If you are thinking of volunteering anywhere in Africa, you have made the right choice.
Africa is exceptionally beautiful and colourful. The people will change your life and inspire you and you should get as much out of the experience as you give.
Africa covers 6% of the world's total surface area and has the second highest population, the first being Asia. It is considered to be the origin of Homo Sapiens and is the only continent to cover the northern temperate and southern temperate zones.
The terrain varies from expansive desert to lush tropical forest. Just like the environment, the culture is equally diverse.
There are 56 countries in Africa, in which many different religions and traditional beliefs are represented. Islam is said to be the most predominant religion, followed by Christianity. It is really difficult to describe what to expect in Africa as a whole due to the diversity of cultures, environments and terrains.
In South Africayou can expect access to all necessary amenities.
In parts of the country such as Knysna or Cape Town, you will be very comfortable and able to buy just about anything, the facilities are well maintained and in a way the towns and cities are almost first world, with a lot of character.
Don't however let this fool you. One trip to a township will show you that we still have along way to go as a country. Schools are under-equipped, housing is often just a wooden shack with one or two rooms housing 8 people, and sometimes as many as 100 people share a tap.
The current government is working very hard to rectify this but with international refugees and a high growth rate this is difficult.
In Zimbabweyou can expect a decent level of amenities, but they do not always work as you would expect. There are often power cuts, no water and the average wage is very low. Roads are not really maintained and the government have struggled to maintain the infrastructure over the last 10 years.
In Madagascaryou can expect very rural communities, no amenities in the villages, including no water or electricity and a tough way of life for all. This by no means takes away from the beauty of the people or the place.
When you volunteer in any part of Africa, we recommend that you are aware that no country is the same, English is not often the first, second or even third language of most people and above all you are expected to respect the people, customs and environment. Don’t expect to see the long grass, flat topped tree, mud hut scene all over Africa.
Is it Safe?
Most volunteering organisations should have strict Risk Assessments, Emergency Action Procedures and insurance policies in place. This means that they should consider your safety a primary concern. Most areas are very safe and people extremely friendly. However, there is a lot of poverty around and people are sometimes starving and opportunistic. You will be safe if you are responsible for your self, if you listen to instructions and don’t go off alone without telling someone where you are going.
It is also important to remember that your health is at risk in a variety of ways and looking after your well being is just as important. Read the information that your host organisation provides and visit a travel clinic to get up to date health information and immunisations before you depart.
Will I see wildlife?
Yes! We have some of the most incredible animals that exist on this planet. However, don't expect to see lions in the town or giraffes walking down the road. Most animals are in reserves or national parks. You will have the opportunity to get hands on wildlife experiences in rehabilitation centres on most of the excursions available and on some of our wildlife projects.
In Zimbabwe and South Africa, you will have the opportunity to see Africa's infamous Big 5. If you look closer, you will also discover an entire world of diversity — differing from region to region & habitat to habitat.
In Cameroon, for instance, you will have the chance to see Chimpanzees and possibly Gorillas. In Madagascar you could be helping us to discover new reptile species and spotting the vast variety of lemurs that live in the remaining forests. In Zimbabwe, you might assist to save the Black Rhino, and in Knysna, South Africa, you may be lucky enough to see the very endangered Knysna Seahorse.
There are thousands of fascinating wildlife species and Africa really does offer you an incomparable opportunity to see them all!
Different countries require you to apply for different visas. If you are visiting South Africa for less than 90 days for example, you are required to have a permit to volunteer. You can get this as you come through immigration or once you are at your placement. You will need a letter from the organisation you will be volunteering with as well as proof of a return ticket and your passport (obviously). If you wish to stay longer than 90 days, you will need to apply for a Volunteering Visa which does not allow renumeration in anyway and also requires the host organisation to assist with letters and other documentation. It is best that you deal directly with the organisation on details regarding your requirements.
Generally the rule is the same no matter which passport you hold. The pricing of entrance visas varies from country to country. We recommend that you do all the necessary research before booking your flight and try not to just get away with volunteering on a visitors visa- this could lead to you being deported from the country which is something we would not like you to experience.