African Impact Volunteer in Africa

African Impact


African Impact pioneered responsible volunteer travel in Africa back in 2004 and have since grown into the largest provider of volunteer projects on the continent. Proudly African, they work hand-in-hand with local communities to establish, develop and monitor initiatives that contribute to community empowerment and wildlife conservation. Their dedication and commitment to authentic and sustainable practices has earned them numerous awards throughout the years, including becoming the only organization to ever win Outstanding Volunteer Project twice in the Global Youth Travel Awards, and being named the Top Volunteer Abroad Organization by volunteers in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

They invite you to join their passionate teams on the ground and to experience projects that take you to a place that leaves you awed, inspired, able to do more, to discover more, and to make a real impact.


153 Main Rd, Muizenberg
Cape Town
South Africa


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Yes, I recommend this program

I can’t say enough good things about my volunteer experience with African Impact Greater Kruger Big 5 program. It’s always been a dream of mine to research and make an impact in wildlife conservation. I loved all aspects of my experience from learning about wild animals social and feeding behaviors on game drives to helping in the community on projects that benefit people’s lives. Every day was a new adventure seeing elephants, lions, leopards, giraffes, and hyenas in the wild. Camping overnight in the bush under a million stars with the milky way and southern cross visible was another highlight. Lodge life was wonderful. I made friends with people from all over the world, ate great meals, enjoyed quiet time by the pool and loved being able to take walks along the walking path around the property. It was hard to leave this remarkable experience and I hope to return. I highly recommend African Impact.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
We were observing an elephant on the side of the road then he walked directly toward our open-air vehicle. I'm usually brave, but I wasn't sure what the elephant was going to do and was starting to feel nervous as he kept coming. He came right towards us then walked around the car to get to the other side of the road. He then continued to eat on the the other side of the road.
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No, I don't recommend this program

I am grateful to have have had the opportunity to meet such a wonderful group of people. The staff and volunteers at Lion House were all unbelievably kind hearted and were the main reason for why my time in South Africa was one to remember. It was fantastic having the opportunity to work with different communities in South Africa and getting an insight into the wonderful initiatives set up by the locals.

Although I had a lovely experience living amongst other volunteers, exploring South Africa and working alongside the locals, I'd say that most of the work I contributed was not very impactful at all. The Girl Impact project is not yet very established in South Africa, and I spent most of my time sitting around or partaking in activities that I felt were not a good value for time (e.g. sitting and watching a girls football team play football and call this 'supporting' the girls). Not only did I have an issue with my project but also felt that other projects were overstaffed (picture a class of approximately 15-25 with 6 volunteers and a teacher). The main issue I had with African impact was that for a lot of the projects I did not understand the need for volunteers. For example, we would volunteer and deliver a lesson to a class of young kids, however the teacher of the class (a South African local) was more than capable of delivering that same session (in fact the teachers were so great, that they could probably deliver a lesson better than all the volunteers combined) so I did not understand why we went in and were doing that teachers job whom could do a much better job than us. Even with the Girl Impact Project, African Impact hired a local to coordinate and deliver the project. She was great at doing her job and did not need our support in delivering the programme at all, in fact I think it would have been more impactful if she had delivered on her own since she could speak the language of the beneficiaries.

Although, I enjoyed my time in South Africa, I do not believe that some of African Impact's projects were impactful or sustainable. The staff are all clearly well intentioned and highly motivated individuals, I do believe that with continued efforts, African Impact in SA could do a much better job in aiding those most impoverished. They just need to figure out where volunteers could be used to have the most impact and re-evaluate some of their partnerships so that they are being as helpful as possible (e.g. instead of going in to do the teachers job, simply provide resources the school does not have access to).

What would you improve about this program?
Projects to be re-evaluated so that more impactful work is being done. The feeling that I was not doing useful work is the main reason why I would not recommend this programme.
Response from African Impact

Dear Maryam,

Thank you for this valuable feedback. We’re always looking to improve our projects and bring more impact to both the community and our volunteers. We’d love to open up discussions with you; please will you pop us an email at [email protected]

We’re delighted to hear that you had a wonderful time at the Lionhouse and in Cape Town!

The African Impact team

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Yes, I recommend this program

My time in Livingstone, Zambia was unforgettable! I volunteered at the teaching project during school holidays. African Impact organised a holiday club for the children in Libuyu for keeping them busy during school holidays and keeping them off the streets. The children were divided in two groups: 1-4th grade and 5-7th grade. However, the groups were very big (40 children each) it was really fun to work with the children. Annie, the teaching and sports coordinator, did such a good job! During the first days you can choose to assist her to get introduced and used to the teaching methods, and if you're ready for it you can take up more responsibilities. There is also the opportunity to switch between teaching and sports. The sports project is organised together with a local staff memeber, Chiza, who is doing an amazing job with the children. Everyday there is another subject, for instance history, geography, maths, english, eco-art, etc.

In the afternoon, there is a wide range of community projects and Sjeel, the project manager, makes sure that you can get a taste of each of them. If you have any preferences you can just let her know. I really enjoyed reading club, art club and the stretching exercises we've implemented at the old people's home.

During the weekends you're free to do some travelling or activities. The staff of the hostel will give you the information you need and will help you by booking these activities as well. A visit to Victoria Falls is obviously a must do, and they arrange a free shutte every morning. The volunteering staff as well as the hostel staff are such lovely people and I'm so glad I got the chance to get in touch with them all. Same for the volunteers! Everyone comes with the same goal and mindset, so you will definitely make some friends from all around the world.

This is definitely a life-changing experience!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
There is a plausible chance that I will join the program in Livingstone again. If there is one thing I would change is that I would stay longer! Two weeks is a good time if it's your first time volunteering, because in this way you will get a tast of it. But at the same time it's also way too short!
Response from African Impact

Hey Sylke,

We're so happy to hear you've had such an unforgettable experience! Our staff on the ground strive to make each volunteer experience unique, and we're so glad that Annie, Chiza and Sjeel did that for you! We can't wait to have you back on project again in the future.

Welcome to the Alumni Squad!

The African Impact team

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Yes, I recommend this program

When I was 21, I made ventured out overseas for the first time to make my very first impact with the African Big 5 Wildlife and conservation project in South Africa. that experience stuck with me for the rest of my life. and ever since then, I have made my impact with the project another three more times throughout the years.
for each time I have work in the project, I've had the pleasure of working with like minded people from over the world with a passion of wildlife conservation such as myself. being surrounded by that atmosphere enriched my experience even more then I hoped.
the staff at each location were always welcoming and supportive with my time at each project. with the guidance and field guides we would set out on game drives where we could have a chance to see anything such as the Big 5, Giraffes, Kudu, Impala, Nala, Aardvarks etc, from which each drive was always different which made it even for exciting.
I have also gain many skills such Data collection and entry, conservation work such as evasive plant removal, litter pickup, fire break and erosion control. we also took part in bird surveys, presentation on wildlife topics and also helping out in the community such as teaching children how to read and with business skills with running their own vegetable farms.
I would highly recommend this organization to anyone with a passion with wildlife conservation.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
your not going to get life experince with just staying at home. you go out and see the worldjoing a program or project that apeals to you and go for it. you will meet like minded people such as your slef with the same passion as yourself and form encredable friendship that will last through the ages and again experince that you only see on TV
Response from African Impact

Hey Mark,

We really appreciate you taking the time out to share your experience with us—and we agree, there is nothing better than being surrounded by like-minded people! We count ourselves lucky for volunteers like you. We look forward to working with you again in the future (fifth times the charm)!

The African Impact team

Driving around with African Impact!
Yes, I recommend this program

This whole experience will be something I will remember for the rest of my life. It felt like I was home with a beautiful family. I learned so much as a photographer but also as a person. The staff was so kind and so nice and they always put our safety first. I was so happy there, that I will be returning as soon as I can. The opportunities I received to grow as a photographer were way more amazing then I could've ever imagined and it always made me so happy! We always had something to do and the schedules were always filled with interesting things to do. The cooking was amazing!! Not only did they thought about allergies, but they always had something for everyone to eat. This was so nice and I appreciated it so much. The sleeping accommodations were very comfortable and my roommates were always the sweetest!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
When I arrived at the lodge I told them I would love to see a leopard. They told me it was super rare to see them, so I kept my expectations low. When we went out on one of my first drives, we had to stop at some point, due to a leopard tortoise crossing the road. I thought it would be very funny if we would see a leopard at that time. Suddenly I felt a chill down my spine and I felt something big was staring at me. I thought it would make sense, since we were in a reserve, but I looked around. As my group was singing the theme of the A-team, since the tortoise was walking very fast, I looked at my fellow passenger sitting next to me to laugh at her. And there he was. Up in a tree, a beautiful male leopard was staring at me. I felt my heart stop for just a second, as I grabbed my friend and our driver. And as I whispered "Leopard!" as soft as I could, they could all see the hard core enthusiasm on my face. It was truly one of the most amazing animals I've seen there.
Response from African Impact

Hey Noëlle,

We're so glad you had a wonderful time and were lucky enough to see a leopard! They're incredibly elusive and only the lucky few get to set their sights on one. We're having a bit of a chuckle at the irony of you spotting a leopard at the same time as spotting a leopard tortoise!

Welcome to the alumni squad!

The African Impact team

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Alumni Interviews

Alumni interviews are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Noëlle Hamoen

Noëlle is a twenty year old Dutch traveler and photographer. She loves sunflowers, animals and culture.
Noëlle Hamoen

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because I wanted to grow as a photographer in wildlife photography. African Impact was an organization who could give me not only a great place to stay, but also the help I needed. Being in touch with them made me realize that there would also be critiques at least twice a week, something I was looking forward to. Also the fact that we would be on many drives, having assignment and still be in a fun environment made me very happy.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I almost organized everything myself, since I am not a student. I was in touch with people from within African Impact who helped me find a good tourbus to take to Hoedspruit from Johannesburg. They also advised me which hotel to take, because I would arrive very late by plane. They also helped with my Visa, since it would be my first time getting one. Other then that, I got everything ready, booked everything and made sure African Impact knew exactly when and where I was arriving.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Check your phone bill! I came home and it was...high. I thought it wouldn't be so much, but sadly, I was very wrong. Other advice is, have fun! Sometimes things can go a bit wrong or you can get lost at the airport. Just stay calm and remember everything is going to be okey. Just find a information point or walk to someone that looks like you can trust them and just ask.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

You have some moments during the day where you can take a break, but other than that, you are always busy! Either on drives, editing your photos, doing assignments at the lodge, community work or you go on a small town trip on Friday. The drives last up to four hours and are always so much fun. Community work is also so much fun, since you help farmers or you will read with children at a local school.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I have been traveling since I was a very small child, so going back to South-Africa wasn't that big of a deal for me. When I arrived at the airpot, the only thing that gave me the creeps was walking through a dark area at the airport to my hotel, but that was it. I've been living abroad for over a year, so you get used to it.

What's your favorite memory of this trip?

I will tell you one of my favourite adventures that happened.

We were in a local reserve on a night drive when we decided we would photograph the stars. After our guides checked the area, we were allowed to get out of the car. We were sitting on the road with all our camera's as we all practiced on our star photography. At some point, our coordinator asked if we wanted to have a group picture. Of course we did!

As we were aligned and standing still something suddenly crossed the road. I remember thinking: "That is a big impala... That is a very muscular impala..." And suddenly it clicked and at that moment our guide said: "Hyena!" I was unbelievable happy, because I wanted to see hyenas so badly!

Some of our group got a bit scared and wanted to get back in the car, but our guide told us to stay calm, as the hyena was just curious. At some point, the hyena went behind us and, as we turned around, she was standing six meters away from us, while running away and hiding in the bush to look at us.

Being this close to such an amazing animal was unbelievable amazing and I was so happy.

Staff Interviews

Staff interviews are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

What position do you hold at African Impact? What has been your career path so far?

Natascha Pettit

Natascha: I am a Development Manager at African Impact. I started out as a project Manager at our Thanda Game Reserve projects in 2011 when it first opened. The projects grew quickly, with a Research & Conservation focussed project and an over 30's Community project added to the offering by the time I became Business Manager.

Our first year at Thanda saw 130 volunteers join us on project. This has grown to 200 volunteers in 2012, and it looks as though this year we’ll be beating our record yet again! 2013 is also our first year we’ll be open over Christmas, offering volunteers a festive season that is both unique and rewarding! What better way to spend Christmas than by giving back to conservation while celebrating the holidays in the African bush?! My recent appointment to Development Manager gives me the opportunity to work with new projects and to develop the African Impact portfolio, establishing lasting relationships in communities where help is needed.

Did you volunteer abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

Natascha: I volunteered with African Impact in St Lucia several years ago. My time in South Africa was fantastic and I left knowing I had left a part of me behind and was destined to return.

I was inspired to experience more of Africa and had the chance to travel the continent solo, but safely and all the while experiencing Africa on a much deeper level than the average tourist. I had hoped to meet some like-minded people and be able to use my skills from my professional life in the UK, and when I returned to African Impact it was a dream come true.

What inspires you most on a daily basis?

Natascha: My inspiration comes from the volunteers who join us and the measurable successes they achieve each day. The accomplishments we see from their willing hands and minds is fantastic. I feel lucky to have experienced so many of our projects and to have seen the positive impacts of each, which can vary enormously.

Whether it’s a special community day supporting the local clinics, celebrating World Aids Day, a grandmother receiving a certificate for progressing through her reading levels, or data collection and analysis of the movements of wild elephant herds, every small victory is inspirational. But even beyond this, knowing that so many volunteers leave having learnt something about Africa, having tested themselves, grown as people and vowing to return is what keeps me going!

What should volunteers know about South Africa when considering it as their next volunteer destination?

Natascha: South Africa sits in a unique position. It’s often seen simply as an emerging first world country with a big mining industry, but dig a bit deeper and there lies so much more richness in heritage, culture and passion. Volunteers are instantly welcomed into peoples’ lives and homes. A country that has just emerged from a tangled history is open, warm and wanting to celebrate.

In SA you experience a mixture of beautiful landscapes, easy and safe travel, and English widely spoken. You also get up close and personal to wildlife as you never have before.

What makes the African Impact volunteer programs in South Africa so unique and special?

Natascha: This is a chance to meet people and become intrinsically part of daily life in Africa. Whether it’s people or animals you wish to meet you have the opportunity of a lifetime to do so and alter your perspective.

It's rare to be able to combine both these elements in one project, but African Impact offers just that – a chance to combine various experiences. We are also great at putting together weekend trips and add-on tours for volunteers who want to see the local sites or do a bit of adventure travel!

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