Volunteer in South Africa with Plan My Gap Year, an award-winning, international volunteer abroad organisation. PMGY provides safe, trusted and affordable programmes overseas with a wide range of volunteer projects in South Africa including Childcare • English Teaching & Wildlife Conservation opportunities.
PMGY South Africa is located in the picturesque city of Cape Town and Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. Our programmes start on the 1st & 3rd Sunday & Monday of every month throughout the year and participants can join us from 1-24 weeks in South Africa.
Volunteers are provided with an extensive pre-departure support service, airport pickup, orientation, meals, accommodation and local support throughout their placement.
PMGY provide a sociable structured meaningful experience across need driven community projects in Africa, Asia and South America. Each year, we have thousands of volunteers working across a range of our projects from teaching and childcare to wildlife, medical and more. Our volunteer reviews are testament to the extensive pre-departure support and legacy our team provides to match the unbelievable in-country experience our volunteers engage in.
We are transparent and affordable with our fees, committed to long-term sustainable community development, all our local programmes are fully vetted and offer some great travelling and cultural opportunities to ensure that your time with us overseas is the best it can be.
A combination of all these reasons and more are why so many of our volunteers choose to come back to us and volunteer year after year with PMGY!
Book your flights as early as possible after confirming your place on the programme to ensure you get the lowest airfare possible.
If joining us on our community programmes; you should book your flights to Cape Town International Airport (airport code CPT). If joining us on our Big 5 programme, you should book your flights book your flights to Port Elizabeth International Airport (airport code PLZ).
PMGY work with various partners in the aviation industry to offer our volunteers competitively priced flights. If you would like any assistance in booking your flight, you can request an optional flight quote during the online application or feel free to call us or drop us an email.
PMGY have an ATOL Licence to ensure any flights booked through us are financially secured by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Travel Insurance really is a travel essential. It is mandatory for all of our participants to have adequate travel insurance in place across all their trip dates incase anything goes wrong when overseas.
PMGY have teamed up with the insurance company Endsleigh to create an affordable and comprehensive optional travel insurance policy specifically designed to insure PMGY volunteers for all their travel essentials. The policy is available to anyone up to the age of 75 and covers you for any PMGY destination and any onward travel you may arrange (excluding the US and Canada).
Plan My Gap Year Ltd is an appointed representative of Endsleigh Insurance Services Ltd, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
If you’d like to purchase Plan My Gap Year Travel Insurance, you can add this option on during your online application.
Before you begin your programme, we provide extensive pre-departure support on the build up to your volunteer project with us whether it is a month or a year away. This all begins from an online chat or a telephone call that develops into a regular email chain of next step communications to ensure you are fully prepared for your trip with us.
Further to this we provide a forty page plus Volunteer Handbook that provides all you need to know once you confirm your place on the programme with us; from visa guidance and how to get a background check to what to pack and more information on the culture and preparing for your project.
For all our destinations we have Facebook groups made up of our local teams, past, present and future volunteers that provides a great forum for volunteers to network and to also share project updates and community updates across the year.
We have also generated a range of informative and action packed videos to bring some tangibility on what volunteers can expect when travel volunteering with us. This can be accessed on our PMGY Vimeo channel.
Our pre-departure and programme preparation webinars are not to be missed either. They run on selected Tuesdays at 1pm (GMT) and will provide you with some invaluable advice on your upcoming trip. The first webinar covers all the essential pre-departure information you need to know and things you need to do before you go and the second webinar is more programme specific with advice and information for whilst you’re on your placement.
For those looking to go one step further, we introduced a 60 hour online TEFL course to really strengthen volunteers project preparation. This really is the perfect introductory course to teaching English abroad and enable you to acquire some key skills along the way as well as an internationally accredited certificate.
Our projects are based in the heart of Cape Town around 30 minutes from Cape Town Airport. Cape Town is a truly multicultural city and one of stark contrasts. Central Cape Town is an exciting and trendy location filled with a range of cultural heritage sites and a buzzing nightlife. Yet as you move towards the suburbs you begin to see what life is like for those less fortunate. The Townships and Cape Flats highlight the disparity between rich and poor.
Our local team’s office and Volunteer House are based in central Cape Town, so you are perfectly positioned to enjoy the wonders of this amazing city. Whilst you’re not volunteering you could be soaking up some history at Robben Island (the infamous offshore prison that held Nelson Mandela), trekking up Table Mountain, surfing the waves of Clifton beach, testing your nerves as you dive with sharks and so much more!
Our programmes in Cape Town run from 2-24 weeks beginning on the first and third Sunday of each month. Our Real Experience programmes that combine volunteering and travelling run for 4 weeks and start on specific start dates across the year.
Our projects are based on the heart of the Reserve around 1.5 hours from Port Elizabeth Airport. This fabulous South African Game Reserve is situated on the Eastern Cape and spans over 6000 hectares with exposure not only to the majestic Big 5 family but also conservation of all types of fauna and flora.
On the reserve, you will encounter the impressive BIG 5 roaming freely on the Sidbury plains. Here the white rhino, monarchs of the African bush roam the plains as freely as they did hundred of years ago. Delight in the entertaining squabbles and games of the playful Vervet monkeys or Chacma baboons, the original comedians of the wild! Indulge your fascination as you stumble upon a family of warthog, digging for roots or speeding across the lains with their trademark “tails held high”. You’ll be awestruck by our zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, and many of the common and rare antelope who have roamed these plains for centuries.
Our programmes in Port Elizabeth run from 1-12 weeks beginning on every Monday of each month.
PMGY’s programmes in South Africa are ran by our dedicated and experienced in-country local teams who have been fully vetted by our UK team.
Such a committed local staff network provide the structure for your stay with us when working on our South Africa projects. The support structure in South Africa includes providing accommodation, meals (where appropriate), airport pick up, in-country orientation and 24/7 emergency support.
So in general whether you are interning in schools or teaching on the childcare programme with us or joining us to work on the various wildlife projects, our local team will also allocate you to your project as well as providing a great framework for you to enjoy a unique cultural experience with us in South Africa.
At 08:30 you will be picked up and taken to our local teams office for your in-country orientation. Your day will kick off with an in-depth introduction into South African culture, safety issues and local transport. Our team will then tell you all about the volunteer projects, the do’s and don’ts and answer any questions you may have about PMGY South Africa. There will also be a chance to learn about and book onto some of the weekend tours our local team run in-country around Cape Town and South Africa.
After your initial briefing and a spot of lunch in town it’s time to check out what Cape Town has to offer. You will be taken on a walking tour of this great city where you will see some of Cape Town’s major historical sites and learn about its tragic history.
You will also get a chance to familiarise yourself with the train station, bus stop, mall, markets and company gardens.
On the completion of your city tour, the rest of the day is free to spend time hanging out with fellow volunteers and preparing for your upcoming placement.
Please note that lunch is not provided during your orientation. You will have the opportunity to purchase lunch in the city with your fellow volunteers.
On arrival to the reserve on the Monday evening you will get an initial briefing and walking tour from the indoor coordinator of the internal reserve set up in terms of getting familiar with the accommodation, locating where the meals are served and finding out where the entertainment and leisure rooms are.
The Tuesday is the orientation day which will incorporate a three hour game drive around the reserve to get a first glimpse and feel for what will become your working environment. You will more than likely spot some Big 5 along the way as well!
After lunch in the afternoon our outdoor coordinators who are the main point of contacts for you on the reserve will come and chat with the volunteers and explain all about your role, different types of activities and why they need to be done as well as some background to the reserve and about the wildlife on the reserve.The evening is yours to relax before a full day of volunteer activities the next day!
Please make sure you arrive into Cape Town International Airport (CPT) on the selected Sunday start date.
Day 1 (Sunday) – Arrival
Welcome to South Africa! Volunteers will be picked up at Cape Town airport by a local backpacker bus. You will then be taken to our Volunteer House in downtown Cape Town. The journey will take around 30 minutes and will allow you to gather your first glimpses of this amazing country.
The rest of the day is yours to spend relaxing and getting to know your fellow volunteers. Depending on what time you arrive, your hostel manager may take you on a walking tour of the local area so you can get to know where the ATM, supermarket, laundry service etc are located. If you arrive late into Cape Town on the Sunday they will do this the following day.
Day 2 (Monday) – Orientation
After a good first night rest in South Africa, it’s now time to begin your induction into life in South Africa. The orientation will be a mix of theory, culture and visits to local points of interest.
Day 3-6 (Tuesday-Friday) – Volunteering Begins
Tuesday will be your first day at the volunteer projects. On the Monday, our local team would have illustrated to you how to travel to and from the project. in most cases you will travel to the project with a fellow volunteer or our local team will travel with you and introduce you to the project themselves. Spend the first couple of days getting into the swing of things and working out your weekly schedule. It may seem all a bit much at first, especially if this is your first overseas volunteering experience, but you will soon get the hang of it all.
Volunteers will usually have an hour lunch break during each day of volunteering. You may decide to pack a lunch together before you leave for project in the 24 morning or choose a nearby cafe or restaurant to eat from. Remember that our local team are only ever a phone call away!
Day 7-8 (Saturday-Sunday) – Weekend
Weekends in Cape Town are never dull and there a huge number of trips and activities to get involved in. Our local team will run through some of these during the orientation period. Why not check out our weekend guide to find out what you can be getting up to in your free time!
The following weeks
The volunteering week is Monday to Friday. You will find as time passes you will really come into your own at your volunteer project. It is really important that you remain committed to the project throughout your time on the programme. Cape Town is a fun place to be with lots to do in the evenings, however we expect you to be committed and punctual at all times.
Last day (Saturday)
Saturday is your last day with PMGY. If you are heading home then we can help you arrange your return airport drop off. Please note that this is not included in your Programme Fee.
Please make sure you arrive into Port Elizabeth International Airport (PLZ) on the selected Monday start date.
Day 1 (Monday) – Arrival
Your flight into Port Elizabeth should arrive between 09:00 – 15:30 if possible. Our taxi leaves Port Elizabeth at the latest at 16:00 on a Monday (or when the last volunteer lands if before), which means a 15:30 arrival time at the reserve at the latest (it is about a 90 minute road journey from the airport to the reserve). If you cannot find a flight that lands before 15:30 and miss this cut-off time, you will need to arrange accommodation for yourself in Port Elizabeth for the night on the Sunday the day before and then meet the transfer team at the airport on the Monday.
Day 2 (Tuesday) – Orientation
After a good nights rest its time to begin your time on the project with us. The induction day is very much a hands on experience where you will spend time on a game drive across the reserve as well as a theoretical induction.
Day 3-5 (Wednesday-Friday) – Volunteering Begins
Working hours on the reserve are generally speaking Monday to Friday 08:00am to 5.00pm split into a morning and afternoon session with an hour or two for lunch (please note working hours are dependent on weather and nature of activity). The evenings and weekends are at leisure.
You will get the chance to get up close and personal with some of South Africa’s most famous residents. There will be the possibility to care for lions, elephants, rhinos and leopards and get involved in our rehabilitation centres and elephant sanctuary work.
The activities for the rest of the week are extremely varied so no two days will be the same. It’s not all work and no play as the programme is designed to provide a physical and fun experience every day.
Day 6-7 Weekend!
It is up to you how you spend your weekends. You are more than welcome to stay at the reserve, but note no volunteering activities are scheduled across the weekend.
We operate a transfer to and from Port Elizabeth on the Saturday morning returning on the Sunday night that has no additional cost should volunteers wish to venture into Port Elizabeth for the weekend. Sometimes volunteers will make use of the transfer service and then make their own independent travel to other locations from here.
The following weeks
Your next week(s) will follow a similar pattern, as you will be volunteering from Monday to Friday. Time will fly so make sure you make the most of it. Our local team are there to support you throughout your stay. Whether you’ve lost your passport, want some advice for weekend travel plans or just need someone to talk to, they are there for you.
Last day (Sunday)
Our scheduled transfers normally run as follows (roughly as times might change slightly to accommodate volunteers):
Saturday – Kwantu to Port Elizabeth (departs 9AM)
Sunday – Kwantu to Port Elizabeth (departs 6PM)
Should you be departing on the Monday or later, you will have the choice of going in for the weekend excursion and staying over in Port Elizabeth on the Sunday night, or spending your last weekend on Kwantu and returning to PE on Sunday afternoon to spend the night there.
Most participants will leave the reserve on the Saturday morning transfer and spend the night in Port Elizabeth at their leisure and this transfer is included in your Programme Fee.
If you have not travelled much before, it is really hard to know what to expect and many volunteers (and their loved ones) are concerned for their safety and security.
Although we can never fully guarantee your safety, we do everything in our power to ensure your volunteering programme is as careful, safe and secure as possible. Every programme that PMGY offers has been personally inspected and selected by a Director of Plan My Gap Year. We have lived in the accommodation, experienced the orientation, worked on the projects and built strong trusting relationships with our local staff.
In the unlikely event that something was to happen, volunteers have various layers of support that they can go through (and people who will help them in the case of an accident).
1. In-Country Project Coordinators & Support Staff
2. Project Staff
3. PMGY UK Team
Projects are monitored on an on-going basis to gauge volunteers’ experiences and we are continually improving our placements and projects through this feedback. Security and safety of our programmes is constantly being reviewed and if you have any concerns we encourage you to discuss these with the local staff at your orientation. During orientation, project staff will also provide guidance in the area of safety and security.
Listed below are some general safety tips.
• Be modest with the amount of jewellery you wear in public.
• Do not drink tap water.
• Be cautious of beggars or crowds. Incidents of theft often occur when there are crowds and confusion to distract you.
• Be cautious about removing money in public.
• Always try to know where you are going before you attempt long journeys. Be especially careful at night.
• Use reputable taxi firms only. Our local staff will recommend some specific companies during orientation. If you are unsure – ask local staff who to use.
• Try to keep in groups at night and never walk alone along dark, empty streets. If possible use transport from door to door after dark.
• The recognised tourist areas can be considered potentially high risk areas for pickpockets and thieves.
• Leave your valuables behind before a night out in the town.
• For traffic safety, always keep looking to the left and right and walk slowly when crossing the road.
• Do not accept drinks or food from strangers.
The weather in South Africa is extremely seasonal. Please bear in mind that the seasons are the reverse of the seasons in the UK. During the summer months (November – March) the temperature can rise up to 35°C! These months are generally warm and dry; however at times it can get quite windy. February to April is by far the best beach weather!
June brings cold weather as South Africa enters the winter period, which lasts up until September. On average, the temperature stays around 15°C through the winter months and only occasionally dropping down to 8°C. Winter does bring some wet weather with the majority of the annual rainfall coming in July and August.
If you are joining us in June, July and/or August, please bring a warm jacket and a sleeping bag as it can get quite cold at night. The weather over this period can be unpredictable so we suggest bringing clothes for all seasons – just in case! The most enjoyable times of year in terms of weather are spring (September – November) and autumn (April – May).
During your time with PMGY in South Africa you will live in our Volunteer House located in Sea Point, a great, lively spot in Cape Town. The beach is only a short walk away, and there are plenty of bars, restaurants and local amenities in the surrounding area. Long Street, Cape Town’s premier nightlife destination is only 10 minutes away by public transport. You’ll be living with other volunteers from around the world, so you’ll make plenty of friends along the way.
The accommodation is basic but comfortable with Wi-Fi (there will be a small charge). Each room has bunk beds with up to 8 people per room in mixed-sex rooms. Bathrooms are shared, have a shower and western style toilet. During the winter period (June to August) it can get quite cold, so please bring warm clothes. Volunteers are provided with a bed sheet and blanket but may also choose to bring a sleeping bag or buy an additional blanket from the local store for extra warmth.
The house has a communal area for volunteers to hang out with sofa’s, flat screen TV and DVD player. Each volunteer has their own locker to store valuables so you should bring a padlock with you to store away your items. There will also be fridge space available for volunteers to store any items they need to keep chilled.
Please note that rooms are mixed gender and we cannot accommodate single-sex or private rooms in the Volunteer House.
During our busiest months (June to September) you may be placed at alternative accommodation. This could be a nearby guesthouse or one of our summer Volunteer Houses.
You will be provided with breakfast and dinner from Monday to Friday. You will need to purchase your own lunch during the working week (Mon-Fri) and all meals at the weekend. Please note that although the Volunteer House has a kitchen, this is quite small and makes cooking meals difficult if the house is very busy, so it may be easier to eat out for lunch and at weekends. You should budget around £40 per week for meals not included.
For breakfast we provide yoghurt, fruit, cheese, bread, jams, tea and coffee, peanut butter, eggs etc. Volunteers just help themselves – all cutlery and crockery etc is provided. Dinner is provided at a local restaurant where volunteers all eat together, the restaurant is a short walk from the Volunteer House. Typical meals include spaghetti bolognese, curry, burgers and chips, fish, salads, pasta and vegetables. There is a set dinner option for each night of the week.
If you fancy eating out there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and local amenities in the surrounding area. Long Street, Cape Town’s premier nightlife destination is only 10 minutes away by public transport.
Here is an example of the meals you can expect:
* Our team will do their best to cater for any dietary requirements but there may be instances where you may need to purchase alternative ingredients at your own expense.
During your time with PMGY in South Africa you will stay at our Volunteer House which is located right in the middle of the reserve compound. The accommodation is basic but comfortable and offers a friendly and lively atmosphere. You’ll be living with other volunteers from around the world, so you’ll make plenty of friends along the way.
We will transport you via jeep to and from the accommodation onto the reserve or project setting for the volunteering activity. This service is included in your Programme Fee.
You will be housed in either the Kubs Quarters or Mafusa Camp dorms. The dorms are single sex dorms. Volunteers are provided with bed linen, cupboard space and a mini locker safe to store any valuables.
Bathrooms are shared In a dorm like form with a western style toilet and hot showers available.
There is communal areas across the accommodation with comfortable sofa, big screen TVs, fridge space, books and tea/coffee station to enjoy for some relaxation and downtime.
Wi-Fi is available (although intermittent) in the main lounge area a short walk from the volunteer accommodation outside of working hours.
A chargeable laundry service also operates where volunteers can hand over their clothes to be washed, dried and returned to them.
Volunteers have access to the swimming pool, tennis courts and entertainment room during downtime as well.
The reserve has on site security throughout both around the accommodation compound and on the main entrance into the reserve.
Meals are aimed to be as varied as possible across the week so that each day is different.
The breakfast consists of cereals, bread, butter, jam, peanut butter, tea, coffee and cheese, but sometimes we serve eggs, sausages or baked beans, and sometimes a combination of the above.
As for lunch and dinner we have a wide variety ranging from burgers, chicken and chips, macaroni cheese, vegetarian dishes, potato casserole and so on (so you definitely won’t go hungry!). All meals come with a salad option as well.
Usually snacks are served and made available with no additional cost in the afternoons for volunteers.
Please note that all meals are served at the Mafusa dining area, and no cooking is allowed in any of the kitchen/ kitchenette areas.
Here is an example of the meals you can expect:
Many of the projects are in walking distance from the Volunteer Hostel but some projects are further afield. The maximum journey time from the Volunteer Hostel to the projects is 40 minutes. Our local team will give you a clear run down on the travel options available to you and how to get to/from the projects during your in-country orientation. You should budget around £2 to £3 per day (Mon-Fri) for getting to and from the volunteer placement if not within walking distance.
Volunteers are based on the reserve and within close proximity to where the daily tasks take place. You will be transported to and from the work locations by safari jeep. This project transport is included in your Programme Fee.
PMGY welcome volunteers of all nationalities and backgrounds. The minimum age to join the programmes in South Africa is 18 and there is no upper age limit. All volunteers need to have a good level of English, although it does NOT need to be your first language.
We require a clean background check from all our participants in advance of volunteering with us abroad.
In general no formal experience or qualifications are required for the projects, just lots of energy, enthusiasm and preparation.
Registration Fees must be paid within 7 days of the application being successful to confirm your place and Programme Fees are due at least 60 days before the programme start date.