South Africa Experience

from £899

Table mountain view

Become a game reserve volunteer then travel the beautiful Garden Route

17 Reviews

Become a game reserve volunteer then travel the beautiful Garden Route

Zebra and Kudu in South Africa
Oudsthoorn - Ostrich capital of the world
+22
Incredible African wildlife at a Port Elizabeth Private Game reserve

Trip Highlights

  • Stay on a beautiful award-winning game reserve
  • Help monitor and protect wildlife – leaving a legacy for future generations
  • Take in the beautiful views of Tsitsikamma National Park
  • Discover the Knysna Heads by sea
  • Visit the famous Oudtshoorn Crocodile Ranch
  • Explore Table Mountain, Cape Point, or Robben Island

Trip Summary

If you’re looking for a trip that combines the best of volunteering and laid-back sightseeing, you won’t get better than our South Africa Experience. Spend two weeks in Africa’s breathtakingly beautiful Eastern Cape at an award-winning game reserve for your first week, followed by an epic journey through the mountains, forests, plains and coastal areas of the famous Garden Route. You’ll be volunteering with conservation experts to carry out valuable work to help protect incredible animals, including lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo, to name just a few, before going on to explore one of the most exquisite and bio diverse routes in the world. Starting your journey in Port Elizabeth and ending in Cape Town, you’ll get to experience top travel destinations for yourself, while getting a true taste of wild Africa.

Interested and want to find out more? Download more trip information and detailed itinerary HERE!

Trip Info

Day 1: Port Elizabeth

Welcome to South Africa! Today your team will pick you up from the airport and take you to the game reserve you’ll be calling home for the next week. You’ll be shown around, have the opportunity to talk to the team and ask any questions, get settled in and meet your fellow travellers before sitting down to dinner in the evening.

Day 2-8: Volunteer work at the game reserve

Staying within the 6000 hectares of this award-winning Big 5 game reserve, you'll stay in five star backpacker accommodation with other volunteers and can look forward to getting out in the bush to carry out valuable work that will help protect the land and wildlife. Waking bright and early each morning, you'll set out on the reserve with teams of zoologists, rangers, and conservation staff to help with fence patrols, tree planting and landscaping, game monitoring and counting, and animal capture and relocation, depending on where your help is needed most.

You'll be working in close proximity to Africa's amazing wildlife every day, so make sure you have your camera handy to capture these beautiful animals – it's an everyday safari! In your downtime you'll be able to make use of the reserve's excellent facilities, including swimming pool, tennis courts, cricket field, lounge and entertainment area, games room, and library.

Day 9: Port Elizabeth

From the game reserve you'll arrive in Port Elizabeth mid morning and be taken to your accommodation. The rest of the day is yours to spend exploring the town, where there's lots to see and do. Go horse riding through Sardinia Bay Nature Reserve, take a sand boarding lesson on the dunes of the Sundays River, experience the longest dual zip line in Africa, go on a coastal boat tour, peruse the market stalls, or simply chill out on the beach with a cold drink (please note all optional activities are at your own expense).

Day 10: Jeffrey's Bay

Leaving your accommodation in Port Elizabeth at 8am, we'll set ourselves up for the day with some breakfast before heading to laid-back 'J-Bay' – South Africa's answer to surfing heaven, to check in to your new lodgings close to the beach. You can choose from a morning surfing lesson in the bay, or a horse ride in the afternoon, with the rest of the day free to explore the town or chill on the beach.

Day 11: Tsitsikamma

Setting off to Tsitsikamma, home to one of the world’s highest bridges, we’ll be spending a couple of hours in the beautiful National Park where, if your legs are sturdy enough, you’ll have the chance to walk the rickety bridge trail. Tsitsikamma is chock-full of adventurous activities – great for adrenalin junkies – so why not spend your time here testing out one of the incredible zip line treetop safaris (R595pp/£37pp), partake in a little white water rafting (R595pp/£37pp), or plunge 700 feet on a bungee cord (R950pp/£59)?  

Day 12: Knysna

At the heart of the Garden Route sits the thriving coastal town of Knysna – today’s destination. Famed for its bright turquoise lagoon and vibrant waterfront, you’ll get to see the best bits by sea, as we take a boat tour to the Knysna Heads. Back on dry land you’re free to let your hair down, so have a look around the town, see the local sights, chill in the harbour, or if you’re still up for a bit of adventure, why not take to the skies and go paragliding (R1350pp/£84)?

Day 13: Oudtshoorn

Heading away from the coast and into the Karoo, we’ll be driving the route to the ostrich capital of the world – Oudtshoorn. We’ll visit the Crocodile Ranch for a guided tour of the incredible wildlife and conservation areas, and afterwards you’ll get to do your own thing. Ever thought about riding an ostrich? Maybe sampling fine wine at a vineyard is more up your street, or perhaps you’ll take a tour of the amazing 20 million year old natural limestone formations in the world-famous Cango Caves.  

Day 14: Cape Town

Today we journey through the scenic route to Cape Town (known as the Mother City). Thought of as a city that welcomes all and caters for every individual, there’s reason to make the most of the time you have here. We have the choice of three arranged activities today – a trip to Table Mountain, Cape Point, or Robben Island, but you’ll want time to explore this fantastic city yourself, so we’ll make sure you have plenty of time to see the sights before sitting down to a farewell group dinner in the evening.

Day 15: Cape Town

Today we say goodbye as a group. For those heading straight home, transfers to the airport can be arranged for the morning, but, if you can, we recommend you stay on in Cape Town for at least a day or two more to make the most of this great city. Go on a wine tour, visit the museums, splurge at the market stalls and abundant city centre shops, or feed your hunger at numerous tempting eateries. How fearless are you? If the answer is very, then you could try a shark cage diving experience (R1848pp/£115pp), which you might want to follow up with a beer tour – just a suggestion!

*Some details and activities on this itinerary are subject to availability/seasonal conditions. We will do all we can to advise you of any changes to this itinerary wherever possible.

 

More Trip Info

Whats Included

  • Airport transfer on arrival
  • All accommodation
  • Transport from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town
  • Orientation on arrival
  • Volunteer programme on an award-winning game reserve
  • Reserve project t-shirt and cap
  • Working with trained zoologists, rangers, and conservation staff
  • Access to the game reserve's tennis courts, swimming pool, and other facilities
  • Breakfast every day, lunch and dinner every day at the reserve
  • Surfing or horse riding in Jeffrey’s Bay
  • Tsitsikamma National Park entry
  • Knysna Heads boat trip
  • Oudtshoorn Crocodile Ranch
  • Table Mountain, Cape Point, or Robben Island tour
  • 24/7 emergency support

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Meals and refreshments during week two
  • Optional activities

More Whats Included

Reviews

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Overall Rating 9/10

(17 Reviews)

Vinay Sohal

How would you rate your overall experience?

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How worthwhile was any volunteering in your trip (only if applicable)?

Please rate the accommodation during your stay

Would you recommend Real Gap Experience?

Yes

What were the highlights of your trip?

The game drives whilst at the game reserve were amazing and allowed me to view the wild animals in their natural habitats at close proximity. I also loved the bungee jump, skydiving and shark cage diving which was a part of the garden route.

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

I would have preferred an extra day at Jeffrey's Bay and at Cape Town rather than going to Knysna and Port Elizabeth, as the former two have a lot to offer in terms of activities and atmosphere.

Tips for other travellers?

I would advise taking plenty of warm clothes if you're travelling between June - August as it does get really cold at Kwantu, especially in the mornings and evenings. Make sure you have budgeted enough money so that you can try everything and not miss out, I think roughly £500 in spending money should suffice for the time you're there. Last but not least I would say enjoy your time and be nice to Jeff as he'll work his socks off to get you everything you want.

Rhianwen Jones

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What were the highlights of your trip?

So many highlights, the game reserve, shark cage diving, skydiving, the food!! Definitely recommend the bungee jump, never said id do one but when the opportunity was there i took it and did not regret it, amazing feeling! Climbing lions head in cape town was also great, the views are incredible, especially those of table mountain!

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

more time in cape town! i stayed a few extra days but that wasnt enough. a trip to cape point and boulders bay would have been good!

Tips for other travellers?

do the bungee, stay longer in cape town, theres so much to do there, and definitely climb lions head!

Any other comments?

The itinerary isnt exactly correct on here, but in the second week, thats because Jeff (the tour guide) will ask you what you want to do and does his absolute best to make sure everyones happy and gets what they want out of the trip!

Glen Brown

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What were the highlights of your trip?

Theres so many... Voluntering at the reserve was so diffrent to anything ive ever done but it was a great experience, helpping with the upkeep of the reserve. Really appreciate what they do there to look after the animals from day to day.. Then when we left there to drive the Garden Route it was amazing the views the whole way are epic. Having Jeff as our tour guide aswel was fantastic, really made the trip that extra bit special. Tsitsikama national park is beautiful especially is you hike up to the lookout point. The bungee jump off boulkans bridge was just insane but something I really recommend while there and the staff are a great laugh..Shark cage diving in Mossel bay was an awsome experience. Then theres Cape Town, wow... Such an amazing place, and i really do sugest you stay a few days after the trip ends as I did. Theres so much to do and see.. A hike up Lions Head was very well appreciated when i got to the top and saw the stunning views, in my opinion which are better than the views from Table Mountain. Paragliding off signal hill was mint. Also if you can scuba dive, South Africa is great. I had some belting dives while i was there, saw sharks, dolphins and seals aswel as diving thru a kelp forest. I also did a predator tank dive at the Two Oceans aquarium in Cape Town with 3 big ragged tooth sharks, which was a cracking experience... The food market on the VA waterfront is a must aswel, theres loads to try. Theres also some great restaurants in Cape Town and compared to England are amazingly well priced..

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

Yes... Definetly an extra day in Tsitsikama is needed as theres so much to explore and the hostel there is great, 1 day is not enough..

Tips for other travellers?

Book extra nights in Cape Town when the trip finishes. Go on a whale watching trip in Port Elizabeth. Try everything, trips, experiences and food. Theres some very tasty food..

Any other comments?

Do as much as you can while your there, you'll only regret it later if you dont do something, Make sure you do the bungee jump : ) .. Respect Jeff, if your right with him he will go out of his way to make your trip the best he can.

lizzie barker

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What were the highlights of your trip?

Cape Town, Cango Caves, J Bay, shark cage diving and safari drives.

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

More time in Cape Town. More hiking.

Tips for other travellers?

1. If you are going in June/July/August make sure you pack loads of winter clothes - including gloves, hats and scarves - it's really cold at night. 2. Get involved and try everything. 3. Go shark cage diving - definitely worth the extra cost!

Harriet Hughes

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

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What were the highlights of your trip?

Probably Bungee jumping - I would definitely recommend it as even though I didn't love it like some of the others, it was something I will never forget! Another highlight was surfing in Jeffery's Bay despite being a complete beginner.

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

We didn't get a chance to go diving with the crocodiles in Oodsthorn due to their inactivity between May and September, I think which was a shame.

Tips for other travellers?

Volunteer for everything! Get involved. Don't let fear stop you from doing something you might never get the chance to do again.

Gemma Davis

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

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How do you rate your arrival overseas and orientation (if applicable)?

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What were the highlights of your trip?

Volunteering at the game reserve, night game drive, bungee jump, shark cage diving, table mountain

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

Longer time in Cape Town

Tips for other travellers?

Get involved with everything both at the game reserve and on the garden route, book more time in Cape Town (1 day is definitely not enough), you get the weekend off during the first week at the game reserve so make sure you take enough money for booking an excursion like shark cage diving (as well as all the other activities during the second week).

emma wrigley

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

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How do you rate your arrival overseas and orientation (if applicable)?

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What were the highlights of your trip?

Working at the reserve, going on game drives! Bungee jumping, Shark cage diving, Zip lining, Caving, Cape Town, Meeting new friends :)

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

Having more time in Cape Town!

Tips for other travellers?

Book more time in Cape Town after the trip, do all the activities at Game reserve and on the garden route, make sure you go when the weather is nice, went in autumn and most of the second week was cold and cloudy.

Joanne Page

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

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How do you rate your arrival overseas and orientation (if applicable)?

Please rate the accommodation during your stay

What were the highlights of your trip?

Everything! Meeting new people, volunteering at the game reserve and all the staff! Jeff our tour guide was brilliant, he couldn't have done a better job and all of the activities in the garden route were amazing!

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

Maybe an extra night in Tsitsikamma to do scuba diving, Shark cage diving (as it was really hard trying to fit it in!) and Boulder's beach and Robbin Island were unmissable too!

Tips for other travellers?

1. Book extra nights in Cape Town 2. Hand sanitiser is like gold over there, bring plenty! 3. Don't wimp out on the bungee and an extra one.. 4. If you go shark cage diving make sure you take travel sickness tablets.. even if you don't usually get sea sick - trust me!

Any other comments?

Before we left it would have been nice to know the accommodation and what kind of volunteering we were going to do as we didn't really get much information when we asked. It did all work out and sometimes the accommodation can differ between each trip but it would have put me at ease a bit more if we'd have known.

emma atkinson

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Please rate the service received from our team before departure

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nicola bell

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

Please rate the service provided by the team in country

How do you rate your arrival overseas and orientation (if applicable)?

Please rate the accommodation during your stay

What were the highlights of your trip?

Game reserve volunteering ( I was there for 3 weeks in total): Waking up and falling asleep to the distant roar of lions. Meeting so many fantastic people from all over the world! Being out on the reserve in the Land Rovers every day, never knowing what you might see! Cuddles and kisses from the hand raised Meerkats. Digging holes, chopping trees, fixing roads, building fences, planting trees...so much fun! The game reserve is a magical place- no description will do it justice, just book it and go see for yourself! Garden Route: Taking a de-tour to go shark cage diving in Mossel Bay and seeing seven Great Whites (big thanks to our driver for literally going the extra mile to take us!) Surfing lesson in Jeffrey's Bay was awesome too and the hostel there was great- very chilled out! The views at Cape Point were stunning and made all the travelling worthwhile! I met so many great people along the way and made lots of memories- this was my first visit to South Africa and I can't wait to go back!

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

Garden Route: More time in Cape Town so everyone has time to see Cape Point, Table Mountain AND Robben Island! Perhaps take out the Oudshoorn stop and add on extra time in CT or alternatively make Mossel Bay an official stop!

Tips for other travellers?

1) Go with the flow and expected the unexpected! South Africa runs on 'Africa Time' where timescales and schedules don't always run to plan! Don't get stressed about it (the locals certainly don't)- just see it as an escape from the busy western world! Do expect long waits at restaurants for food to arrive, especially in big groups but remember the saying "Good things come to those who wait" - the food is delicious and unbelievable value for money compared to the UK. 2) Be prepared for some cooler weather in Winter- particularly early morning and at night (bring warm pyjamas!). Waterproof jacket and trousers are a must for the game reserve at this time of year as well as a cosy hat and plenty of layers (it's chilly in the wind when you're hurtling across the bush after Imapla in a Land Rover...). You can never pack enough socks! Laundry service is excellent value for money- they even iron everything for you! 3) Local people are very helpful and friendly- if you are unsure of anything just ask! And remember that wherever you are in the world, manners cost nothing!

Any other comments?

If you can afford to stay a few extra days in Cape Town at the end of your experience then DO IT! Real Gap staff were brilliant from my first phone call- they answered all of my questions on the spot and managed my booking/flights/insurance etc very well. Luckily my trip went without a hitch and I had no reason to contact the team during my time in South Africa but I left the UK feeling very confident that they would help me out while I was away if need be. If you are a first time traveller (like myself) then booking an organised Real Gap trip is a highly recommended way of doing things- they take care of everything and make sure everything is safe so all you have to when you arrive is just enjoy your trip! The experience has given me the insight and confidence to perhaps plan some of my next trip more independently. Having said that I am already browsing through other Real Gap programmes as there is so much on offer! If you've read this review to this point and still haven't booked your trip yet then GET ON IT!! It will be one of the most memorable experiences ever!

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Accommodation & Meals

Accommodation on the game reserve is made up of two five star backpacker lodges, with shared single sex dorm rooms and shared single sex bathroom facilities. The lodges are fully furnished with a tea/coffee station, lounge area, entertainment area with a television and satellite, and an on-site shop for essentials – in case you run out of toothpaste, or need to top up your snack stash! During the second week, you’ll stay in a handful of backpacker hostels along the Garden Route in shared dormitory rooms.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be prepared for you while on the game reserve. The food served varies, but usually consists of cereals, bread, butter, jam, cheese, tea and coffee, and sometimes eggs, sausages, or beans for breakfast; and burgers, chicken and chips, vegetarian dishes, potato casseroles and a range of other meals for lunch and dinner. Please let us know if you have any dietary requirements when booking. Please note that the game reserve is an alcohol-free environment. You'll have the chance to drink and go out in the evening during the rest of the tour.

Lunches and dinners aren’t included during the second week of the trip, which gives you a great excuse to try out the local cuisine – there are plenty of excellent restaurants, diners and cafes at each destination.

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Flights

Your flight to South Africa should arrive at Port Elizabeth Airport (PLZ) before 4pm on your programme start date. Scheduled arrivals into Port Elizabeth Airport will be met by the game reserve's staff. Your return flights should be arranged to depart from Cape Town (CPT). Morning transfers can be arranged at around 7am from Cape Town to the airport on the last day of your trip, although we recommend you stay an extra night or two in Cape Town following the last day of the programme, which we can help you organise.

To arrange your flights, contact our fantastic flights team on 01892 277037 or email them at [email protected] They will be able to search for the best flight offers to your chosen destinations, so you can plan and organise your trip in one place. Just make sure you give them your full name, as stated in your passport, along with your chosen departure dates, return dates, and any other details you want to include.

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Eligibility & FAQ's

Minimum age for this programme is 18. A reasonable level of fitness is required to participate in all activities.

Nationals of the EU, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand don't require a visa to enter South Africa, though South African Immigration does ask that you have two completely blank consecutive pages in your passport. As long as you hold a valid passport (and a valid return ticket) you will be granted a temporary visitor's permit on arrival, allowing visitors to stay in South Africa for up to three months (90 days). You should also ensure that your passport will still be in date for six months after your return.

How Many Hours Will I Be Working On The Game Reserve?

Your daily hours will be broken up into three slots: 07:30-09:30, then break for breakfast, 10:00-13:00, then break for lunch, 14:00-16:30. The rest of the day is yours to relax on the reserve with your fellow volunteers.

How Many People Will Be In My Group With Me?

Group sizes vary from trip to trip, to check the number of people on your start date please contact one of our travel advisors.

Should I Bring A Sleeping Bag Or Mosquito Net With Me?

No, all bedding will be provided at the accommodation, and you’ll be staying in a malaria-free zone throughout the programme.

Will I Need Injections/inoculations?

We aren't qualified to give you medical advice, so it's best to visit your GP or travel clinic at least 6-8 weeks before travelling, to discuss any medication or injections you may need before and during your trip.

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