Internship and Volunteer Opportunities in South Africa

If you’re looking to do an internship or volunteer project in South Africa, we’ve got you covered! Whether you’re interested in creating social impact through education, contributing to wildlife conservation, learning new photography skills or volunteering in the health sector, we have a rewarding program for you. Our internship and volunteer opportunities in South Africa cover a wide range of exciting options and destinations. You might join an early childhood development project in Cape Town, a Big Five conservation volunteer project in Kruger, or a shark conservation program on the Garden Route. Volunteering in South Africa will also allow you to explore this stunning and versatile country during your free time.

There is a reason why so many people come to volunteer in South Africa and why this incredible country is consistently rated one of the top travel destinations in the world. Make that several reasons. Where else can you watch the sunrise from the top of a mountain, catch a wave in the ocean and spot an elephant roaming at dusk all in the same day? President Nelson Mandela proclaimed this country as the ‘Rainbow Nation’ – a country as diverse and colorful as it is exciting and adventurous.

Highlights of doing an internship or volunteer project in South Africa:

  • Choose from a wide range of different volunteer programs that run throughout the year
  • Enjoy a perfect balance between making an impact and having a great time
  • Become part of a dedicated group of change makers from around the world
  • Feel safe knowing you’re guided by the African Impact team throughout your booking process and your stay in South Africa
  • Explore South Africa’s stunning landscapes, colorful cultures, and wealth of wildlife

African Impact's Top Rated Volunteer Projects in South Africa

Monitor the Big 5

AFRICAN BIG 5 AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION

€2195 – €5695
Join African Impact's most popular volunteer project, the African Big 5 Wildlife Conservation project, in the Greater Kruger Area, and assist our expert field guides and research team in various tasks contributing to wildlife research and conservation.

Greater Kruger Area, South Africa

Every second Sunday

Impact: Wildlife Conservation

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY & CONSERVATION

€2995 – €5795
Guided and tutored by a professional photographer, gain practical experience in wildlife photography while contributing to the conservation of South Africa’s wildlife. Using your new skills, you will support NGO’s and help raise awareness of environmental and conservation issues in the Greater Kruger Area.

Greater Kruger Area, South Africa

Specific Start Dates

Impact: Wildlife Conservation

OPENING JAN 2023

EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT

€1195 – €3845
As a volunteer on our Early Childhood Development project, you will work in Cape Town’s underprivileged townships, educating and caring for vulnerable children in foster care homes and pre-schools.

Cape Town, South Africa

Every Second Monday

Impact: Childcare

Frequently asked questions about our Internship and Volunteer Projects in South Africa

South Africa is African Impact’s home (so we may be a little biased), but volunteering in South Africa is completely unique to any other destination on earth. Despite their complex history, South Africans are hugely welcoming to international travelers and are extremely proud of their tourism industry. Outside of it being one of the top destinations in Africa for those looking to go on safari or experience the continent’s iconic wildlife, it’s also an adventure-junkie’s paradise. You can surf, sky-dive, bungee-jump, go whale watching, ride horses, dive with Great white sharks, and even ski (yes, it can snow here!). Tourism is the backbone of the economy and an income-generator for a lot of communities, so South Africa is the perfect destination to complete and internship or volunteer if you’re also looking to tick some bucket list adventures off your list.

But, there’s a lot more to experience as a volunteer in South Africa than simply the tourist attractions.

South African Culture

South Africa is also known for its diverse culture and has 11 different official languages – there is no other country in the world with quite so many. As a volunteer in South Africa with African Impact, here is a little bit more information on some of the cultures you will encounter:

Zulu

The Zulu people are the largest ethnic group in South Africa, with Zulu the most widely spoken language, easily identifiable by its ‘clicking’ sounds. Traditionally, Zulu men wore animal skins and feathers, made famous by King Shaka Zulu who also brandished a large spear and shield. However, in today’s culture, most Zulu people wear traditional Western clothing and will only adorn traditional attire when celebrating. That being said, while volunteering in the Kwa-Zulu Natal region of South Africa, don’t be surprised if you’re invited to a traditional ceremony or two, but be sure to try and learn a few of the ‘clicks’!

Sotho

Sotho was one of the first written languages in Africa and has a rather mysterious origin. While Sotho is the official language of the Kingdom of Lesotho, it is now widely spoken across the North-Eastern part of South Africa. Similarly to many other South African tribal cultures, Sotho communities are are split into villages, led by a chief. Uniquely, however, traditional Sotho villages are separated by age and assigned specific roles and responsibilities. While volunteering with animals on our Greater Kruger projects, you’ll definitely encounter this colorful tribe.

Xhosa

While not the most spoken language in South Africa, Xhosa is the most widely distributed, meaning you may bump into a Xhosa speaker anywhere you visit (but you are guaranteed when doing an internship in Cape Town!). More fascinating is that around 15% of the Xhosa language originates from the San people; the first people of South Africa and one of only 14 populations from which all humans descended. Perhaps the most famous Xhosa-speaker of all time? Nelson Mandela!

For many, South Africa is on their radar because of the late Nelson Mandela, who was the face of revolution and played a key role in the anti-Apartheid movement. However, it’s important to note that more than 50% of South Africa’s population still live in poverty and remnants of the Apartheid era are still evident in day to day life.

Apartheid (literally meaning ‘apartness’ in the Afrikaans language), was a political and social system in South Africa that ensured racial segregation and deep discrimination against non-white individuals by limiting their rights and privileges. While South Africa has a very long history of racial discrimination, the law of Apartheid only came into play in 1948 and ended in the early 1990’s, following years of protesting, international pressure and negotiations led by figurehead Nelson Mandela. 1994 saw the country’s first democratic election, where Mandela was elected the first black President of South Africa.

Despite having ended over twenty-five years ago, the social, economic and politic consequences of the Apartheid rule is still impacting the 57-million residents of South Africa and there is still enormous inequality that continues to provide barriers to quality education and healthcare for marginalized citizens.

The unequal distribution of wealth is not only seen in the bright lights of the most well-known city, Cape Town, but across the country. Communities living alongside some of the most famous national parks in South Africa are also struggling from food scarcity and minimal opportunities for employment, while those living on the rural coastline struggle to access healthcare and find schools for their children.

Its complex and difficult history, one that is still very much in the making, means South Africa is a country that welcomes, and needs, volunteer support.

The country, which African Impact proudly calls home, South Africa is truly a destination unlike any other. There are endless adventures to be had across our beautiful country, a nation filled with unique communities, landscapes, and cultures. Here are a few of the places you can volunteer in South Africa with us!

Cape Town, South Africa

Highlighted by the stunning backdrop of Table Mountain, Cape Town is regularly considered one of the world’s most beautiful cities. It’s not difficult to understand why – with breathtaking landmarks like Lion’s Head Peak and the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Town is painted with gorgeous displays of nature around every corner.

A beautifully multicultural city, Cape Town celebrates an array of traditional and modern African cultures, as well as international influences, creating a uniquely South African community. From the colourful streets of Bo-Kaap to Clifton and Muizenberg’s trendy beaches, Cape Town has a variety of lively neighbourhoods that give the city its iconic charm.

Most notably, however, is Cape Town’s powerful and influential history. Home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Robben Island – where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison – Cape Town is a historic location in South Africa’s long walk to freedom from apartheid. With renowned museums and historical sites throughout the city, learning about South Africa’s history of racial discrimination and the equality work that remains to be done is essential for any visitor exploring Cape Town.

Greater Kruger Area, South Africa

When it comes to incredible wildlife encounters in South Africa, the Greater Kruger Area is simply unparalleled. Sharing a fenceless border with the iconic Kruger National Park – often considered one of the best game parks for wildlife viewing in Africa – the Greater Kruger Area is a sprawling expanse of over 20 private game reserves.

This exclusive region allows travellers to embark on exhilarating game drives throughout the African bush to experience up-close encounters with some of the area’s most iconic wildlife. Roaming freely from the Kruger National Park, travellers in the Greater Kruger Area can expect to see Africa’s big five – lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalo and elephants – among other stunning wildlife, without the crowds that often fill the neighbouring national park.

The Greater Kruger Area is a hub for some incredible conservation efforts that aim to protect South African wildlife. Travelling to this stunning region means embarking on endless wildlife conservation adventures that are as impactful as they are exciting. If you are looking to experience Africa’s wildlife in an authentic, impact-driven setting, the Greater Kruger Area is the ultimate destination for you!

Read our blog now for the Top 5 Reasons to volunteer in South Africa 

As a volunteer in South Africa with African Impact, you will directly support one of our initiatives that focus on the sustainable support of local communities or conserving the country’s precious wildlife. Living with our team at one of the program bases (there’s three across South Africa), you’ll work alongside other international volunteers from Monday through Friday, having your weekend free to explore and get up to mischief.

For those looking for a slice of rural, coastal South Africa, let us introduce our Zululand projects, based from the tropical town of St Lucia. We’ve been working in the rural villages here for over ten years and our volunteers have always been an integral part of the community. It’s ideal for those looking to volunteer with children in Africa, as we support a number of day cares that look after orphaned and vulnerable children. We also run a medical program here that sees volunteers working in rural clinics, providing home-based care to home-bound patients, as well as running support groups for those suffering from HIV or AIDS.

If you love the hustle and bustle of city life, our Cape Town projects could be for you. We’ve been working in the township communities of Khayelitsha, Red Hill and Langa for over five years, providing effective early childhood development programming and sports coaching, as well as supporting local teachers in their classrooms. More recently, we launched an award-winning girl empowerment initiative to try and reach the girls we work with who are falling behind and are most at-risk from early marriage and pregnancy.

If working with animals in South Africa is more up your street, then look no further than our Greater Kruger Projects. Based from a beautiful lodge on a private game reserve, volunteers focus predominantly on researching the iconic ‘Big Five’ (elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and buffalo), undertaking conservation photography, teaching conservation education and spending almost every day on the back of a safari vehicle. What’s not to love!?

For those looking to spend a little longer abroad, we also run internships in South Africa from all three project bases, varying from social work and gender equality, to field research and wildlife photography. These internships are a truly unique work experience opportunity and offer interns an exceptional level of support, including a personal development coach and academic mentor.

Personal highlights from our volunteer projects in South Africa last year include:

  • Helping 15 out-of-school children in Cape Town reach their developmental milestones
  • Spending over 2500 hours treating home-bound patients in Zululand
  • 824 elephant sightings added to the photo-ID database in the Greater Kruger Region, to help identify and track their movements
  • Directly impacting 650 children through the training of 20 rural teachers in Zululand
  • Launching a project in the Greater Kruger Region that helps local people earn a sustainable income
  • Holding an amazing 7-week sport tournament in Cape Town for over 200 disadvantaged children

It is because of volunteer and intern support that achievements like these are possible.

Community Development Programs

Beginning in 1948, the law of apartheid came into effect in South Africa. Apartheid – which means “apartness” in Afrikaans – was a discriminatory social and political system that ensured legal segregation and discrimination against non-white South Africans. While apartheid laws legally came to an end in the 1990s, there still exists substantial socioeconomic inequality among South Africans today.

According to a United Nations report conducted in December 2020, almost one in five South Africans live in extreme poverty. Beyond this, South Africa is considered one of the world’s most unequal countries, according to the UN Human Development Index. Highlighting the devastatingly significant inequalities among South Africans in domains such as income, life expectancy, education, and gender inequality, much work remains unfinished in creating a free and equal South Africa.

When you volunteer in South Africa with us, you’ll work to support sustainable development in local communities and combat the immense inequalities that still exist today. Working closely with locals together, you’ll support community projects that tackle some of the developmental issues that impair many South African’s abilities to achieve economic, social, and academic equality. By volunteering in disadvantaged communities, your work will be integral to supporting the positive development of residents of all ages, from young children to grown adults.

Wildlife Conservation

Across Africa, wildlife is under intense threat. Negative interactions with humans and environmental dangers like climate change have put South Africa’s impressive species in a precarious situation, with many at risk of extinction within the century. From the Black Rhino to the African Elephant, Africa’s iconic wild residents could face devastating consequences if we do not act now.

When you join us as a wildlife conservation volunteer in South Africa, you’ll work to support sustainable conservation efforts that put the lives of African wildlife and communities first. Embarking on game drives into the heart of the African bush, your volunteer work will focus on conducting valuable field research on the local wildlife’s health, behaviour, and populations. This research will be integral to informing conservation decisions in the area, ensuring long-term wildlife preservation aims across the Greater Kruger Area are met in the best way possible. With opportunities to make a difference in various conservation settings, from Wildlife Photography programs to research-focused Conservation Internships, we have a wildlife conservation project that suits your needs, interests, and the adventures you’d like to check off your bucket list!

Established in 2004, providing high-quality volunteer experiences in Africa has been in our DNA for 16 years. Our volunteers, staff, and local communities’ safety is our top priority and something that is never compromised. From the moment you arrive in Africa to the end of your adventure, we take the utmost care in ensuring your comfort and safety.

To learn more about our health and safety protocols, please visit the following links. If you have additional questions, we would love to answer them. You can click here to contact us, and one of our team members will be in touch with you shortly!

Our Safety Tips in Africa

FAQs on Volunteer Safety

Program Fees

Our South African volunteer programs start at $1145 and increase depending on which project you join and how long you volunteer with us. These costs cover your volunteer accommodation, meals, 24/7 in-country support, project and airport transportation, project orientation, and any project equipment volunteers may need.

African Impact Sustainability Fund

As a commitment to sustainable development in the communities we work in, all volunteers pay an additional $25 to the African Impact Sustainability Fund. This money goes directly to the African Impact Foundation, which independently ensures the sustainability of our projects in local communities and guarantees impacts continue long after volunteers leave. If you have additional questions about this donation, you can visit our page on the Sustainability Fund here.

At African Impact, our mission is to provide the best international volunteer programs in Africa that create real, sustainable impacts on the local communities. While our volunteer projects may be unpaid, we absolutely believe they are a life-changing experience for volunteers and locals alike!

As an African-based company, we know first hand the incredible adventures available on our stunning continent. We live and breathe all things African travel and are passionate about immersing volunteers in the heart of some of Africa’s most incredible natural environments and communities. Developing meaningful relationships with locals, learning about unique African cultures, and exploring breath-taking natural wonders, you’ll experience the true spirit of Africa and the people, places, and wildlife that make it so extraordinary.

To us, epic adventures and sustainable impacts go hand-in-hand. We firmly believe in the power of responsible volunteering to positively transform the lives of volunteers and local communities alike. Developing our projects with local community stakeholders, means that everything we do is measured, designed, and implemented with the local community’s goals in mind. As a volunteer joining one of our volunteer projects, your work will not only be a life-changing experience for you but make actual, sustainable impacts on the lives of the locals. long after you have returned home.

This combination of incredible adventures, responsible impacts, and cultural immersion allows us to go beyond the conventional understanding of “volunteering abroad” and offer innovative African volunteer travel experiences that – while unpaid – can truly transform lives!

If you are passionate about applying for an internship or becoming a volunteer in South Africa and want to experience this diverse and extraordinary country for yourself, contact us now!

All African Impact volunteer projects in South Africa
Monitor the Big 5

AFRICAN BIG 5 AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION

€2195 – €5695
Join African Impact's most popular volunteer project, the African Big 5 Wildlife Conservation project, in the Greater Kruger Area, and assist our expert field guides and research team in various tasks contributing to wildlife research and conservation.

Greater Kruger Area, South Africa

Every second Sunday

Impact: Wildlife Conservation

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY & CONSERVATION

€2995 – €5795
Guided and tutored by a professional photographer, gain practical experience in wildlife photography while contributing to the conservation of South Africa’s wildlife. Using your new skills, you will support NGO’s and help raise awareness of environmental and conservation issues in the Greater Kruger Area.

Greater Kruger Area, South Africa

Specific Start Dates

Impact: Wildlife Conservation

NOW OPEN

SHARK CONSERVATION

R12225 – R92610
Assist with Shark Conservation in Gansbaai, South Africa, and meet one of the ocean’s greatest predators up close. Play your part in stopping the needless slaughter of over 100 million sharks annually, by conducting research and collecting data that contributes to decisions around shark conservation methods.

Cape Town, South Africa

Every Monday

Impact: Marine Conservation

NOW OPEN

WILDLIFE VETERINARY ASSISTANCE

R55350
Join our Wildlife Veterinary Assistance volunteer project in South Africa, and get hands-on, incomparable experience in all facets of wildlife capture and wildlife veterinary procedures, situated on the beautiful Garden Route in South Africa.

Garden Route, South Africa

Specific Start Dates

Impact: Animal Care

OPENING JAN 2023

EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT

€1195 – €3845
As a volunteer on our Early Childhood Development project, you will work in Cape Town’s underprivileged townships, educating and caring for vulnerable children in foster care homes and pre-schools.

Cape Town, South Africa

Every Second Monday

Impact: Childcare

OPENING JAN 2023

SPORTS COACHING AND DEVELOPMENT

€1195 – €3845
Provide much-needed sports coaching to children in Cape Town’s townships. Physical education brings many health benefits and helps kids develop important teamwork and communication skills, but sports opportunities are limited so requires a lot of creativity and enthusiasm. As a volunteer, you’ll help teach physical education sessions and coach children in various sports. 

Cape Town, South Africa

Every Second Monday

Impact: Sports Development

FACILITATED WILDLIFE RESEARCH INTERNSHIP

€4345 – €5745
Join our research team in the Greater Kruger Area, in South Africa, and gain professional experience in a conservation-driven research initiative and wildlife internship. This unique personal development opportunity will allow you to design-your-own field research placement around an African species of your choosing. 

Greater Kruger Area, South Africa

Every second Sunday

Impact: Wildlife Conservation

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY INTERNSHIP

€4445 – €5845
Join us in the Greater Kruger Area in South Africa, and be guided by a professional wildlife photographer and other budding photographers on this internship to gain practical experience in wildlife and other genre-specific photography.

Greater Kruger Area, South Africa

Specific Start Dates

Impact: Wildlife Photography

OPENING TBC

CHILDCARE AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT

$1445 – $4415
A life-changing volunteer experience in St Lucia, South Africa awaits you, as you help educate children in underprivileged rural villagesYou will play a vital role in making a difference in the community while experiencing the rich culture of the friendly Zulu people.

St Lucia, South Africa

Every Second Monday

Impact: Childcare

OPENING TBC

RURAL HEALTHCARE AND HIV/AIDS AWARENESS

$1445 – $4415
Join our volunteer project in South Africa and provide rural healthcare and HIV/AIDS awareness to local communities in South Africa. Contribute to a better quality of life with healthcare assistance to those who do not have the means or medical resources.

St Lucia, South Africa

Every Second Monday

Impact: Healthcare

MAX 18 PLACES

INTO THE WILD GAP YEAR PROGRAM

€7700
Our Into the Wild Gap Year program in the Greater Kruger Area in Africa is an experience like no other. The Greater Kruger Area provides the perfect environment for you to explore your purpose in life whilst broadening your horizons through cultural and impactful experiences.

Greater Kruger Area, South Africa

3 September 2022

Impact: Wildlife Conservation

WILDLIFE REHABILITATION: RESCUE AND RELEASE

€1795 – €4795
Join our passionate team at a wildlife rehabilitation, rescue and release centre in the Greater Kruger Area of South Africa. Here you will help care for rescued, injured, and lost wildlife and rehabilitate these animals, with the goal of releasing them back where they belong.

Greater Kruger Area, South Africa

Every Second Sunday

Impact: Animal Care

NEW

Conservation and Community Gap Year Program

€7700
Our Conservation and Community Gap Year program in South Africa is an experience like no other. The perfect environment for you to learn new skills, go on an adventure and explore your purpose in life whilst broadening your horizons through cultural and impactful experiences.

South Africa

5 February 2023

Impact: Combination Project

Customer Reviews of our internship and volunteer projects in South Africa

“I always knew I would love the wildlife but what I didn’t realise was how much I would fall in love with the whole ethos of African impact. On my last day there I wrote this; I think it tells you a lot about my experience. So many years spent hiding from my heart, knowing how I feel but not knowing where to start. When I landed here 2 weeks ago, I didn’t know what I’d find, what I found was incredible people, a new family by my side. I stand before you a changed soul. Under African Impact’s sky’s the former me went cold. All my life I searched for my place in the sun, A place where I belong, I feel that search is done. Shared loves and shared experiences have opened my eyes to life, in all my many years I have never felt so alive. Now released back into the world, to go our separate ways, but please accept my heartfelt thanks, these have been the best of days!”

Christopher Tubbs Collings, UK

African Big 5 and Wildlife Conservation

“I spent a month volunteering at the centre and I could have easily stayed for a couple more. Emma, Katherine and the rest of the workers there were so nice and friendly. I hadn't travelled alone before but they really made it feel like home. The range of different animals that they had there was amazing and i got hands on experience that you wouldn't find anywhere else, for example taking Mars the Aardvark on his evening walks, darting and transporting animals and camping at the release sight. I would definitely recommend this to anyone and I am hoping to go back one day.”

Max Coult

Wildlife Rehabilitation Rescue and Release

“This was such an amazing opportunity. Not only was I able to travel across the world and experience a new country, but I made great friends, went to so many new places, and made an impact on the community all at the same time. Apart from the life-changing involvement in being able to help educate the children in their schools, the staff really make this group what it is. They are so warm, welcoming, and enthusiastic, there is no doubt you’ll fit right in and feel at home as soon as you step in the door. The African Impact experience is one that you MUST have.”

Kristin Kuhn, USA

Early Childhood Development

“The ultimate experience to combine tourism with doing something meaningful, whilst learning immeasurably beneficial life skills and enjoying the exchanging of cultures and traditions not only between South Africa and your home culture but with every other culture you mix with during your time at African Impact.”

Christopher Duddy, Ireland

Sports Coaching and Development, South Africa

Related Blog posts
kruger-wildlife-photography-volunteer-project

Unexpected Enthusiasm – Wildlife Photography & Conservation

Unexpected Enthusiasm From a Wildlife Photographer Volunteer! Our Wildlife Photography & Conservation Project in the Greater Kruger Area provides the unique opportunity to witness the iconic African Big 5, while developing valuable skills in capturing their beauty through the lens. However, it’s not just the Big 5 that provide exceptional photographic opportunities; as volunteer, Fredy experienced while on project! The Dream Destination […]

Read More
volunteer feeding hippos

How Umoya Khulula Wildlife Centre Became a Reality

Our Wildlife Rehabilitation: Rescue and Release volunteer project is situated at Umoya Khulula Wildlife Centre in a small town called Tzaneen, in South Africa. Co-owner, Emma, tells us how the centre came about. My name is Emma De Jager and I am one of the co-owners of Umoya Khulula Wildlife Centre. I was born and […]

Read More