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Volunteering in South Africa: Arrival Procedure in Cape Town

Arrival Procedures
  • Arrival Airport: Cape Town (CPT) or Polokwane (PTG)

Male volunteer with his host family in their home in Cape Town, South Africa

On arrival in South Africa, one of the first things you’ll notice is the huge variety or races and nationalities – you won’t stick out, but you won’t blend in either – welcome to the Rainbow Nation! As you go through the usual immigration procedures and melee of people waiting with signs, you’ll see one of our members of staff holding a Projects Abroad sign.

For all projects in South Africa except for the Conservation project, volunteers are based in Cape Town and live with host families, generally in the Southern Suburbs. From the airport, you’ll be taken directly to your host family, who will introduce you to the family members and possibly also other volunteers living with you. The following working day, a Projects Abroad staff member will pick you up at your host family to be taken to our office in Cape Town to meet the staff, collect your welcome pack, and have a thorough country induction before starting your project the next day. For all Standard Projects all necessary work-related transportation costs will be covered by Projects Abroad. Depending on the project, we will also arrange transportation to and from placements.

Volunteering in South Africa: Orientation and Induction

Volunteers enjoy a fish and chips meal in Cape Town

After a well-earned rest, you’ll be collected the following morning to begin your full induction to South African culture, your work, and life in Cape Town. You’ll be taken around the city on public transportation, introduced to your placement supervisor, have lunch with one of our staff to get to know them better, and to ask any more questions you might have about the Projects Abroad experience.

As you can imagine from the Rainbow Nation, South African food is an eclectic mix of flavors and styles. From fresh ‘mielies’ to the classic Cape Malay curry dish “bobotie”, you’ll find plenty of variety here! South Africans love their food and if you choose to eat out, you’ll be blown away by the selection available – Indian, Portuguese, Mozambican, Western… you name it! And don’t forget to wash it down with some world-class wines from the local wine lands.

Though South Africa is a huge country, transport is excellent so it is easy to get around and travel during the weekends or after your placement. There are frequent trains in and out of Cape Town or you could choose one of the many budget airlines or even the famous “bazbus” popular with backpackers. Internet is readily available throughout the Cape and is the cheapest and easiest way of staying in touch with friends and family back home.

Conservation & Environment in South Africa

A group of Projects Abroad Conservation volunteers have a meal at their accommodation at Wild at Tuli in Botswana

If you're doing the Conservation project, your final destination will be Polokwane airport in the rural heartland of the Limpopo River basin. You should aim to arrive on a Monday wherever possible. Once off your plane, you'll be met by one of our staff members and take a stunning three hour drive in the back of a land cruiser to our base camp in Wild at Tuli. Wild at Tuli is located on the Botswana side of the Limpopo river border with South Africa. You'll settle in, meet the other volunteers, receive a full safety induction, and then relax by the fire listening to the sounds of the African bush. The next day you'll be up early to begin work before the heat of the day intensifies.

As you can imagine, by living inside a nature reserve you'll be isolated from the outside world. While on the reserve, your cell phone signal will be highly limited and no internet is available, an aspect that many volunteers relish! For safety reasons, you won't be able to leave the base camp without one of our fully qualified staff members. Once a week, a staff member (accompanied by one volunteer) will go into town to re-stock the fridge and get hold of anything you've been craving since the last trip. Then it's back to the camp for another home cooked meal with the other volunteers and Projects Abroad staff over the traditional open Braai (Pit BBQ).

All volunteers participating on standard projects in South Africa have the opportunity to spend one week on a Conservation & Environment project at the end of their main placement. For more information, please visit our African Bushveld Conservation & Environment Project in South Africa page. Our Combinations Page explains how you can combine not only projects, but also destinations.

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