Highlights Experiencing a unique African bush training experience living in a 4/5 star African lodge for 6 months in the heart of a spectacular game reserve; learning to track animals through the bush; getting acquainted with big game and all the main predators, including lion, cheetah, leopard, elephant and rhino; living and working alongside FGASA qualified South African Guides getting constant learning and inspiration; having the chance to sleep out in the bush under the spectacular African stars and wake up to a beautiful sunrise.
Location The courses are run from two campuses in the Limpopo province, in the north-eastern region of South Africa. Both are located in areas famous for their big game and dramatic scenery of beautiful African bush, and have the mysterious Drakensberg Mountains as a stunning backdrop. Students spend 23 weeks having practical and academic training on campus, and then spend the final 23 weeks doing work experience at one of a number of lodges located in the Lowveld of South Africa.
Field Conditions The two campuses are located in the Lowveld, approx 500km northeast of Johannesburg. The areas that the course traverses for practical training are areas of true big game territories, to show you the African bush at its best. The reserves are home to predators such as lions, leopards and cheetahs, as well as beautiful elephants, rhinos and hippos.
Accommodation at either campus is comfortable, in an idyllic bush setting. The rooms are shared and students have access to all basic facilities, a social area and swimming pool and lecture facilities. All meals are provided during course times and there are laundry facilities available. Uniforms and linen are washed and ironed for you weekly. The campus also has electricity.
Project Life Typically the day will start early at around 5.30 - 6am. You will usually grab a cup of tea before heading out into the bush for a morning of practical training laden with reference books of the African bush and a pair of good binoculars. Each week you will be focusing on a different module such as birds, mammals, 4 X 4 skills etc.
On your practical sessions in the bush, either a walk or a drive, you will concentrate on these modules and put all the theory you have learnt in the classroom into practice in the field. For example, you might have collected some specimens that morning which you will bring back to the classroom for identification before the afternoon practical.
At the end of each week all the students are tested on that weeks module before moving onto the next one. However, learning of each topic is continuous as while you are out in the bush nature is all around you so you cannot help but increase your knowledge and skills as the weeks progress.
Bushwise follows the curriculum of FGASA and we use the manuals as a reference tool as you will be taught by experienced guides and instructors.
NOTE Volunteers must be at least 18 years to participate on six-month duration, between 21 and 39 years for 1 year course. Volunteers also must hold a manual drivers license valid for 1 year from the start of the course.
What's Included Pre-departure support and discounted services 24-hour emergency phone Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated) Arrival orientation Long term experienced staff Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared) All meals (unless otherwise stated in field manuals) Welcome meeting Location orientation All necessary project training by experienced staff All necessary project equipment and materials 24-hour in-country support Transfer from Oliver Tambo International airport Limited internet access at no extra cost All compulsory books 2 x sets of uniforms Other activities, such as sleep outs, Kruger trips, etc. Bushwise T-shirt, fleece jacket, cap and beanie FGASA (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa) national certificate - Level 1 - practical and theory FGASA Advanced Rifle Handling Certificate SASSETA (Rifle handling, proficiency, maintaining of fire arms and shooting) THETA (The Hospitality, Sports, Education and Training Authority) National Qualification (Level 2) in Nature Guiding National First Aid Certificate Dangerous game experience 4x4 competency Ethical guiding principles 6 months work experience and testimonial from a 4-5 star lodge or a research program if included
What's Not Included Flights Medical and travel insurance Visa costs Personal kit Additional drinks and gratuities Extra local excursions International and domestic airport taxes Professional drivers permit Transport costs to placement Laundry, food and transport during weeks off Recommended reference books
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I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Karangwe. The staff are great, very dedicated young people .I am beyond 80 years of age, so I may have been out of place with all those 20 somethings. There were 8 others there, 5 of whom were there for the 6 month internship, 2 were there for the 3 month internship, and 1 was there for 2 weeks. I don't think I was aware or understood what the program was all about. Nevertheless, I learned a lot and enjoyed my stay.
I was told that i may have been the first 2 week "tourist" there and that including short term tourists is an experiment. Unfortunately, i am not your typical tourist. Most of my trips are of the adventure type, such as my trip to Karangwe. I am used to and expect relatively primitive conditions, although I have experienced and enjoyed far more primitive conditions than there were at Karangwe. However, I feel most senior citizen tourists prefer much better accommodations than Karangwe has to offer.
Our first week the staff did all the domestic duties. The second week the 9 of us took turns doing the chores. One of the days is called base duty. We all had our day on base duty, which entailed total house cleaning and preparing lunch and dinner, amongst other duties. The person on base duty gives up their day in the bush chasing animals. I was thinking on my base duty day that I really did not pay to come to africa to scrub toilets and mop floors. nevertheless, that is what I did and I do not complain. h
However, in my feedback to them I pointed out that tourists do not go on vacation to do housework. I explained to him that my 14 days there were as follows: first and last day were travel days. The first full day there was orientation. One day was town day so we could all go to town to shop, do laundry, get money, etc. One day it rained so hard we could not go out into the bush, and of course there was base duty day. I wound up with only 8 days out of 14 helping chase down wildlife. I believe he understood.
If the plan is to mix tourism with internship then I think they have to go back to the drawing board. In general I would rate it 7.5 to 8 because of the lack of amenities for tourists, the requirement for tourists to do daily chores, the lack of air-conditioning, and the dormitory style living.
For myself i would rate it a 9. I can't give it a ten because i only had 8 days out of 14 in the field, and the lack of air-conditioning in the dorm made sleeping very difficult.
Would i do this kind of trip again? In all probability i would, but as i said, I am not your typical senior citizen tourist.
I found this through The Africa Guide website after filtering through many options and I'm supremely glad I did.
It was an experience like no other. It gave me the opportunity to experience a wonderful little village as only a local would and take part in volunteer work with a legitimate and extremely important long term goal.
Our interactions with the locals were so educational and inspiring and getting that chance to work out in the elements spotting wildlife and completing forest surveys was challenging and completely wonderful.
If you're the kind of person that can weather trivial things like cold showers, long walks and a bit of dirt in order to have an authentic African experience then this is perfect. I'm already looking into the next trip.
I had a very good experience on this volunteer project. The organisor is absolutely reliable, well organised, and their staff are very professional (field as well as head-offices).
Probably one of the best volunteer organisations out there.
Huon McGifford - from Australia
Pre-Departure: The trip notes provided were really helpful but there is one incredibly key thing that needs to be fixed up. In the notes girls are advised to cover their shoulders and chest while on their volunteer placements in Swaziland. Swaziland however, culturally does not accept women having their thighs out and this is so important to know before you get there because trust me, itís hot there in jeans, but you CANNOT wear shorts to your placement as a girl. Swaziís could not care less if you had a tube top on , as in itís fine to wear your chest and shoulders out, but your thighs are a definite no no. So girls need to know to pack light weight trousers or ĺ length pants. It is also important to have at least one skirt that goes past your knees or alternatively a sarong because it is needed for the tour you do of the local area on your first day. Boys are pretty much fine to wear whatever they want.
Arrival: On arrival All Out are so helpful and amazing, actually they are the whole time you are in Africa but they are a definite comfort when you first arrive. I think itís important to list on the trip notes that Lidwala Lodge is where you will be staying the whole time youíre in Swaziland, this way people arriving early will know thatís the best place to book, rather than just an option. Lidwala is amazing. There are washing facilities and good internet, happy people and a great cooking roster. This was all included on the trip notes, it was so helpful to know in advance too, well done and thanks!
The Trip: What to say? The children that I worked with at the Neighbourhood Care Points (NCPís) were crazy, beautiful, loving, lovely and intelligent. There is an unfortunate and instant barrier because of the language gap between the volunteers and the children but you quickly pick up the appropriate Siswati words to deal with the children and the demands they place on you. They are the most energetic little things youíll ever met and at the end of every day youíre definitely worn out. At my NCP there were usually 60-65 children aged between 2 and 16, with varying levels of education and some with disabilities both physical and mental. The NCPís are taxing physically and mentally but you leave happy, if exhausted, every day. And on days with nice weather there is always the Royal Swazi Spa to calm ones nerves.
Swaziland itself is a beautiful country with gorgeous mountains and scenery. At the lodge there are monkeys running all around and a national treasure, Shebaís Breast (a mountain), behind which you can climb in a couple of hours. There are 3 wildlife parks in Swaziland, one quite close to where the volunteers stay. However, Hlane, which is a giant trek by public transport away, is well worth the trip because you can do an amazing Rhino walk there and get up really close to wild animals. Itís well worth it! Another very cool thing volunteers can do is a quad biking tour which goes basically all day and includes target shooting and a brai (BBQ) at a different backpackers. The backpackers is a converted cow barn and itís amazing, the ex feeding trough is now a lap pool and the milking stations have been turned into a bar and bar stools.
The Kruger Safari happens in the first week that you arrive in Swaziland. It is amazing though, I must admit I would have rathered have had two weeks volunteering then have gone to Kruger. While youíre in Kruger you do begin wondering what your placement will be like and then once youíre there in Swaziland volunteering youíre kinda wishing you could go back to Kruger where you get looked after. But both Kruger and volunteering are good, donít get me wrong!
The Mozambique trip, to Tofo, is spectacular. Itís the best holiday you could ever wish for. Swimming with whale sharks is terrifying but amazing, itís one of the best experiences you could ever have, ever. We also experienced a sea kayaking adventure to a quite remote island, which was amazing and enlightening. We learnt about life on the island and met the chief and had freshly caught crabs for lunch! Yum!
Overall the whole trip was an amazing experience. Volunteering was probably the best part. It can feel quite hard and stressful while youíre there with the children, and a bit like youíve been dropped in the deep end, so to speak, but itís the thing you miss most when you get home. You form such an attachment to your students. I think the sponsorship program is amazing and incredibly valuable.
my time in the Seychelles.... what can i say, it was a fasinating experience.
Learning the coral (all 47 in latin), diving 5 days a week. white beaches; blue, blue water; lots of mega fauna; and the stars, so clear and bright.
The staff were wonderful, very patient and passionate about what they do. always willing to sit down and help or answer any questions you have.
The weather was hot, the water warm, the grass and trees green.
They have a sattelite camp on an island where giant tortoises live, after 5pm it is basically just you and a few others and the tortoises on this island, absolutly beautiful.
The diving in the Seychelles is one of the best i have dived. The vis is almost always 18-20 meters, with green and hawksbill turtles swimming past you. giant humphead parrot fish, the coral are bright and abundant.
Don't mistake me, you work hard also, you cook, clean, fill tanks, help where it is needed, but it is worth it. if you can do this trip, do it. 2 thumbs up.
What an amazing experience this has been! Each day here at the base is a gift, although the base is rustic and has no electricity or hot water. I found that didnít matter. The game drives are the primary focus of each day, some days are more fruitful than others but in time the rewards are huge with animal sightings. So far I have over 1600 photos to sort through when I get home.
A few of my favourite encounters include a visual of Zero, the male lion, with his zebra kill. Him and the kill were lying side by side facing opposite directions, the zebra head was still in tact so it looked as though they were napping together!
I went weeks seeing only hippo eyes and noses sticking out of the water and then one evening we spotted a hippo making her way into the water and grunting at another hippo to keep it away from the baby.
Also saw a herd of elephants playing together in a huge mud bath. So many memories, so little paper!
Community days are incredible! Itís very gratifying to spend time with the local school children. One day we taught them computer skills and although they donít speak English they learned their tasks and loved doing it. On our second community outing we had a number of activities for the children to participate in. Mine was a spoon and marble race. The kids were so excited and had a blast. One group, team name hippos, completely surrounded me giving me hugs from all sides, one girl even tickled me. I will cherish that memory for a lifetime.
I am so thankful I had the opportunity to participate in this wonderful adventure. They are a phenomenal organisation.