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Volunteer in South Africa

Volunteer in South Africa and experience all the different colors of the 'Rainbow Nation'...

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How to volunteer in South Africa

Are you thinking about doing something meaningful on your next holiday? Why not volunteer abroad in South Africa, a country with a great diversity of landscapes, astonishing wildlife, and even a bustling city life in places like Cape Town and Johannesburg. Volunteers can support community projects in South Africa, work with African wildlife or join one of the many NGOs. South Africa is an international volunteering experience that you won’t regret.

This guide will give you an overview of the volunteer opportunities in South Africa. Once you’ve found the right project and start planning your stay, make sure to plan in some extra time to explore South Africa's breathtaking landscapes and its rich culture.

South Africa is called the “Rainbow Nation” for a reason. South Africa is a mix of cultures and celebrates all of them. From small villages to big cities such as Cape Town or Johannesburg, there are many places to volunteer in South Africa and plenty of South Africa volunteer programs that need your support. Here are a couple of interesting facts about South Africa:

  • South Africa has over 11 official languages besides the countless unofficial ones.
  • The South African wine industry is the oldest outside of Europe. It’s the perfect climate for vineyards.
  • South Africa was the first African country to recognize same-sex marriage This makes it the 5th country in the world!
  • Table Mountain is old. How old? 260 million years old and has over 900 hiking routes.
  • Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, both prominent figures in ending the Apartheid and winners of Nobel prizes lived on the same street in Soweto.

🇿🇦 Why Volunteer in South Africa?

South Africa is one of the most developed countries on the African continent. Like most places, it still faces its own challenges on many fronts. There are several poor communities that require all the support they can get. South Africa’s animals and biodiverse environment also rely on external conservation efforts to protect it.

What makes this African country particularly interesting for volunteers is the variety of volunteering projects abroad:

  • helping projects with wildlife conservation
  • protecting the nature and environment
  • getting involved in marine conservation projects
  • teaching disadvantaged children
  • working for a healthcare project

Let’s take a look at the different volunteering opportunities in South Africa!

👩🏽‍🏫 How to Teach English in South Africa?

Quality education is the key to the positive development of a community. Volunteering in a South African school can be a great way for you to help children get a good start in life and break out of the vicious cycle. Although South Africa’s rate of investment in education is one of the highest in the world, its education system and youth still face many challenges.

Wealth is not divided equally between the different segments of the population. This is especially noticeable in larger cities like Cape Town. There aren’t enough schools or qualified teaching staff to do a good job which leads to the ongoing high illiteracy rates in South Africa.

Volunteers who want to teach in South Africa can join a school and teach the subjects they’re most passionate about. This can range from language lessons to mathematics, IT skills, and even sports. All types of creative after-school activities are appreciated because they are so helpful for children’s development.

Physical education is another crucial part of children's development and where you can help in volunteer organizations in South Africa. Sports projects are a great way to work with at-risk youth from disadvantaged areas and give them a meaningful past-time. It’s also a safe environment to teach them about fairness and discipline. Some of the country's favorite sports you can teach are:

  • soccer
  • basketball
  • surfing
  • swimming

👧🏽 How to Volunteer with Children in South Africa?

You can support one of the many community projects by becoming a child care volunteer in South Africa. Help take care of young children while their parents work. Engage them in activities and give them the attention they lack but desperately need.

Volunteers who want to work with children are required to stay for a minimum of 4 weeks to guarantee a stable environment for the children. We also strongly suggest you have relevant work experience with children.

🦁 How Can I Help as an African Wildlife Volunteer?

South Africa is the perfect destination if you want to volunteer with African wildlife in their natural habitat. The country has the third-highest level of biodiversity worldwide. It is shrinking, however, at an alarming rate because of habitat loss and illegal hunting.

Volunteering for an African wildlife conservation project in South Africa allows you to see the Big Five (if you’re lucky) and many other amazing animals. This is also your chance to spread awareness about the importance of protecting them. The tasks you will do as a volunteer in South Africa with wildlife depends on the project you join and can range from:

  • monitoring and documenting free roaming animals
  • collecting data on the different species
  • animal tracking
  • setting up camera traps
  • analyzing the collected data
  • working at a wildlife sanctuary
  • caring for injured or orphaned animals that have been rescued
  • cleaning and maintaining the enclosures and facilities
  • agricultural tasks

While it is important for wildlife volunteer organizations in South Africa to practice a strict "hands-off" policy with the wild animals, orphaned animals and those that can’t be released will require close contact and attention. Some animals you may work with during your South Africa volunteer experience, either in the wild or at a sanctuary are:

If you’re interested in becoming an animal volunteer in South Africa, you’ve come to the right place!

🐳 What will I do as a Marine Life Volunteer in South Africa?

Not only the animals on land need help from volunteers. Those living underwater also need your help.

As a marine conservation volunteer in South Africa, you can get the best of both worlds. Live in Cape Town or Port Elizabeth and volunteer at sea while you get hands-on experience assisting research and conservation efforts. Support the continued development of marine conservation efforts by spreading awareness among locals and tourists. South Africa has an abundance of marine life, including species such as:

Environmental Conservation

If you’re interested in doing environmental volunteer work in South Africa, you will learn a lot about South Africa's unique environment. By volunteering, you will have a huge impact through your work in nature but you can also make an impact by educating people in the community about the importance of environmental conservation and how they can help.

One of the greatest environmental issues in South Africa is deforestation. This is caused by the expansion of plantations, mining, and changes in infrastructure. This is why raising awareness among locals whilst reversing the destruction of indigenous forests and woodland is so important.

Volunteer opportunities in South Africa will require a lot of physically hard work but will also be incredibly rewarding. Are you ready to support one of the environmental conservation programs?

👩🏽‍⚕ What will I do on a Medical Mission Trip in South Africa?

Joining medical mission trips or one of the healthcare volunteer projects in South Africa is a great way to do something meaningful while gaining practical work experience.

This is a unique opportunity to gain healthcare experience in a completely new work environment. Depending on your knowledge and qualification, your medical volunteer work in South Africa can include the following:

  • working closely with patients and
  • educating locals and patients on the importance of hygiene and vaccinations
  • assisting local health care providers
  • shadowing doctors.

Your work as a volunteer for healthcare projects is highly valued because the country's healthcare system faces many challenges. This is your chance to use your skills to have a positive impact on healthcare development in South Africa and experience the challenges and rewards of a job in the medical field.

🌍 Where to Volunteer in South Africa?

Volunteers who enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city will find volunteer opportunities in exciting South African cities like Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Johannesburg.

Don’t worry if you prefer a less busy setting. There are several environmental or wildlife conservation volunteer programs located all over South Africa close to national parks.

Get ready to discover one of the world’s greatest tourist hotspots and contribute to a meaningful cause!

🤑 How Much Does it Cost to Volunteer in South Africa?

The suggested daily budget for living as a volunteer in South Africa is between US$ 28 and US$ 50. This is an estimate made considering the average price of some of the services or things you may need. It gives you a general overview of how much things cost in this country, so you can be prepared and put aside the money you will need.

Additional costs you should consider will be:

An overview of living costs in South Africa (in US$, for one person) is:

💲 Can I Volunteer in South Africa for Free?

There are a few volunteer programs in South Africa that are free. Volunteer in South Africa for free and work with children or African wildlife. In these cases, you can even count on accommodation to be included during your stay.

You can also use the filter option on our platform to select volunteer projects within your budget. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our live chat team if you are having any difficulties. We are always happy to help you find the right volunteer opportunity for you.

💡 Good to Know Before Volunteering in South Africa

Before starting one of the volunteer programs in South Africa, it's important to think about the cultural norms and precautions you'll need to adjust to. The following list will help you with that:

🦺 Is it Safe to Volunteer in South Africa?

There are some things you need to know to travel safely. Some cities are more dangerous than others. Although Cape Town is considered relatively safe, there are always areas that should be avoided. Do your research beforehand so you’re aware.

Using your common-sense and intuition is always good to keep you safe but here are some useful tips for your adventure abroad:

  • Avoid deserted areas at night.
  • Don't wear expensive jewelry and don't carry a lot of money on you. Leave valuables at your accommodation.
  • Don't leave your bags or camera on the passenger car seat while driving.
  • When paying by credit card, ask for the machine instead of handing the credit card to the waiter.
  • Smoking in public areas is prohibited. This doesn't only apply to restaurants and shops, but also to places like sidewalks and parking areas.

Culture & Religion

The majority of people in South Africa are Christian (around 80 %), 1.5 % believe in Islam, 1.2 % in Hinduism, 0.3 % in African traditional belief and 0.2 % in Judaism. You'll find many places of worship for all of the different religions. You should act respectfully and appropriately in these places.

Health Advice

To make sure that you have a pleasant stay while volunteering in South Africa, there are some tips for health and disease prevention that you might find helpful while traveling abroad. Make sure to have valid standard vaccinations against:

  • MMR
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis
  • Chickenpox
  • Polio

The US based health protection agency CDC also recommends getting further vaccinations to prevent diseases from contaminated water and food. If you are volunteering in South Africa with animals and spending a lot of time outdoors, you will also need additional preventive vaccinations and medication:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Typhoid
  • Rabies
  • Malaria Medicine

Packing Essentials for Volunteering in South Africa

Your luggage will depend on where you’re staying in South Africa and what kind of voluntary work you will be doing. There are some essentials we recommend to everyone:

  • Light and comfortable clothes for hot summer days
  • Long-sleeved clothing for sun and mosquito protection
  • A hat and sunscreen (even in winter)
  • Because of the summer rain, it's wise to pack an umbrella and raincoat too
  • Comfortable walking shoes (especially if you want to hike in spring and autumn)

This is a blogpost on the ultimate packing list that may be useful for your trip.

🕵🏽‍♀ Who Can Volunteer in South Africa?

You may notice that there are many different volunteer programs in South Africa. They each require different skills and abilities. While you can find the specific requirements for each project on their program page, here are some general requirements that apply to most volunteer projects in South Africa:

  • You need to be at least 18 years old for most volunteer projects. When in doubt, we advise you to get in touch with the local project manager. Some projects accept volunteers from the age of 16.
  • You need to have basic English language skills to join a volunteer project in South Africa. Please note that some teaching projects may require more advanced skills.
  • Depending on the project you're interested in, you may need to provide a criminal background check and a health declaration before volunteering in South Africa.

❓ How to Volunteer in South Africa?

Take a look at the following 3 steps that will prepare you for your volunteer work in South Africa and an unforgettable adventure abroad:

  • Check whether there’s a match between you and the South African volunteer opportunity by looking at their requirements.
  • Take a look at the location of the project and decide whether it’s a place you’re excited about traveling to.
  • Get in touch with the organization and see whether your expectations and schedules match up. If you want to volunteer in South Africa for a week or for a longer period of time, check the project descriptions for more details.

🛂 Do I need a Visa to Volunteer in South Africa?

Please keep in mind that the following information is based on a best practice approach. It has been made to the best of our knowledge and in cooperation with several volunteer projects in South Africa.

You should discuss your visa requirements with your project coordinator via Volunteer World. They are happy to help you with that. If in doubt, we also recommend getting in touch with the South African embassy or consulate in your country.

There are some general requirements you need to take into account prior to traveling:

  • Check the current validity of your passport. The passport should be valid for at least 3 months after your expected return date. We recommend traveling with a minimum of 6 months validity on your passport at all times.
  • Make sure your passport has at least two blank visa pages. South Africa requires that you have an adequate number of unused pages in your passport, allowing for any necessary stamps upon arrival and departure.
  • Make sure you have a valid return ticket.

Best Practice for Short-Term Volunteers

If you are a resident in Australia, Switzerland, the USA or EU (including the UK), you can volunteer in South Africa on a holiday visa for up to 90 days. This holiday visa can be obtained at the airport upon arrival. Once in South Africa on a holiday visa, you can apply for a three-month extension for an additional fee to extend your stay up to six months.

Best practice for Long-Term Volunteers

If you are planning to volunteer in South Africa for more than 90 days, you should apply for a volunteer visa, which is a temporary residence visa.

It takes a bit more effort and documentation but lasts up to three years! To make this step as easy as possible, you can find the application form via the link. Make sure to submit the completed application form to the South African Embassy or Consulate in your home country. They will provide you with further information and give you a checklist of documents to be submitted. Please remember that the application process can take more than a month so we would advise you to start far in advance.

If you’re thinking of volunteering abroad, South Africa is a wonderful volunteer destination with options for all types of volunteers. Whether you’re teaching, volunteering with African wildlife, or contributing to childcare initiatives, your work makes a difference.

International volunteering overseas is a great way to gain practical work experience abroad while giving back to the community. Let us help you find the volunteer projects abroad that are right for you. Whether you’re volunteering in Cape Town, Johannesburg, or Port Elizabeth, we have inspiring volunteer abroad programs waiting for your support.