Applying for a Project

How do I apply?


The hardest part is deciding what you would like to do. You can focus on one project, or combine any number of projects during your stay.

Step 1: Review our full range of ethical volunteer projects

  • Every project page includes lots of useful information about things you need to know, what's included, volunteer fees and available dates
  • Tip: Use our Volunteer Project Comparison Chart to compare the main features of every project

Step 2: Choose your project(s)

  • Don't worry if you haven't got an exact arrival date in mind yet. An approximate date will do for now
  • Tip: Check out reviews and testimonials from previous volunteers for useful advice and recommendations

Step 3: Submit your application using our

  • You do not pay anything when you apply
  • There is no obligation, so this is a great way to check everything before you decide whether or not to confirm your placement.
  • You can apply from our online booking form or our Free Ethical Volunteering App.

What happens after I apply?


One of our team will contact you by email, normally by the next working day.

We will send you a detailed itinerary and quote, and useful information to help with your planning.

When you are happy with your preliminary itinerary and quote, you will be able to confirm your placement with a deposit.

Our dedicated team will provide you with excellent pre-arrival support to help you prepare for every aspect of your journey, and make sure you have all the information you need to plan your trip.

During your stay, our team will be available to assist you with organizing activities, giving advice, getting you to a doctor if needed and lots more. We are parents ourselves, so we always look after volunteers in the same way that we would like our family members to be treated and cared for if they were overseas.

What's included in my fee?


Every project includes pre-arrival support, airport transfers, accommodation, orientation, in-country support, and a certificate of appreciation as standard. Some projects also include meals, a Via Volunteers t-shirt, a name badge, and transport where needed. Here is a quick summary:

Pre-arrival support

We provide you with excellent pre-arrival support to help you prepare for every aspect of your journey, and will make sure you have all the information you need to plan your trip.

Placement guarantee

We personally evaluate every project and maintain regular contact to ensure that each one has a genuine need for international volunteers and a plan for long term, sustainable development. When you book a placement, it is guaranteed. In the unlikely event of a placement being cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances, such as your project location being washed away by a major flood, we will either find you a similar placement or provide you with a full refund.

Full support in South Africa

During your stay, our team will be available to assist you with organizing activities, giving advice, getting you to a doctor if needed and lots more. We are parents ourselves, so we always look after volunteers in the same way that we would like our family members to be treated and cared for if they were overseas.

Airport transfers

Whether you land in Cape Town or Johannesburg, we will have someone ready to meet you when your flight lands so you won’t need to worry about finding your way around.

Accommodation

All your accommodation is included.

Meals

Some projects are self-catering, or include breakfasts and lunches. Other projects include all your meals, especially when they are located in remote areas like a game reserve.

Transport

Return transfers are included when required to get you to and from projects outside of Cape Town or Johannesburg.

Placement fee

This is included in your volunteer fee and covers some or all of the following project related expenses:

  • a donation to your project
  • accommodation
  • food
  • equipment
  • transport
  • activities & tours
  • project orientation
  • supervision & training

Spreading the word

The majority of our projects are non-profit organisations with limited resources for fundraising and marketing. We provide an important link between these projects and the outside world, ensuring that you get to hear about the wonderful volunteering opportunities that are available, so that they can focus on what they do best.

We also take a huge administrative weight off their shoulders by looking after all volunteer correspondence, and by arranging all the logistics involved in getting you to and from the project.

When should I pay my balance?


You can pay your balance at anytime, but no later than 4 weeks before you arrive in South Africa.

We will send you a balance invoice about a week or two before your payment is due.

If you would like to make a full or partial payment before then, please ask and we will be happy to send your invoice earlier.

Can I join more than one project?


Yes. You can combine any number of projects during your stay, subject to the minimum duration for each one.

For example, you could join one of our child & youth care projects for 4 weeks or more, then spend 1 week or more with the Children’s Hospital, then join the Greater Kruger Conservation Project for 2 weeks or more.

Almost any combination of projects is possible, so you can create an experience that’s right for you.

If you are joining projects that are far apart, we can easily add any domestic flights you need between Cape Town and Johannesburg. The flying time is only 2 hours.

Whichever combination you choose, we will organise any accommodation and transfers needed to connect them together.

Can you help me to choose a project?


Deciding which project, or combination of projects you would like to join is often the hardest part of the process.

Aside from being certified South Africa experts, we are also familiar with every project, and have a wealth of volunteering experience to draw on.

Please contact us if you have any questions, or would like us to tailor an experience that caters for your specific interests, studies, or career goals.

What kind of support is provided?


We provide you with excellent pre-arrival support to help you prepare for every aspect of your journey, and will make sure you have all the information you need to plan your trip.

During your stay, our team will be available to assist you with organizing activities, giving advice, getting you to a doctor if needed and lots more.

If you have an emergency (or your family needs to contact you about one), we are available 24/7 to respond and assist.

We have a parental perspective, and look after our volunteers in the same way that we would like our family members to be treated and cared for if they were overseas.

To find out what previous volunteers think of our support, please check out our Volunteer Testimonials page.

Do I need previous experience, skills or qualifications?


No, though we do advise that you focus on projects that suit your interests, especially if you are looking to pursue studies or a career in a related field.

At many projects, you will be assisting with tasks that require little or no training.

Where training or supervision is required, on-site volunteer coordinators will be on hand to make sure you are up to speed before being left to feed penguins, handle snakes, monitor rhinos, or assist a teacher with lessons.

Is there an age limit?


You must be at least 18 years old by the time you join us, so you can still contact us while you are 16 or 17 if you are planning far ahead.

There is no upper age limit - we have hosted many volunteers in their 50's, 60's and 70's.

As long as you are reasonably fit and able to undertake the duties of your preferred project, age is not a barrier.

What kind of people volunteer?


The majority of our volunteers consist of gap year students, graduates, career gappers and retirees.

We have also hosted many medical students, nurses, social workers, teachers, pilots, lawyers, and people representing many other lines of work.

Since 2003, our team have arranged placements for volunteers of all ages from over 60 countries worldwide.

Many of our volunteers originate from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands and just about every other country in Europe.

We have also hosted volunteers from Japan, China, India, Venezuela, Brazil, Lithuania, Singapore and New Zealand to name but a few.

Can I bring a friend or a group?


Yes. Most of our volunteers are solo travellers, but we have hosted many friends travelling together, and groups of various sizes over the years.

We advise that you contact us as soon as possible as each project has a limited number of placements.

Can we join as a couple?


Yes. We have hosted many couples of all ages and can arrange a private room at every project with enough notice.

We advise that you contact us as soon as possible as each project has a limited number of placements.

Can I add extra time in Cape Town?


Yes!

Whilst many of our projects are close to Cape Town, some are too far away for you to take advantage of the incredible array of activities, day trips and things to do here.

If you are joining any of the projects below, we can add as many nights in Cape Town as you need before and/or after your project. There is no need to decide straight away - we can do this for you when you have confirmed your international flights.

We can also arrange domestic flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town (only 2 hours) if you are spending time at any of our projects in the Kruger National Park area.

Projects near Kruger:

  • Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Sanctuary
  • Greater Kruger Conservation
  • Reptile Conservation & Education
  • Vervet Monkey Rehabilitation

Other Projects distant from Cape Town:

  • Natures Valley Conservation
  • Marine Conservation & Eco Tourism
  • Big Cat Sanctuary
  • Lion Sanctuary

Even if you are volunteering in or close to Cape Town, you can still add extra nights to your stay.

Can I do some fundraising?


Yes. Every year, thousands of volunteers raise funds to help pay for their volunteering trip overseas.

The cost of your international flights, volunteer fee and personal expenses often seem daunting at first, but with a little time and effort, it's surprising what you can achieve in a short space of time.

What about Terms & Conditions?


Nobody likes to read the small print, but we encourage you to read ours.

These conditions are here to guide and protect you, and act as the basis for our relationship with you.

For ease of reading we have written this document in simple plain English wherever possible.

If there is anything you do not understand please ask us and we will do our best to assist you.

View Terms & Conditions

Preparing for your trip

How can I get good value flights?


If you're willing to put in a little research time, you could save on your flight costs and earn yourself some extra time in South Africa too.

Although we have recommended arrival and departure dates for our projects, there's nothing stopping you from arriving earlier, or departing later. We can arrange extra accommodation for you too, and this will often cost less than the amount you save on your flights.

Buy early, especially during peak travel periods. Ticket prices typically go up closer to the flight date, so try to book three to twelve months in advance if you can.

Be Flexible. Experiment with different travel dates; shifting your itinerary by a few days can make a significant difference in fares.

Shop Around. Start your search by checking a few of the flight search providers below. This will give you an idea of what the going rate is. Checking these sites will give you an idea of which airlines fly your particular itinerary, what the going rate is and what restrictions might apply. Armed with this information, you can head directly to the airline Web site to see if the same flights are any cheaper (some airlines guarantee to offer the lowest possible fares on their own Web sites).

Do I need travel insurance?


Yes. Whether you are joining us for one week or one year, you must have adequate cover before your journey begins.

Insurance is an essential part of your preparation, and will allow help you enjoy your volunteering adventure safe in the knowledge that you have the cover you need. You can choose from hundreds of options available online, or you can save time and get a quick quote here:

Travel Insurance from World Nomads

We have partnered with World Nomads to provide you with affordable and reliable global travel insurance that's perfectly suited to volunteer travel. Their insurance focuses on what's important: emergency medical and evacuation assistance and 24/7 support when you need it most.

They also provide cover for a range of adventure sports and activities, your baggage, cancellation costs, dental and liability, depending on your country of permanent residence.

World Nomads gives you the flexibility to buy, extend and claim online, even while travelling.

Do I need a Visa for South Africa?


Citizens from most countries can enter South Africa and stay for a period of up to 90 days without the need to apply for a Visa.

If you are not sure, you can check the latest list of exempt countries on the South African Home Affairs web site here:

Countries exempt from South African Visas

If you are planning to stay in South Africa for longer than 90 days, you should apply for a Visa through your nearest South African embassy or consulate a few months before you travel to South Africa.

If you have confirmed a volunteer placement with us and need to apply for a Visa, we can supply you with a letter of support.

Can I use my mobile phone in South Africa?


Yes. South Africa has excellent mobile phone (cellphone) service providers.

If you want to use your phone in South Africa, we recommend that you fit a South African Sim Card when you arrive. Make sure that your phone is not locked to prevent Sim Card changes before you travel. This is much cheaper than using International Roaming with your service provider back home, and much more flexible than the restrictive international packages they sometimes offer.

We have teamed up with Vodacom, South Africa's best mobile network, to provide every volunteer arriving in Cape Town with a Free Sim Card. We will pre-register your Sim Card before you travel and have it ready to pop in your phone when you arrive in Cape Town.

Topping up with great value bundles during your stay couldn't be simpler. Just message one of the Via Volunteers team and we will send airtime and data direct to your phone. This will help you to control your costs and avoid any surprise bills when you return home.

If you are arriving via Johannesburg, you can pick up a pre-booked Sim Card when you arrive at the airport. We will send you simple instructions for doing this.

Network coverage is fairly widespread, except deep in the bush or in very rural areas.

Wi-Fi is widely available in backpackers, lodges, hotels, cafes and restaurants throughout the country.

Can I use my credit card in South Africa?


Yes.

Major credit and debit cards are accepted just about everywhere, including shops, cafes, restaurants and petrol (gas) stations. The only time you might need some cash is for shopping at African markets, or when using a metered taxi.

South Africa has one of the most advanced banking systems in the world. Its banks and financial systems use world-class technology and facilities, and instant cash is available with major credit cards from thousands of ATMs throughout the country. There are also forex booths at airports and shopping malls.

How much should I budget for food?


South Africa provides great value for money when eating out, or shopping for food, drinks and general groceries.

Many volunteer projects include some or all of your meals. Check out our Volunteer Project Comparison Chart for a quick summary.

You can check out prices at our major supermarket chains below:

Can you cater for different diets?


Yes. If you are joining a project that includes meals, we can cater for most diets.

We will we send you a Personal Information Form to complete soon after you apply. This includes a section where you can tell us about any special dietary requirements.

Are there any health risks in South Africa?


We take your health and safety very seriously, and provide excellent support to help you have a trouble free stay in South Africa. Here are some useful notes about the most common health concerns.

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in Cape Town, the rest of the Western Cape or for most of South Africa.

There is a low to medium risk of malaria in many of the game-viewing areas of Mpumalanga, Limpopo and northern KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

You will be in a low-risk malaria area if you join the Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Sanctuary, Greater Kruger Conservation Project, Reptile Conservation Project, or the Vervet Rehabilitation Project.

If you wish to take preventative medication for malaria, you should consult a healthcare professional at least a month before leaving home.

The old adage ‘prevention is the best cure’ holds true. Long pants, long-sleeved shirts, shoes and socks should be worn in the evenings when mosquitoes are at their busiest, and relevant bug spray should be used.

If you develop a bad headache, have aching joints and recurring fevers and chills, you should go to a doctor immediately and explain that you have been in a malarial area. Malaria symptoms can be confused with flu symptoms.

HIV & AIDS

There is no danger of you contracting this syndrome unless you have unprotected sex, use an old syringe, or exchange bodily fluids in some other way.

If you are volunteering with children that may have HIV/AIDS, you will be briefed on safety precautions for dealing with open cuts or wounds, and provided with disposable medical gloves as required.

Drinking water

South Africa has some of the cleanest tap water in the world, and it is treated and safe to drink, except perhaps in very rural areas.

It’s quite safe to have ice in drinks and to eat salads.

Unless you are in one of the few areas where drinking water is not of good quality, buying bottled water is an unnecessary expense.

Vaccinations

No compulsory inoculations are required for travel to South Africa, but we advise that you ensure your Polio and Tetanus vaccinations are in date as a general precaution for traveling overseas.

If you are joining the Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Sanctuary, you will need vaccinations for Hepatitus A & B, and a negative TB test.

Please note, a rabies vaccination is not required for any of our projects.

Sunburn

Sunburn is likely to be the biggest health risk that you will encounter during your stay.

We have lots of sunshine throughout the year, so we encourage you to make good use of Factor 50 sun cream and hats to keep your skin in good condition.

Can I get good medical care in South Africa?


Yes. If you need medical care during your stay you will be in good hands, and we will be here to assist you if you need to see a doctor or visit a hospital.

There are public hospitals throughout South Africa, but as in many other countries, generally speaking you will get quicker and better care at a private hospital or clinic than a government one. Well-qualified doctors are to be found in every town and city. If you develop a toothache, don’t worry, there are also plenty of well-qualified dentists.

South Africa has been at the forefront of medical care and services ever since Professor Christiaan Barnard made world medical history in 1967 with the first-ever human heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. (If you are interested, there's a fascinating little 'Heart of Cape Town' museum at the hospital that relives that moment.)

Do I need to learn another language?


South Africa has 11 official languages, but if you can speak and understand English then you will be perfectly at home here. You will certainly encounter locals who speak Xhosa, Afrikaans, Zulu and many others, but for the most part you will find that nearly everyone you meet speaks English too.

If you are joining one of our child & youth care projects, you might find it useful to learn a few words of Xhosa, the first language of most of the children and care workers (Mamas). The children will be surprised and delighted when you greet them with 'Molweni' (Hello!), and it's always nice to be able to ask someone how they are (Unjani?).

Learn101 provide a Free Online Xhosa Course where you can learn some basic words and phrases. Have some fun with this and you will be 'clicking' like a local in no time.

Can I bring donations for any of the children's homes?


You are welcome to bring donations if you have room in your suitcase, but if you have been fundraising it is more cost effective to bring these funds with you.

In this way you can either make a direct donation to the children's home while you are here, or you can find out exactly what is needed at the time and purchase the goods they need in South Africa at better prices than you will get at home. In either case you will then have receipts if you need to show sponsors what you have spent the funds on.

Aside from the regular challenges of providing enough food for all the children, major needs at the children's homes always include nappies and toiletries. School shoes and uniforms, educational toys, stationary, books and similar items also feature on the needs list.

Whatever contribution you make, you can be sure that it will be gratefully received and put to good use.

What should I pack?


We will send you a comprehensive packing list for each project that you apply for.

Each packing list is divided between hand luggage and check-in luggage with recommendations about the kind of items you should pack in each.

Can I bring my laptop?


Yes.

If you are staying at Ashanti Lodge (Cape Town) or Brown Sugar (Johannesburg), you will be able to lock any valuables away while you are out exploring.

It is often useful to have a laptop during your project time to process images and videos, reply to emails and watch movies. Smartphones are wonderful tools, but sometimes only a laptop will do!

Should I bring cash or currency to exchange?


You can if you like, but we don't recommend it.

There is always a risk that you might lose cash during your trip to South Africa, so it is safer to just bring your debit/credit card instead.

There are plenty of ATMs at each airport, and thousands more around the country if you ever need to draw cash.

It's worth remembering that you are unlikely to need much cash as all shops and restaurants accept debit and credit cards.

If you were thinking of bringing cash to exchange at an airport bureau de change, please bare in mind that opening hours are restricted and the queues can be long.

South Africa’s currency is the Rand which is great value against major international currencies.

There are a range of coins (10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R5), and notes in denominations of R10, R50, R100 and R200 (all with Nelson Mandela’s face on them).

Will someone meet me when I arrive?


Yes. Whether you arrive in Cape Town or Johannesburg, we will have someone ready to welcome you when your flight lands.

You can arrive at any time of day, any day of the year.

We also monitor your flight's arrival time, so you don't need to worry if your flight is running late.

We won't leave the airport without you, and will make sure you get to your accommodation safely.

Ethical Volunteering

What is Ethical Volunteering?


Being an ethical volunteer is partly a mindset; it's about having a realistic understanding of what you can achieve during your placement, and honestly appraising your own motivations for volunteering in the first place.

We encourage every volunteer to consider the following points. Not only will it help you to manage your own expectations, but it will also help you to make the most of your experience, and enable you to make an impact where it matters.

Why do you want to volunteer?

You might want to experience working with a community or conservation project before you commit to studies or a career in that field. Perhaps you are taking a well-deserved Gap Year to broaden your horizons and develop new skills, or a career break to try something completely different from your normal routine.

You might have a passion for children, education, conservation or wildlife, or simply enjoy the rewards that volunteering brings, and the satisfaction of helping where help is needed.

These are all great reasons to volunteer, and with the right motivation you are already on your way to having a wonderful volunteering experience. Combined with all the other activities and adventures you can enjoy in your free time, volunteering in this way will be a life changing experience that you will remember forever.

What if you're volunteering because you want to get a really cool new cover photo for your Facebook page, or want to regale friends back home with tales of how you saved Africa after spending a few weeks holding a baby in an orphanage?

What if you're more interested in partying as much as possible, but this was the only way Mom & Dad would agree to let you loose on the world?

Seriously though, the vast majority of volunteers come for the right reasons, and if you're taking the time to read this, you're probably one of them.

Will you be taking jobs away from local people?

There can be few things more disheartening than spending time at a project only to discover that they could have employed a local person to do the same job. It can be difficult to spot disingenuous projects that have been created to attract volunteers, so it's worth doing some research first.

We work from the project's perspective and respond to their needs and priorities first. If the project is genuine, only then will we look to see if it is suitable for international volunteers. Our evaluation process is exhaustive, but essential if we are to ensure that everybody involved is to have a beneficial experience. That includes the project, the children or wildlife in their care, and you.

Will you negatively impact vulnerable children?

A constant stream of short term volunteers that try and fill a parental role for orphaned, abandoned or abused children will very often do more harm than good. Even with the best intentions and all the enthusiasm in the world, a project that involves you hugging babies at an orphanage all day is not going to benefit the children, and will leave you feeling all the worse when you realise that the children will likely be confused and traumatised when you are replaced with another short term mum a few weeks later.

We only work with community projects where you provide a support role to permanent care workers, rather than becoming a central parental figure. We also ensure that you will have a meaningful role to play with structured activities that really help.

For example, at Fikelela Child & Youth Care Centre, you will assist qualified teachers with structured lessons twice a week. The children come from backgounds where education has not been a priority, so these lessons are designed to help the children improve their Maths and English fluency, improve their fine motor & gross motor skills, build confidence, and improve self-esteem. You will also be involved in helping the children when they get home from school, assisting the staff to serve food, folding laundry, preparing the babies and older children for bath time and getting them ready for bed with a relaxing activity or story. Throughout your stay, you are encouraged to interact with the children in a beneficial way which promotes learning through play.

If you find a project which involves sitting with a baby on your lap all day, be aware of the negative impacts before you consider committing to something like this.

Does the project mistreat wildlife?

There are many projects that offer appealing experiences like close contact with lion cubs and tame elephants, but there is no conservation value in these activities.

They provide a lucrative income stream for the owners, and often involve physical and emotional abuse of the animals.

If you are tempted by something like this, do your research first and make sure you don't become an unwitting contributor to the canned lion hunting industry, or a supporter of an organisation that uses cruel training techniques to tame elephants so that they can be used as a tourist attraction.

Is the project right for you?

Are the project's aims close to your heart, something you are passionate about, and something that you are equipped for physically and emotionally? Are you happy to get your hands dirty, use your initiative in a responsible manner, and willing to relate to people from all nationalities and walks of life?

Matching your expectations with reality is an important part of your experience, so it's important to read the project information we provide carefully. It's good to know about any areas that might be challenging for you before you get here, which is why we tell you that at one project, penguin guano smells, and at another that you will be using an open air cold water shower in the African bush.

It's also good to be honest about your ability to commit and see things through. If your luggage gets diverted to Cairo, would you be overcome with panic and want to return home straight away, or would you happily carry on and get by with the change of clothes you packed in your hand luggage for a couple of days? You get nipped by a penguin the first time you feed one. Do you stop right there and leave the project, or stay and practise until you get it just right?

What are you expecting to achieve during your placement?

Be realistic. If you're expecting to join a project and save the world in under two weeks, you are going to be disappointed. This applies to many projects where it takes time to settle in, learn the ropes, get used to routines, appreciate cultural differences, and get to know the people on the ground. Generally, the longer you stay at a project the better, particularly where the project invests a lot of time in your training and supervision. This is why we have longer minimum durations at some projects.

For example, you will need to commit to a minimum of 6 weeks if you want to help rehabilitate African Penguins. Your first week or two is a steep learning curve, but by week three of four, you will be able to make a really useful contribution. Compare this with a shorter stay, and imagine how disappointed you would be if you were leaving just as you had got the hang of things.

By adopting the role of learner, you will find rich rewards as you look for opportunities to gain new insights, see life from someone else's perspective, and become immersed in another culture.

What do you know about South Africa?

A little preparation goes a long way, and is always time well spent.

Learn a little about South Africa's history, culture, climate and geography before you arrive. Read some books if you have the time, check out maps of Cape Town and read a little about all the things you would like to experience during your stay.

Locals will be impressed if you have taken the time to learn about their culture and can say 'hello' in Xhosa or Afrikaans, and you will feel more confident as you're settling in.

Why don't you offer projects where I can interact with lion cubs or elephants?


There are, sadly, still too many organisations in Africa that claim to be sanctuaries, but are nothing of the sort. A real sanctuary does not allow human interaction with the animals, nor do they allow for the animals to be bred, or sold.

We joined the campaign to ban unethical activities like lion-cub petting, walking with lions, canned hunting, and elephant riding many years ago. Awareness is increasing, but there are still volunteers joining these places for the chance to have their photo taken with these animals.

The opportunity to cuddle lion cubs and feed them has an understandable appeal, and the promise of this experience attracts thousands of volunteers to Africa every year.

They might be incredibly cute, and the organisations offering lion cub petting and lion walks might have a seemingly plausible reason as to why they have the cubs, but the reality is that by petting a lion cub, or walking with a lion, you will be contributing to the illegal canned lion hunting industry.

Please avoid any organisations that offer lion cub petting or walking with lions.

For the same reasons, we strongly advise that you avoid any operators that offer ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunities to interact with, or ride on an elephant. As with lion cub petting and lion walks, there is no conservation value in these activities, which provide a lucrative income stream for the owners, and often involve physical and emotional abuse of the animals.

If you want to experience African wildlife, it is far more rewarding and ethical to join an organized safari or spend time in the African bush where you can see them in their natural habitat.

Our wildlife and conservation projects are 100% ethical, and enable you as a volunteer to make a positive difference to the future well-being of a wide range of wildlife.

Why do you cover the faces of children in photos?


The Child & Youth Care Centres we work with are in registered places of safety for children of various ages. Many of these children have been abandoned, abused or neglected by a parent or other relative. A smaller number of these children may have been inducted into gangs and subjected to terrible abuses.

It is very important that each child's privacy is maintained to protect them from being found by people that may have harmed them in the past, including abusive relatives and gang members.

It is also important to make sure that these children do not have their faces splashed all over the internet to protect their privacy and dignity in later life. How would you feel if your name and childhood photos were freely available on the internet, revealing sensitive information about your past that you might not wish to share with the rest of the world?

The Children's Act in South Africa aims to enforce the protection of the identity of vulnerable children by law. Whilst it doesn't go as far as stipulating every action that would contravene the law; displaying names, images and videos of these children clearly falls within its scope.

We have some simple rules to ensure that each child's identity is protected. These rules apply to everyone, including volunteers and ourselves. Ignoring these rules can put vulnerable children at risk, and leave you liable to prosecution and large fines:

  1. You must not share any images online that show a child's face (full or partial). This includes personal blogs, websites, and all social media
  2. You must not mention the names of any children, or any personal or background information that could be used to identify them
  3. If you want to share a photo online that includes children, you must first make sure that all faces (full or partial) are fully covered. It is not enough to blur each face - they must be blocked out to the extent that a parent would not be able to recognise their own child
  4. These rules are eternal and do not lapse after any length of time.

Do you offer Medical & Teaching placements?


We believe it is unethical for organisations to offer medical or teaching placements to volunteers who have no experience or qualifications in these areas. It is one thing to ask a normal volunteer to assist a qualified teacher, but it is another thing entirely (and a complete waste of everyone’s time) to put that same volunteer in front of a class and expecting them to be able to teach.

At Fikelela & Baphumelele Children’s Homes, volunteers often assist the medical staff, but they will never be asked to, or expected to carry out any medical procedures.

At Fikelela Child & Youth Care Centre, volunteers assist qualified teachers with lessons twice a week. At Baphumelele Children’s Home, volunteers can assist qualified teachers every morning in the Grade-R classrooms.

Although we don’t offer specific medical and teaching placements, we can arrange for you to put your skill sets to good use if you are a teacher, nurse, doctor or medical student. This can be arranged with the relevant teaching/medical staff at Baphumelele & Fikelela.

What is your position on 'Orphanage Volunteering'?


In recent years, some individuals and entities have proposed that all volunteering at orphanages or residential care facilities worldwide should be stopped as a matter of urgency.

The reasoning behind this is partly driven by research showing that long term stays in a children's home environment can be harmful to a child's emotional and psychological well-being, and their ability to integrate socially later in life.

Another concern is that children in some countries (with very poor or virtually non-existent social service systems) are exposed to child trafficking when they are at a children's home.

Finally, there have been many verified reports of fake orphanages (notably in Cambodia and India) where unscrupulous or financially desperate parents rent their children out to these places to earn an income. The ‘orphanage’ then uses the fake orphans to attract international volunteers and other donors.

Whilst we don't condone fake orphanages anywhere in the world, or any situation that would expose a child to trafficking, we do believe that the global one-size-fits-all approach taken by campaigns aiming to ban ‘orphanage volunteering’ worldwide are ill-considered and irresponsible.

These campaigns take no account of the standard of social service systems in different countries, are disconnected from the real world dangers that vulnerable children are exposed to, and provide no viable alternatives to their care other than vague utopian suggestions about ‘working towards’ finding a stable, loving family home for every child, or enforcing a (horrific) situation where abused and neglected children are not allowed to be separated from their parents under any circumstances.

Although there is no such thing as a 'fake orphanage' in South Africa, it is worth taking a closer look at these campaign concerns from a South African perspective to see why we think their global approach is inappropriate.

For a more detailed analysis on our position, please refer to our full statement on Orphanage Volunteering.

Cape Town

Where will I stay in Cape Town?


Ashanti Lodge is our volunteer base in central Cape Town.

Recently voted (March 2019) as Cape Town’s Best Backpacker,  Ashanti Lodge has excellent facilities and is perfectly positioned to be an ideal base for volunteers.

Ashanti is a great place to relax when you are taking a break from exploring Table Mountain, the V&A Waterfront, Camps Bay, Hout Bay and the rest of the Cape Peninsula.

Close by you will find a great variety of restaurants and bars, plenty of great hangouts in Long Street, a well-equipped shopping mall, supermarkets, health shops, cafés…the list goes on.

While you’re at Ashanti you can enjoy all the facilities below. Whether you’re having a dip in the pool or watching Table Mountain while you have breakfast, you will find that Ashanti have thought of everything.

  • Dormitory accommodation with all bedding and linen provided
  • Free Wi-Fi from anywhere on the premises
  • A fully equipped shared kitchen with fridge/freezers for storing your groceries
  • A basic breakfast is included with tea, coffee, juice, cereals, yoghurt, toast, peanut butter and jam
  • All bedding including linen, duvet and pillows (linen is changed every four days)
  • Laundry service – Approx R70 per 5kg load including powder, wash, dry & fold. Drop it off at reception and it will be ready for you about 12 hours later
  • Lots of showers and toilets
  • A lovely pool area with tables, umbrellas, sun beds and a BBQ
  • A restaurant bar with a pool table and big screen TV. An all you can eat breakfast buffet is available for
    only R70, with great value meals available through to 10pm
  • A balcony overlooking the pool, and a lounge area with great views of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head
  • A personal safe for every volunteer and coded access to your room
  • Lockable under bed storage for your suitcase/clothing (bring a small padlock for this)
  • CCTV Security, controlled access and a night guard
  • Reception is manned 24 hours a day
  • The lodge and rooms are cleaned and serviced daily.

Volunteers joining Baphumelele, Fikelela or Masigcine will spend every weekend at Ashanti Lodge (Friday night to Monday morning).

Volunteers joining Nazareth House, the Homeless Feeding Programme, St.George's Home for Girls or the Children's Hospital will stay at Ashanti Lodge throughout their stay.

Volunteers joining other projects around Cape Town will normally spend their first night at Ashanti before transfering to their project.

What are the best things to do in Cape Town?


There are so many things to do in and around the city throughout the year that you will struggle to fit everything in during one visit. As with many volunteers before, you may find yourself returning to Cape Town again and again

To save you time and money, we have rounded up the very best activities and day trips and included them in the 'Best Things to do in Cape Town' section of our Free Volunteer App.

With this exclusive app feature, you can create your own Cape Town Bucket List before you arrive, and use our app during your stay to keep track of everything you would like to do.

The Via Volunteers team will also be on hand to assist you with booking activities, giving useful advice and helping you make the most of your stay.

To get you started we've prepared an album with photos of Fun things to do in Cape Town.

What is the weather like in Cape Town?


Cape Town is never out of season, so you will always have plenty to do whenever you arrive during the year.

As Cape Town is in the southern hemisphere, our seasons are in reverse when compared to the northern hemisphere. Cape Town’s unique location and Mediterranean climate also give rise to an unusual pattern of seasons that make it ideal for visitors year round.

Spring: September and October

This is a great time to visit Cape Town as the flowers are out and this is usually peak season for viewing Southern Right Whales along our shores. Day temperatures rise to an average of between 25 and 30°C (77 - 86°F). The nights remain rather cool and the weather is quite pleasant, calm and steady with little wind.

Summer: November to March

These are the most popular months for regular tourists, who come to enjoy the 11 or more hours of sunshine every day. Temperatures of 35°C (95°F) or more are not unusual, with January and February temperatures averaging 26°C (79°F). February is the driest month of the year, with 15mm of rain.

Autumn: April and May

Warm sunny days, little wind and balmy nights mark this as one of the best times to visit. This is also one of the best times of year for spectacular sunsets with skies painted orange, red and gold.

Winter: June to August

Although we do experience more rain over these months, it’s not unusual to have clear blue skies with temperatures of 25°C (77°F) or more. Many visitors from the UK remark how it reminds them of a good British summer. Temperatures can fluctuate wildly, so on many days you might find yourself wearing an extra layer early in the morning, and back in a t-shirt by lunchtime.

South Africa

What's South Africa like?


Roughly the size of Spain and France combined, or Texas, South Africa is situated at the very southern tip of Africa. The Atlantic and the Indian Oceans wash its shores and meet at Cape Agulhas - one of the only places in the world where a person can watch two oceans meet.

People who have never been to Africa often think of Africa as a homogenous whole, like the United States, for example. In reality, the continent of Africa is made up of 54 very different and separate African states.

South Africa may be at the bottom of Africa, but it’s widely regarded as being top in terms of its superb infrastructure, its legendary sunny climate, and its incredible geographic diversity - expect superb beaches, dramatic mountain ranges, sophisticated cities, quaint villages, historic battlefields, oceans, valleys, bushveld teeming with game, hundreds of species of birds, great and small semi-deserts, wide open spaces... and much more.

That’s why South Africa offers something for every potential visitor. South Africa is a dream destination in so many ways because of its incredible geographical diversity, its superb infrastructure, its legendary sunny weather, its super-friendly people and its affordability.

South Africa has nine provinces. Probably the best known to international visitors are the Western Cape, home of Cape Town and the Cape Winelands; Mpumalanga, famous for its spectacular scenery and the Kruger National Park; and KwaZulu-Natal, with its capital city, Durban, historic battlefields and wonderful beaches.

South Africa, since its first democratic election in 1994 after which Nelson Mandela became president, is a fully integrated society of more than 50-million people with a rich, fascinating mix of cultures ranging from Zulu and Xhosa (pronounced koh-sa), to Afrikaans and English and many, many more. There are 11 official languages - but don’t worry, nearly everybody in the ‘Rainbow Nation’ understands and speaks English.

Why is South Africa such a popular destination for international volunteers?


South Africa is the perfect volunteering destination offering a vibrant mix of culture, wildlife, warm & friendly people, sunshine, spectacular scenery, beaches and an endless variety of unique experiences and adventures to suit every taste and pocket.

With a young and thriving democracy, South Africa is an exciting place to be, and as a volunteer you can play an important role in our ongoing transformation towards a better life for our children, the conservation of some of the world's most important habitats, and the care and rehabilitation of remarkable African wildlife.

South Africa offers you excellent value for money and whether it be relaxing in the wilderness, filling your days with adventurous activities, or enjoying great South African food and hospitality, you will never be short of things to do. For example, Table Mountain in Cape Town is one of the world's iconic landmarks - you can enjoy a stunning 2 hour hike to the top for free!

During your stay you can...

  1. See 'really wild' wildlife in their natural environment
  2. Enjoy a wide variety of exciting and authentic experiences in a unique setting
  3. Relax on spectacular beaches
  4. Interact with locals and hear their stories
  5. Explore stunning landscapes unique to South Africa
  6. Discover a mix of cultures old and new
  7. Try shark cage diving, skydiving and the world's highest bungy jump
  8. Enjoy Cape Town's vibrant nightlife socialising with new friends
  9. Drink water straight from the tap - we have the world's 3rd best rated drinking water
  10. Feed your soul in an enriching social environment
  11. See the night sky and millions of stars like never before
  12. Reawaken your senses in wide open spaces with warm weather and blue skies.

These are just some of the experiences and memories that you can take home from your trip to South Africa, not to mention new friends made, photographs and stories to share with family and friends back home, and a new found sense of self that will stay with you long after your journey ends.

Can you give me a brief history of South Africa?


Between 200 000 and 100 000 years ago, modern humans began to evolve throughout Africa - including South Africa. They became the San, who later met up with south-bound Khoi pastoralists from the north and became known collectively as the KhoiSan.

The San were South Africa's first people

The KhoiSan drifted down into the Western Cape at about the same time (300AD) that early Iron Age groups crossed the Limpopo - whose descendants, about 1 000 years later, formed the African kingdom of Mapungubwe and began to trade with India, Arabia and China.

In 1652, Jan van Riebeeck and his 90-strong party arrived from The Netherlands and set up a ship-refuelling station at Cape Town - an important stop both geographically and politically, as it was on the only early trade route from Europe and the Americas to India, the 'Spice Islands' of the East Indies, and the East. Over the next 200 years, various waves of other European and Indian settlers also arrived.

Subsequently, the Dutch, British and to an extent, the French, fought for control of the Cape, with the British finally triumphant in 1806. Dutch Boers prepared to trek into the hinterland to escape British rule.

This was also the start of the Mfecane ('the scattering, the crushing') of Africans that began in Zululand, crossed the Drakensberg and swept through the present Free State province. Spurred on by the Zulu warrior king Shaka's growing militarism, it became a confusing maelstrom of movement and massacre. Adding the land-hungry Voortrekkers and the newly arrived 1820 British Settlers into this mix brought further conflict.

The late 1800s saw the discovery of South Africa's immense gold and diamond wealth, and later, the great platinum finds.

The 20th century saw the end of the South African War (also known as the Second Anglo-Boer War), which was fought from 1899 to 1902; the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910; the involvement in World War I and World War II on the side of the Allies; a narrow victory for the mostly Afrikaner National Party in 1948; and, in the years to come, the formulation of apartheid.

Apartheid was a nearly 50-year period of institutionalised racism and the suppression of non-whites, during which the African National Congress was banned and its leaders, including Nelson Mandela, banished to prison on Robben Island.

The unbanning of the ANC, the release of Mandela and his fellow prisoners, and the 1994 democratic elections heralded the birth of the new South Africa.

Can I use my mobile phone in South Africa?


South Africa has excellent mobile phone (cellphone) service providers.

If you want to use your phone in South Africa, we recommend that you fit a South African Sim Card when you arrive. Make sure that your phone is not locked to prevent Sim Card changes before you travel. This is much cheaper than using International Roaming with your service provider back home, and much more flexible than the restrictive international packages they sometimes offer.

We have teamed up with Vodacom, South Africa's best mobile network, to provide every volunteer arriving in Cape Town with a Free Sim Card. We will pre-register your Sim Card before you travel and have it ready to pop in your phone when you arrive in Cape Town. Topping up with great value bundles during your stay couldn't be simpler. Just message one of the Via Volunteers team and we will send airtime and data direct to your phone. This will help you to control your costs and avoid any surprise bills when you return home.

If you are arriving via Johannesburg, you can pick up a pre-booked Sim Card when you arrive at the airport. We will send you simple instructions for doing this.

Network coverage is fairly widespread, except deep in the bush or in very rural areas.

Wi-Fi is widely available in backpackers, lodges, hotels, cafes and restaurants throughout the country.

What do I need to know about using money and credit cards in South Africa?


South Africa has one of the most advanced banking systems in the world. Its banks and financial systems use world-class technology and facilities, and instant cash is available with major credit cards from hundreds of ATMs throughout the country. There are also forex booths at airports and shopping malls.

South Africa’s currency is the Rand which is great value against major international currencies.
     
There are a range of coins (10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R5), and notes in denominations of R10, R50, R100 and R200 (all with Nelson Mandela’s face on them).
     
Banking hours are 09:00 to 15:30 on weekdays, and Saturdays 09:00 to 11:00, although it’s much quicker and simpler to use the readily available countrywide ATMs, which are open 24/7. ATMs are the best to use due to their speed and accessibility.

Major credit cards are accepted throughout the country, but it is advisable to have cash (including some smaller denominations) when doing roadside shopping, or when in a small village or rural area.

It's always a good idea to inform your bank if you're planning to use your credit card overseas. Many of them will routinely block international transactions as a fraud prevention measure if you don't let them know.

Tipping is at a customer’s discretion, although 10% to 15% of the bill is customary.

What are South Africa's medical facilities like?


South Africa has been at the forefront of medical care and services ever since Professor Christiaan Barnard made world medical history in 1967 with the first-ever human heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. (If you are interested, there's a fascinating little 'Heart of Cape Town' museum at the hospital that relives that moment.)

There are public hospitals throughout South Africa, but as in many other countries, generally speaking you will get quicker and better care at a private hospital or clinic than a government one. Well-qualified doctors are to be found in every town and city. If you develop a toothache, don’t worry, there are also plenty of well-qualified dentists.

If you need medical care during your stay you will be in good hands, and we will be on hand to assist you if you need to see a doctor or visit a hospital.

What's the weather like?


Average day temperatures in summer are about 28°C (82°F), with peaks of 35 to 40°C (95 to 104°F). In winter, average day temperatures are about 20°C (68°F). Cape Town winters tend to see more rain, but there are still plenty of sunny days with clear blue skies. Winter in Mpumalanga and Limpopo is dry and cold at night but sunny and warm in the day, perfect for spotting game because the vegetation is low and game is forced to drink at waterholes.

South Africa is in the southern hemisphere, so it’s summer here when it’s winter up north.

  • Spring: September, October, November
  • Summer: December, January, February, March
  • Autumn: April, May
  • Winter: June, July, August

What about crime?


Crime is normally a major concern for international visitors, but in reality it is very unlikely to be a feature of your trip. We advise you to take sensible precautions when travelling around as you would anywhere in the world. Try to avoid walking alone at night, avoid wearing obviously flashy jewellery and expensive cameras around your neck, don't leave valuables unattended and so on.

UK business travellers voted Cape Town as the safest long haul travel destination. Cape Town is also known for being the most open-minded and relaxed city in South Africa and perhaps the safest city in Africa for international visitors.

It is worth noting that South Africa has successfully hosted more international sporting events than any other nation in the past 19 years, and is the only country in the world to have hosted the Football, Rugby & Cricket World Cups.

Unless you were on an another planet (or have an aversion to football/soccer), you will hopefully have seen plenty of footage of Cape Town and the rest of South Africa during the 2010 FIFA Football World Cup. Despite the normal shock horror predictions made by many representatives of the international media, the event was hailed as the most successful and safest World Cup ever. This will have come as no surprise to the many millions of tourists that visit South Africa safely every year.

What are the top reasons for visiting South Africa?


As a visitor to South Africa you can expect a wealth of unique sights and experiences. Here are the top 10 reasons for visiting South Africa as compiled by South African Tourism:

  1. Affordability: Although there are plenty of globally award-winning five-star establishments and luxury lodges, there are also superb value-for-money budget accommodation, tours and experiences all over the country.
  2. Wildlife: South Africa is one of the world’s top game-viewing destinations. Choose the world-famous Kruger National Park or any of the scores of other safari destinations - one of life’s great experiences.
  3. Beaches: South Africa has some of the world’s finest beaches, from the popular Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban ones, to many that are unspoiled and remote.
  4. Scenic beauty: South Africa really is many worlds in one. Expect stunning coastlines, dramatic mountainscapes, huge areas of untamed bushveld, starkly beautiful semi-deserts, lakes, waterfalls, spectacular canyons, forests and wide plains, plus Cape Town, undeniably one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
  5. Friendliness: Over and over again, visitors comment on the friendliness they encounter everywhere in South Africa. The people of our 'Rainbow Nation' are made up of many diverse cultures and will give visitors a warm welcome wherever you go.
  6. Weather: South Africa has some of the best weather in the world - rarely too hot, rarely too cold, and the sun shines most of the time.
  7. Adventure activities: It's hard to beat South Africa when it comes to the Great Outdoors and adventure activities. Whether you are an adrenalin junkie or just want to get active, choose from bungee jumping and shark cage diving, to hiking, horse riding, whale watching, snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking and many more adventures.
  8. History: Travel back in time to some of the oldest mountains on Earth; some of our early ancestors at the Cradle of Humankind; the ruins of an ancient African royal kingdom; South Africa’s oldest castle; historic battlefields where Boers, Zulus and Brits clashed and died; gold-rush towns; and iconic sites of the Freedom Struggle.
  9. Excellent infrastructure: South Africa has excellent major transport networks, good tourist facilities, safe drinking water nearly everywhere, a superb banking system with numerous ATMs countrywide, good accommodation for all pockets, and mouth-watering eating options.
  10. Responsible tourism: South Africa is recognised globally for its major conservation efforts and its protected areas. It is also committed to community and conservation projects, and aims to be as 'green' as possible.

What are South Africa's top experiences?


Choosing a top 10 list is almost impossible, but this run down of favourites might help!

  1. Scenic splendour
    South Africa has some of the most diverse and spectacular scenery in the world. Expect miles of golden beaches and unspoiled coastline; dramatic mountains and mountain passes; 19 national parks; game reserves teeming with big game and hundreds of birds; ancient forests; semi-deserts; oceans and rivers; rolling grasslands; and natural flower fields - all readily accessible and waiting to be explored.
  2. Winelands
    South Africa’s vineyards have been making some of the best wine in the world for over 300 years. Wine regions stretch from the Western Cape to the Northern Cape, where you can sample wine at world-famous estates or little-known gems.
  3. Safaris
    South Africa has some of the best and most accessible safari destinations in the world. You can splurge on an all-inclusive safari at one of the world-class, award-winning private lodges, or get much better value for money with up close wildlife encounters on one of our amazing volunteer projects.
  4. Kruger National Park
    You just can’t beat it. The size of Israel or Wales, with loads of different accommodation options for all budgets, it’s one of the world's oldest and most famous game reserves and is teeming with game. Self-drive is a wonderful option - there’s nothing quite like puttering gently along a road and coming face-to-face with a herd of elephants, a 'journey' of giraffes, a pride of lions, a 'dazzle' of zebras, a solitary leopard or a huge rhino.
  5. Struggle sites, rock art and historic battlefields
    You can visit our top Struggle sites and museums and follow in the footsteps of some of the greatest freedom icons in modern history, such as Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Mahatma Gandhi, among many others. South African rock art is among the best in the world and easily accessible, and historic battlefields where Boer battled Zulus, Zulus battled Brits, and Brits battled Boers abound.
  6. Marine magnificence
    Where else can a person sail beside a whale, or watch whale mothers and babies bask and roll; go eye-to-eye with different kinds of sharks; cage dive with great whites; be charmed by friendly penguins or leaping dolphins; experience some of the best scuba diving in the world; or snorkel with seals?
  7. Getting to know the locals
    You can spend time in Soweto or a city township; stay overnight or spend a day at a Zulu cultural village; admire the intricate beadwork, metal neck rings and unique geometric mural art of the Ndebele people; enjoy the hospitality of a South African farm; or just chat to the locals wherever they are - you will be amazed at South Africans' openness and friendliness to visitors.
  8. Outdoor rush
    Gorgeous, sunny weather most of the time, spectacular locations, loads of mega-thrill adventures (including the highest commercial bridge bungee jump in the world), river rafting, abseiling, hiking, horse riding, hiking, paragliding and 4x4 routes - South Africa is known as the adventure centre of the world.
  9. Indulge the senses
    Relax and rejuvenate the South African way. You will find health and wellness retreats throughout the country. Many use indigenous oils and ingredients to help clients de-stress and wind down.
  10. Urban rhythm
    Experience the unique rhythm of our cities when feeling the beat of live kwaito, hip-hop or jazz at a local nightclub, bar or township shebeen (tavern); be entertained in our theatres; play at our ritzy casinos; visit our unique museums and art galleries; shop in glitzy shopping malls or African craft markets; or dine in our fabulous restaurants.

Can you recommend any books about South Africa?


If you're an avid bookworm, you'll find plenty of reading material covering everything from South African history, culture, wildlife, politics and people.

Here's a selection of fiction and non-fiction to get you started. The Via Volunteers team can personally vouch for each one of these great reads.

- Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
- The Mind of South Africa by Alistair Sparks
- In a Different Time by Peter Harris
- Birds of Prey
by Wilbur Smith - visit his web site for information about all his South African based novels
- The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
- A History of South Africa by Frank Welsh
- A Lion in the Bedroom
by Pat Cavendish O'Neill

Via Volunteers

Why choose Via Volunteers?


If you're considering volunteering abroad, here are a few of the many good reasons to choose Via Volunteers.

  • Via Volunteers support ethical volunteer projects in South Africa. That means sustainable long term projects that are developed through genuine community and conservation needs to ensure that your contribution is meaningful and long lasting.
  • Our team is based in South Africa and provides every volunteer with unparalleled support and personal attention during their stay. Having an experienced and caring support base close at hand is a valuable benefit that has provided reassurance to all our volunteers (and their parents!).
  • We are strong advocates for ethical volunteering and responsible tourism practices and evaluate every project thoroughly to ensure they are not linked to the mistreatment of children or wildlife in any way.
  • By creating awareness for real conservation efforts, we also help volunteers to avoid unethical activities like riding elephants, 'lion-cub petting' and 'walking with lions', the latter two of which are essential ingredients for the abhorrent canned lion hunting industry.
  • Each and every project has been personally vetted by the Via Volunteers team, and we work hard to ensure that the information we provide for you is both comprehensive and up to date, so that you can make an informed decision about joining one or more of our projects.
  • Our dedicated team has 14 years of hands-on experience working directly with projects and organizing placements for thousands of volunteers from nearly 60 countries.
  • We are certified South African specialists and are on hand to ensure that your volunteering adventure is the best it can be with expert advice on every aspect of your stay.

How do Via Volunteers keep their fees so low?


Affordable volunteering is one of the cornerstones of the Via Volunteers approach.

We don't carry unnecessary overheads, and we have invested a great deal of time to ensure that everything we do is cost effective without compromising on safety or quality.

Being based in South Africa means that we don't have expensive offices to maintain overseas, so your volunteer fee will go where it's supposed to. Whilst our team works very hard to ensure you have the best experience possible, we only include modest administration fees to cover banking, marketing and salaries.

Value for money is an important concept for us. We would rather you become an ambassador for us when you return home, than have you tell no one and feel that you have been taken advantage of. Ex-volunteers are incredibly effective at spreading the word about our amazing volunteer opportunities, but that's not the only reason why we believe it is important to look after your best interests.

The fee we quote to you includes everything you need for getting to and from your project, so you won't have any hidden extras to organise yourself. Once you have landed in Cape Town or Johannesburg, everything else is taken care of. Your airport transfers, pre-project accommodation and transport will have been booked and confirmed in advance of your arrival, so you can relax and enjoy your journey to South Africa.

We're so confident that you won't find a better combination of value and service elsewhere, that we offer a Price Guarantee with every booking. If you can find a similar experience for less, we will match it. If you do find something cheaper, look more closely to see what's included, and more importantly what isn't.

What's included in my volunteer fee?


With any Via Volunteers placement, your volunteer fee covers some or all of the following:

  • Pre-departure support
    Our experienced Cape Town based team are on hand with expert advice and assistance to ensure you are fully prepared for your trip to South Africa. We know the country very well and have been arranging placements for international volunteers since 2003. If you need help at any time you can email, call, sms, Skype or fill in our online contact form. You can look forward to a comprehensive reply within 24 hours.
  • Placement guarantee
    We personally evaluate every project and maintain regular contact to ensure that each one has a genuine need for international volunteers and a plan for long term, sustainable development. When you book a placement, it is guaranteed. In the unlikely event of a placement being cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances, such as your project location being washed away by a major flood, we will either find you a similar placement or provide you with a full refund.
  • Full support during your stay in South Africa
    Being based in South Africa means that we can give you real support during your stay. Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, you will be able to access the Via Volunteers team directly or seek assistance via our network of volunteer and project coordinators.
  • Airport transfers
    Whether you land in Cape Town or Johannesburg, we provide safe, escorted airport transfers to your project accommodation or pre-project accommodation.
  • Accommodation
    Every project includes accommodation, with some including pre-project accommodation where appropriate.
  • Meals
    Many projects include meals, especially when they are located in remote areas like a game reserve. You can find full details of included meals on each project page.
  • Transport
    We include all in-country transfers required to get you to and from your project location whether by coach or minibus. We also include transfers and any rail or bus passes required for local travel between your accommodation and your project.
  • Placement fees
    This is included in your volunteer fee and paid directly by Via Volunteers to the project before you join them. Depending on which project you are joining, your placement fee will cover some or all of the following project related expenses:
    - a donation to your project
    - accommodation
    - food
    - equipment
    - transport
    - activities & tours
    - project orientation, supervision & training
  • Spreading the word
    The majority of our projects are non-profit organisations with limited resources for fundraising and marketing. Via Volunteers provides an important link between these projects and the outside world, ensuring that you get to hear about the wonderful volunteering opportunities that are available, so that they can focus on what they do best. We also take a huge administrative weight off their shoulders by looking after all volunteer correspondence, and by arranging all the logistics involved in getting you to and from the project.

Where are the volunteer projects located in South Africa?


Check out this handy map to see where our projects and courses are located:

Map of Volunteer Projects and Courses in South Africa

All our projects include transfers to and from the nearest international airport so you won't have any problems trying to find your own way around the country.

You can combine as many projects as you like during your stay, and we can help you with booking the best priced domestic flights if you need to travel between Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Are there any terms and conditions I need to be aware of?


Nobody likes to read the small print, but we encourage you to read ours. These conditions are here to guide and protect you, and act as the basis for our relationship with you.

For ease of reading we have written this document in simple plain English wherever possible. If there is anything you do not understand please ask us and we will do our best to assist you.

Download our full Terms and Conditions

Does Via Volunteers have any Social Media links?


We are very social and would love for you to join us for regular updates, unique photos and useful information about volunteering in South Africa.

Please don't stop there. Share us with your family and friends and help us to support a wide range of community and wildlife based projects in South Africa.

Is Via Volunteers accredited with other reputable organisations?


Yes. Via Volunteers are full members of Cape Town Tourism and the South African Youth Travel Confederation. You can view our membership listings and certificates here:

Cape Town Tourism Membership Listing

Cape Town Tourism Membership Certificate

SAYTC Membership Certificate