The year was 2004 and a handful of well-traveled people sat around a table in the heart of the Zimbabwean wilderness. With backgrounds in tourism, development and conservation, they knew they wanted to do something great. They wanted to use their passion and skills to start a travel company that made a difference. They wanted to introduce people to the Africa they knew.
When we opened our doors to our first batch of international volunteers, we were a small, family-run organization with big dreams. It didn’t take long to see that there were a lot more people like us. People who wanted to travel while truly experiencing a country at its best, and worst. People who wanted to genuinely connect with the local people and to leave a place better than they found it. We grew and opened new volunteer projects in new countries across southern Africa.
As the industry grew we recognized that doing the right thing, being responsible, doing good, and still providing travel experiences was, at times, complicated. We grappled with what we were… a travel company? A tourism company? How was the volunteer experience related to the impact they made? The industry was evolving, and so were we.We are incredibly lucky to have an amazing team of people behind African Impact, most who started as volunteers and have been on this journey since the beginning. This is our strength and what has allowed us, over the years, to go beyond volunteering, to focus on what it does best; provide an exchange of ideas and mindsets. We’ve learned that if a community has total buy-in and ownership of a project – and a volunteer is truly informed about their own role and contribution to this – together it has the power to transform both. It’s a beautiful thing and we witness it every day on our projects.
Ultimately, our goal at African Impact is to combine genuine impacts with extraordinary experiences and with our wonderful team, bring that to life for you!
Favourite destination in Africa and why?
Best African travel memory?
Victoria Falls, Zambia. I was lucky enough to call it home in the early years of African Impact and every time I go back, not only do I get to see the falls and the incredible wildlife of the area, but I get to see 15 years of impact we have made - school buildings, clinics and meeting people who now are in work because of the volunteer projects we run.
When I was 18 I backpacked from Ethiopia to Cape Town. That trip not only allowed me to see some of the highlights of Africa; Serengeti, Gorillas, Zanzibar, Victoria Falls, Okavango Delta, Lake Kariba, to name a few, but it was the first time traveling on my own. I had to overcome Malaria, losing a passport and many vehicle breakdowns, but this trip was the catalyst to starting African Impact.
Kwa-Zulu Natal as it encapsulates all that Africa has to offer: stunning wildlife experiences in the bush, beaches and surf to play in, a mountain range that takes the breath away, so much history and of course just wonderful people from many different backgrounds. The fact this was our home for 3 years, where our son was born and the start of our life in Africa is a big factor too!
The morning that Michelle & I sat on a deck, looking out over the wild African bush, watching Elephants strolling through the low trees. We decided that, after travelling around the Southern Hemisphere for 9 months, Africa was where we should be. (Being the Beer Pong Champion in Livingstone also comes to mind!)
Internship and Volunteer Placement Manager
Mozambique – you will understand when you are there.
I cannot possibly pick one. Each trip or experience has its golden moments.
Kenya and Tanzania – I cannot narrow it down more! I spent 3 weeks doing the northern safari circuit of Tanzania before hopping a flight over to Kenya. The only way to describe it is MAGICAL! The warm and welcoming people, incredible landscapes, and magnificent wildlife – I loved every minute of it.
One that comes to mind is deciding at the last minute to visit Malawi – the warm heart of Africa! The only part of the trip that was planned was our first night in Lilongwe. We were recommended to visit Nkata Bay on Lake Malawi by friendly faces at the local bar and off we went. We stayed at a great spot on Lake Malawi for a few days before camping at the Nyika Plateau in the Northern part of the country. We then hitched a return ride on the back of a bakkie travelling along the scenic lakeshore road back to Lilongwe for our flight home. It was incredible!
Walvis Bay Dolphin Cruise and Bird-watching
Cape Town! It was my first time getting into a plane so it really sticks in the mind!
SA Country Director
Tanzania – The people are so friendly and kind. I love their sense of community and welcoming nature.
Backpacking through the Kenyan desert on foot for 2 weeks, with a camel carrying my backpack, coming across nomad villages, and experiencing their unbelievable generosity and hospitality.
Western Cape because it provides unique scenery and experiences across the province. It has Cape Town with two oceans, mountains, Robben Island, Stellenbosch vineyard and so much more!
Driving through the Garden Route to visit my family in the Eastern Cape! I have great memories with family members on the stops we make on our way and it also allows me to enjoy the village rural life in South Africa.
Nearly impossible to answer as I have so many.. but I think it has to be Zimbabwe. This is where I had my first volunteer experience with African Impact in 2015 – and after 2 amazing weeks I knew that I wanted to come back and never leave again!
Oh, again a tough one.. I think the first time I got to see the Zambezi River up close. I am a huge fan of wildlife documentaries (David Attenborough to be exact haha) – and so many of them take place along the Zambezi – so standing on the shores of it for the first time was a real "pinch me" moment.
Morocco, there was so much beauty from the kind-hearted people to the Sahara Desert, High Atlas Mountains and the vibrant cities of Essaouira, Fez and Marrakesh.
A weeklong road trip with my best friend all along the West Coast of South Africa.
There are many responsible tourism awards that we take great pride in being affiliated with. These awards not only affirm the high quality and responsible management of our projects but also give recognition to our project teams who work so hard to create a great volunteer experience on the ground.
TOP RATED VOLUNTEER ORGANIZATION
African Impact was voted the Top Volunteer Abroad Organization in the world by GoAbroad for five years in a row from 2016 to 2020. The coveted title is based solely on volunteer feedback that takes into consideration the overall impact and sustainability of our programs, our commitment to volunteer safety and coordination, community engagement, and the quality of the experience offered.
INNOVATION IN MARKETING & DIGITAL MEDIA
The Girl Impact, the brainchild of African Impact and the African Impact Foundation, was the proud recipient of GoAbroad’s Innovation in Marketing & Digital Media award for their “Imagine If….” campaign. It was an awareness and fundraising campaign that was launched during 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence in 2019 to challenge people’s thinking around what it is like to be a girl or woman in the world today. The campaign included a live music event with local female musicians and a fundraiser with one lucky person winning a free 2-week placement on one of the gender equality volunteer programs run by The Girl Impact and supported by African Impact and our Foundation.
INNOVATION IN SUSTAINABILITY
Our business and entrepreneurship training program in South Africa, Farmers of the Future, won GoAbroad’s Innovation in Sustainability award in 2020. Farmers of the Future provides sustainable community empowerment through environmentally conscious food security and income generation. The program is supported through our Social Development and Entrepreneurship Internship.