tours were great. I booked this wrong and put my final destination at the wrong stop. However they happily took me to where I was meant to be and gave me their mobile number, and insisted I message them to let them know I was okay and had found the GVI team). Furthering my point on the pre-departure help provided, nothing was too much to ask. Even if you think it's a silly question, they were more than happy to advise and help via email, right up until departure. I felt very confident that I was being taken care of, and in contact with the GVI team during my whole travel to Karongwe.

My expectation of living conditions at base were quite low as I knew they would be basic. However I was really, really pleasantly surprised, and soon began to feel extremely at home at base. I was in the larger of the three dorms, which was made up of several bunk beds, however living in such close quarters with the other volunteers was actually quite pleasant as we all became close. Plus we all made sure everyone of us got up on time for the morning drives, even if we did want to stay in bed on some days! The communal area was great (and large enough for you to find a space to have some alone time with a book)- full of comfy cushions, games, books, and even a pingpong table and makeshift volley ball court outside. I think this helped the whole living experience hugely as when you weren't out in the field, this is where you would be spending the majority of your time.

In terms of day to day life on base, each day usually consists of morning drive, evening drive and a lecture or two during the day. Drives were absolutely amazing. There's no way to explain how you feel after your first drive. In fact, every drive was so valuable as you never know what you are going to see, and what you're going to learn. The staff were constantly throwing facts at you about the flora and fauna on drive and were happy to answer any questions you had about anything. Out on drive, usual tasks are tracking key species such as the cheetah, Lions, Rhinos and Hyenas using telemetry, or if that didn't work, using the staffs knowledge and judgement. We also had prey species drives, in which we monitor the population of various birds, and prey species and their density in various areas on the reserve. Another example of data collection we did was invasive species (plants) eg prickly pear, so we could then go back out on reserve work days and know exactly where they were, so we could remove them in efficient time. Reserve work days happen 2-3 times a week and involved general maintenance of the tracks, eg holes in the road on the tracks, clipping back overgrown trees which had become in the way and removing invasive species. During my stay a particular project that we came involved with was the regeneration of a part of the reserve which had stopped growing foliage, due to it being a high traffic area for prey species. This involved churning up all the ground, moving dead trees to create a structure in the ground to increase water flow through the soil and encourage growth of plants, and then finally shovelling compost/ rich soil on top of the land and packing it down. Although this was absolutely exhausting, especially in the heat, it was very well managed and we were given loads of breaks, and all in all was hugely rewarding to see what we had all done. We also are able to see the progress of this patch through the facebook group, which is really great.
Every sunday is a day off, in which you can arrange trips to Kruger Nation Park, interesting land marks or just sit and relax for the day. These days off become very valuable, and I highly recommend you all get together and arrange a group trip on these days.
Once or twice a week you will be on "base duty", which means you and another will be in charge of preparing lunch and dinner for the base, and general cleaning of base. However, these days also provide some alone time (and you get a slight lie in), as well as learning about cooking!
There is also a weekly trip to the nearest town in which people can go and buy snacks and other needs.
Twice a week there is the option to go into the local community and help out at the school. This involves working with the children, and sharing knowledge on local wildlife, the importance of anti-poaching and conservation. This was a hugely valuable aspect of the course for me, as it was a huge eye opener in terms of what you actually need in order to be happy (not a lot).

In terms of sustainability, life style on base considers so many aspects of preserving resources and reducing waste. Every meal is planned and all left overs are preserved for snacks if you want them the next day. There is a huge emphasis on recycling all waste, which was great to see. The electrical supply comes from a generator which is only turned on for a couple of hours a day, so very little electricity was used or wasted. However, life on base does not require constant electrical resources. It was very clear that the staff were doing everything they could to have the smallest carbon footprint as possible, and the way of life on base has encouraged me to be more resourceful at home.

The most surprising part of this trip for me was the amount of knowledge and enthusiasm the staff had. The staff knew every answer to any question you had and were always so enthusiastic to share their knowledge and give you advice on how to pursue a career in the field. I cannot thank all of the staff enough, they truly made the experience as great as it was. They're all an absolute credit to GVI.
The lectures we had provided so much information and just encouraged me to do more reading on conservation and wildlife of South Africa. There is even a health and safety course included in the stay, and you learn not just basic first aid, but also bush safety, eg in terms of how do deal with bites, snakes and scorpions etc to a very, very high standard.

I could not recommend volunteering for the wildlife conservation programme on Karongwe, Limpopo, South Africa more. I have made memories that will last forever, made friends from all over the world and been inspired to pursue a career in conservation.
Thank you so much for the experience.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Overall it was a great experience

Overall it was a great experience. I particularly enjoyed the trips to the local primary school and also working at the creche to build a fence. I also enjoyed the daily activities, the people I met, including the staff. Conditions were not what I am used to, but I enjoyed this aspect, it was, afterall, SA.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

I looked for a serious and involved program and I founded that with GVI.

I looked for a serious and involved program and i founded that with GVI. Impossible to choose only one positive thing out of all my experiences. Maybe people one is that I met and did activities with these people.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

A really good program

My most memorable experiences were meeting people of different origin, country and language. The experience with animals, with all the different techniques and all my training period was amazing! A really good program. Good organisation with a lot of different country, different project for all!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

I really liked everything

My most positive experience was going on drives in the afternoon and going to the communities to teach. But also how to make fire with nothing but wood, reflection of the sun etc...I also liked the activity we had in the reserve searching for the poachers with clues etc.. all this was fun. I really liked everything.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Learned a lot in an area I already believed I knew a lot about

Loved the staff at karongwe, they really make a huge difference in the experience there. The game drives were amazing, way too many great drives to write about. Learned a lot in an area I already believed I knew a lot about. Overall a wonderful program and would recommend it to anyone interested in wildlife, conservation, and South Africa!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

GVI knows what they're doing

I loved being able to see all of the different animals in their natural environment. I also really enjoyed being able to meet and work alongside so many different individuals from around the world during my stay.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Well organised

GVI was well organised and as described the program was amazing, my most positive experience was with the animals and my overall experience was nice. As a suggestion thought, it would be nice to have less people at once.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

A once in a lifetime experience

Getting so close to such amazing animals was a once in a lifetime experience. I learnt a lot about South Africa's wildlife and the importance of conservation and would love to have a career in conservation as a result. All the staff and volunteers made my 3 months in South Africa unforgettable.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Unforgettable Experience

Sharing the passion with other volunteers and learning from their expertise in their given fields. I mostly enjoyed the teamwork and what became a family unit only after two weeks on the expedition, and also being part of the team regardless of age or cultural background.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Priceless Memories

The best experience I had were taking part in wildlife research, and gaining experience in the field. Also meeting new people for different places and backgrounds.

During my time with GVI I experienced many new things. I adored the place I stayed. I found the project well organised, exhilarating and fun and would love to take part in another project to gain much more experience and priceless memories.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Great diverse group of people

The friendships I made with the staff and volunteers are definitely my most cherished gifts from my GVI experience. Words can't describe how fascinating and entertaining it was to interact and form bonds with such a diverse group of people. Laughter is indeed universal and even though there was a language barrier I wasn't able to fully appreciate all the knowledge we learned during training until we were physically out in the bush. I was pleasantly surprised with myself to see how many species I could identify and skills I was able to perform. The exhilarating rush you get when you're tracking a wild predator is an amazing experience.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

What Did I Enjoy Most? All of it.

I don't think this box holds enough characters to answer this fully... Most Positive Experiences - Developing a greater insight and knowledge in predator/prey behaviour and interaction - Being actively involved with research and studies that positively contribute to reserve management - Learning new skills - Being afforded the privilege of assisting with large animal relocation - Working alongside one of the most dedicated and professional teams I have ever met - The opportunity to try teaching for the first time - Sharing the excitement of amazing sightings with like-minded, passionate people - Digging in rhino poo - Being located in the middle of a reserve with no barrier between you and the wildlife (results in hyaena, impala, baboon and elephant visits) - Sleeping out in the middle of a reserve with no barrier between you and the wildlife (sleeping being a relative term) - Watching young people develop confidence over the course of four weeks What Did I Enjoy Most? All of it. See above. Sorry, I cannot possibly single out anything.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Different from my normal daily life

Loved everything about it! So many things that were great, being able to see wildlife so close, doing reserve work, sleep out, bush walks, learning about conservation, learning animal calls and tracks etc.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Love working with wildlife

The most positive experience I've had in the program were meeting new people and experiencing working with wildlife.

GVI makes it very easy to volunteer as everything is included and organised for you before you arrive.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Great experience!

The most exciting experience is that I went to another park with other volunteers and we touched cheetahs.

Although the vehicles should be fixed. And the bathroom is pretty large, but I think it can be separated to 2 bathrooms so the space would not be wasted, and volunteers don't have to wait for a long time to use bathroom.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

It's a good escape from everyday life

My most positive experience during my stay in South Africa in the Wildlife Expedition project was watching the Wild Dogs and Cheetahs hunting right next to us and participating on improvement work at the Camp Base.

  • GVI responded to this review March 24, 2016 at 8:53 AM

    Wow! That sounds like you had an amazing experience :)

    Thanks for taking the time out to review our program. Hope to have you back one day soon!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

It was a great experience!

My most positive experience during my stay in South Africa was the nice people I met (especially the staff). The encounters with the cheetah and the countryside were also nice.
It was a great experience! Good addition to my studies.

  • GVI responded to this review March 24, 2016 at 8:55 AM

    Hi Theresa,

    Thanks for taking the time to review our program :)

    It's great to hear you felt the program complimented your studies. It's wonderful to hear about your experience and your feedback regarding our staff in the field.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

I really enjoyed my trip!

Basically the entire trip was wonderful. I had never been to South Africa so I was very impressed with South Africa, the scenery, and wildness of the area. The whole program was well run, staff were incredibly knowledgeable and outgoing and enthusiastic about the program and their jobs. Everyday was different based on field conditions so never boring even though the daily routine was the same. Just thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

  • GVI responded to this review March 24, 2016 at 8:57 AM

    Hi Sally,

    It sounds like you had an incredible time in South Africa! What a way to get to know the country on your first trip.

    We hope you get to come back soon, visit us and explore more of the country!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Amazing sights

My most positive experience during my stay in South Africa with GVI was the amazing sights that I had in the bush.

I felt that the programs are really interesting and very well organized, but too expensive to join more than one

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

I loved all the other volunteers and the staff

Living with people who have similar interests as me was so much fun. I enjoyed the lifestyle and being able to see amazing things every single day. Planning trips on our days off was also a fun way to experience more.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

It was a great experience

My most positive experience during the South Africa Wildlife Expedition were the surveys and the internship.
It was a great experience and perfectly organized. But next time I think I would do a volunteer work where I would not have to pay for. This project was perfect to start with though :)

  • GVI responded to this review March 24, 2016 at 9:05 AM

    Hi Maximillan,

    It's great to read that you had such a positive experience at our project in South Africa.

    It's even better that it has inspired you to volunteer again in the future!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Would 100% recommend

I spent three months in Africa with GVI and loved every second, the two drives a day give you a chance to not only see the animals in their natural habitat but gives you ample time to learn about them and how important each animal is. I went there as on my own and came back with a huge range of new friends who I am staying in contact.

Institution Affiliates:

World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation