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Academic Disciplines Biological and Environmental Sciences
Education

South Africa Wildlife Service Learning Program

Discover Wildlife Conservation while learning essential research techniques


Program Information

Join our service learning program in Limpopo, South Africa and gain insight into both wildlife research techniques and conservation activities. Live at a remote research base within the game reserve turning the natural environment into a rich landscape of educational opportunity.

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals

Overview

The Limpopo Province in South Africa is home to unique wildlife, landscapes, and a spectacular variety of animals. GVI programs are located about 6 hours north of Johannesburg, near the tiny town of Hoedspruit, which is close to the world-famous Kruger National Park and home to South Africa’s Big 5 wildlife. The program will focus on gaining a better understanding of the local ecosystem in Limpopo and preserving its biodiversity. Other elements that may be examined are water security, climate energy, and access to clean energy.



These projects range in content suitable for students studying academic disciplines such as:

- Education
- Biological & Environmental Sciences

Example project activities include:

- Learning wildlife monitoring techniques and species identification
- Investigating invasive species management and participating in their removal
- Environmental awareness/education workshops.

Program Details

Location: Africa - South Africa - Limpopo

Enquiry Form

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Enquiry Details

   

Curriculum

This inter-disciplinary program introduces students to international service-learning and sustainable development in content and practice. Through lectures, discussion, research, service, and reflection (beginning two weeks prior to their departure and continuing two weeks after their return home), students in this program engage in meaningful, context-driven service-learning at home and abroad. Emphasis will be placed on relating long-term project goals with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and engaging in daily reflection surrounding the experience, which will be led by qualified group facilitators who are trained to enhance individual student development. The program curriculum will be tailored to your students’ academic needs as well as any faculty requirements.

A GVI service-learning program provides students with the opportunity to live and work within the “classroom” of their chosen field of study, and to develop professional capacities associated with intercultural competency, global citizenship, teamwork, problem-solving, and leadership. By participating in this program, students will be prepared to contribute to solutions for critical global issues related to sustainable development within a local community, and alongside an international team.

The Project

The objectives for each GVI project are based on specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In Limpopo, students will largely contribute to pre-established environmental monitoring and research initiatives by collecting and reporting critical data. Emphasis will also be placed on increasing awareness surrounding pertinent conservation issues and knowledge of the local environment.

Limpopo's short, mid, and long-term objectives

All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualize their contribution to the UN SDGs.Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.


Learn about the long-term objectives you will be contributing to in Limpopo:


1) To provide long term and consistant data for Karongwe Reserve Management to assist with Reserve Management decisions based on scientific data

2) Increase local awareness of GVI's purpose and impact on Karongwe PGR

3) Increase scientific output

4) Contribute to three large scale reserve management projects alongside the Warden in accordance with the Reserve's Management Plan

5) Increase our in-country capacity by providing environmental and conservation education and training

6) Increase our in-country capacity through community upliftment projects

Itinerary

Example Itinerary:

This program varies in duration, depending on project requirements as well as cultural expeditions or activities. The below outlines a one week in-country program; however, your in-country service can run for as many weeks as set by your academic curriculum, objectives, and requirements.

Pre-Departure

Two weeks prior to departure, students will be assigned readings and assignments. These assignments make sure they have a basic cultural understanding of Limpopo and it’s local conservation-based issues; a foundational understanding of international service learning and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; and begin a dialogue surrounding global engagement. Materials will be chosen based on collaboration with the group’s educational leader to ensure the work fits within the group’s in-class curriculum.

In-Country:

Day 1- Arrival at Johannesburg Airport and Transfer to Base

The group arrive at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, where they will be met by GVI staff or representative. Transfer to the reserve takes 6 hours and is a great opportunity to absorb the surrounding landscape as the group travels north into the Limpopo Province. The rest of the day is spent exploring the accommodation and getting settled in and prepared for the time ahead. A welcome dinner, South African style, will act as an icebreaker and the chance to get to know the GVI staff.

Day 2- Welcome and Orientation

The day will kick off early with a welcome presentation and camp tour. Students will be introduced to the project and it’s background, and will be taken on a reserve orientation walk. Risk Assessments, Emergency Action Plans, as well as Health and Safety issues will be discussed in detail. In the evening a reflection period will take place in which participants will debrief and review their initial reactions and observations on the experience and location.

Day 3-5- Daily Structure: Service, Education, and Reflection

The exact project will be based on the requirements of our local partners at the time. The group can expect to be involved in a variety of environmental awareness activities, discussions and lectures. This may include learning about animal identification and behavior, as well as how to track animals and navigate in the bush, key survival techniques, and basic astronomy. Most importantly, students will learn about how the ecosystems in Limpopo work and will discuss subjects like geology, local history, soils, plant life and the climate.

GVI’s nearby research base is involved in the collection of data on large predators such as lions, leopards and cheetah. The information gathered is used to give an accurate picture of the predators’ impact on prey populations, determining social structure, genetics, and spatial movement. This vital information helps maintain a healthy balance of these natural resources and ultimately conserve some of Africa’s important ecosystems. Students will be exposed to various methods of data collection and monitoring during their time in the Limpopo.

All service elements will be connected to a greater understanding of the cultural context in which the students are working. Assignments, in the form of lectures, readings, written response papers, journal entries, group presentations, and miscellaneous creative projects will be conducted daily to enhance student learning from their service involvement. Daily reflection sessions will act as the bridge that connects and helps to synthesize the many aspects of the experience.

Particular emphasis will be placed on the ways in which participants are working towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Students will critically examine their part in this process, by analyzing their contributions, challenges, and observations.

Day 6- Community Service Day

We will pay a visit to the local school, one of our local partners, and offer environmentally-focused lessons. Students will have a chance to interact with the local children and teachers to experience first-hand what a rural South African school looks like. The day usually ends in a soccer game!

Day 7- A Fond Farewell

GVI field staff transfer the team back to the airport and bid them a fond farewell! GVI will endeavor to keep the group informed of any updates there might be in the field, with particular reference to the projects participants contributed to during their time in South Africa.

Post-Return

Students will continue to engage with active reflection and educational expansion two weeks after leaving Cape Town, with emphasis placed on incorporating the international experience, and insights gained which are then applied to the students’ home context. Assignments will involve generating ideas to continue global engagement, connecting the experience to personal and career goals, and reflecting on the insights gained while in the field.

What's It like?

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.

We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.

Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.

Flights

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As GVI is providing this portal as a service we are not responsible for the accuracy of this site.

We are also not responsible for any loss, damage (including loss of profits or consequential damages), injury, illness, harm or death in relation to your flight and travel arrangements.

Live Updates

Follow GVI Limpopo's Facebook page for live updates straight from the field. Get an idea of the types of projects you might be involved in, meet our staff and participants, experience life on this GVI base, hear about free time activities, and learn about the local culture and environment.
 
GVISouthAfricaLimpopo

Meet the team - Senior Field Management

Leah Brown

Program Manager

Meet Leah! Leah is the Program Manager at GVI’s Limpopo base, South Africa. She has been with GVI for three and a half years now. In the past she has studied Animal Technology.

Meet the team - In-Country Staff

Charmaine

Community Officer

Introducing you to Charmaine. Charmaine is one of the Community Officers who works at GVI’s Limpopo base, near the Kruger National Park in South Africa.


Charmaine was originally part of GVI’s National Scholarship Program back in 2016. She enjoys working in the village, in which she was born!

Kayla

Science Officer

Introducing Kayla, who is the is Science Officer at our base in Limpopo. Kayla studied Biodiversity and Ecology at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. She continued her studies completing a Masters in conservation where she got the chance to to work with African Parks in Malawi, which was a dream come true.

Leighton

Assistant Program Manager

Meet Leighton, who is originally from South Africa. He is our Assistant Program Manager and Internship Coordinator over in Limpopo. Leighton has plenty of qualifications under his belt and loves the beautiful landscape that South Africa has to offer.

Zoe

Volunteer Coordinator

Pleased to introduce you to Zoe, who is the Volunteer Coordinator at our base in Limpopo. Her journey started out with a six month internship with GVI back in 2016. Prior to this Zoe studied zoology in Australia for three years before coming over to Limpopo, South Africa.

Your Impact

All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.


Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.


Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.


Many of Africa’s wildlife species are under threat. Private reserves, like Karongwe, where we run our conservation project, are a haven for species at risk. Karongwe is located within the UNESCO protected Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Reserve. This biosphere represents only 1.4% of South Africa’s land, but contains 55% of the total natural life found here.


Karongwe Nature and Wildlife Reserve

Karongwe Nature and Wildlife Reserve was once made up of individual farms. In 1998 the landowners banded together to create a 8,000 hectare wildlife reserve. GVI was brought onto Karongwe in 2001 to monitor the large predators and herbivores on the reserve. This helps reserve management to understand the impact of predators on prey and maintain a healthy ecosystem by ensuring a balance of natural resources. Predators are often tracked using telemetry, or monitored using camera trapping, to learn how they use the space within the park, what their feeding behaviour is like, how they interact with one another and other predators. Herbivores might be counted, their numbers, age, and sex listed, and their impact on vegetation noted. This data is presented to Karongwe management and landowners on a weekly, quarterly and annual basis.  We also assist with anti-poaching efforts by compiling ID kits of any rhinos we come across and maintaining the park’s fences and roads. We also assist with removing old farm infrastructure and invasive alien plant species as well as working on soil rehabilitation to help with habitat recovery.


Cheetah Research and Conservation

Our cheetah research is conducted in conjunction with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, a conservation organisation who currently manage SA’s cheetah metapopulation. Cheetahs are a species listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List Of Threatened Species. They are a rather fragile species as they naturally have a low genetic diversity and are not able to compete well with other larger, stronger predators like lions and hyenas. Our study mainly focuses on how cheetahs make use of their kill by setting up camera traps near their fresh kill to see how much time the cheetahs spend on their kill and what potentially encourages them to leave. This helps to know how they are dealing with competition with other predators. We also collect data on breeding success.


Elephant Vegetation Impact Mitigation

In partnerships with Elephants Alive, who have been actively involved in elephant conservation for the past 20 years, we also conduct surveys of the impact elephants have on the local vegetation. Due to their habit of pulling up trees to eat the top leaves and roots, a large population of elephants can have a negative impact on a small environment, especially at risk species like the baobab tree. This might involved monitoring sensitive areas of the reserve and the movements of elephant groups, developing elephant identification kits, and analysing the effectivity of elephant vegetation destruction methods.


Bird Research and Conservation

We also contribute to the South African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2), the most important bird monitoring project in Southern Africa, and its largest citizen science database. Birds are appropriate indicators of ecosystem health because they are popular and well studied. The availability of significant, long-term datasets in South Africa makes birds a good choice for early-warning system for climate change impacts and other systematic, ecosystem-wide threats to broader biodiversity. The number of critically endangered birds in South Africa has increased from 5 in 2000 to 13 in 2017. One group in particular features particularly dramatic statistics, 22 of the 79 raptors occurring in the North-Eastern region of the country are now considered threatened. Of concern are the low numbers of scavenging raptors. Most of South Africa’s vulture species, as well as the Tawny Eagle and the Bateleur, two obligate scavengers, are listed as endangered or critically endangered. In December 2016, SABAP2 featured nine million records across 17339 pentads, five minutes of latitude by five minutes of longitude, squares with sides of roughly 9 km, in South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Selection of sites and habitats critical to bird conservation rely on this data. All other conservation initiatives depend on the results of the bird atlas, to a greater or lesser extent. On cannot determine the conservation status of a species unless you know its range and how this is changing.


Environmental Education

We also conduct environmental education programs at several schools in the area.


As the requirements of our partners change over time so do the details of our projects. We make ourselves available for conservation-focused mini-projects. This might include documenting bird of prey nesting sites or the creating a list of micro fauna species in the park. In the past we have partnered with a range of conservation organisations like Panthera and academic institutions like the University of Cape Town, Pretoria University, and Bournemouth University. Exact project details are also always subject to change due to weather conditions, time of year and animal movements.


As such, the specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goal we work on in Limpopo is #15, Life On Land.


Our Partners In Limpopo

Project Objectives

 


GVI Karongwe’s Long-term Objectives:


1. To provide long-term and consistent data for Karongwe Reserve Management to assist with Reserve Management decisions based on scientific data.


2. Increase local awareness of GVI’s purpose and impact on Karongwe PGR.


3. Increase scientific output.


4. Contribute to three large scale reserve management projects alongside the Warden in accordance with the Reserve’s Management Plan.


5. Increase our in-country capacity by providing environmental and conservation education and training and through community upliftment projects.


Cultural Immersion

Engaging intimately with a new context teaches not only global awareness but adaptability and critical thinking, skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and is also one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many activities you can get involved with in your free time, or before and after your program. On our community programs the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore diverse and eclectic topics like Theravada Buddhism in Laos or how plastic pollution and climate change affects Indian Ocean coral.


Karongwe Private Nature and Wildlife Reserve

Boasting more than 20 thousand acres of open savannah, Karongwe features some of the best wildlife viewing of any private South African wildlife reserve. It features the entire big five, including the elusive leopard.


Limpopo

The Northernmost region of South Africa, the Limpopo province features some of the best opportunities for wildlife in Southern Africa. It is sparsely populated and borders Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.


South Africa

Possessing one of the highest biodiversities in the world and the home to many of the most threatened African wildlife, South Africa is a nature, wildlife, and adventure lover’s paradise, featuring species like lions, cheetah, rhinos, and many other  unique species.


Our Ethics

Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.


 


We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.


 

Our 10 Ethical Commitments

 

Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.


 

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.


 

Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.


 

Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.


 

Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.


 

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that ever participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.


 

Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.


 

Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.


 

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.


 

Child and Vulnerable adult policies

We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.


Continual Development

As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.


However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.


Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.

We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.

Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’

Parent Info Pack

Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:

Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.

Support & Safety

We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.


Support

Once a participant books, our support team will oversee their pre-departure journey. This helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. We will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.


Safety

Once a participant books, our support team will oversee their pre-departure journey. This helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. We will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.


Health & Safety Case Studies

19 Nov

HOW GVI UPHOLDS HEALTH AND SAFETY

It takes courage to book a GVI program, get on a flight, and head off to somewhere new. Volunteering offers a level of cultural immersion that typical backpacking or holidays just can’t achieve. This is why thousands of people around the world participate in paid GVI programs.


1 Nov

GVI’S COMMITMENT TO SAFETY AND SECURITY

As the saying goes: ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst’. Cliched or not, we take it to heart. This tenet is at the core of how GVI operates when it comes to promoting the health and safety of our participants, staff, and local community members at all of our 20+ bases around the world.


6 Nov

HOW GVI REMAINS PREPARED FOR NATURAL DISASTERS

The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes a nasty turn, we are prepared to respond to stormy situations.


5 Nov

HOW GVI MANAGES PARTICIPANTS EXPECTATIONS

Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations around a program are created, the GVI team takes immediate action to ensure that the situation rectified.


What's Included

  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • A dedicated course co-ordinator
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • Flight bookings service on request
  • In-country transport costs
  • Insurance on request
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Welcome meeting

What's Not Included

  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal items and toiletries
  • Police or background check
  • Visa costs (where necessary)