Wildlife Conservation, Community Infrastructure and Village Education Project

Come join us in South Africa and Swaziland this year and help make a difference to the communities in the St Lucia area. Located on the outskirts of a UNESCO World Heritage site, the town of Saint Lucia and neighbouring Khula Village is located in one of Africa’s most unique landscapes.

  • Construction work to build houses, classrooms, bathroom blocks etc. within Khula village
  • Wildlife conservation efforts in local sanctuaries in the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park and Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park
  • Education programs in local primary and pre-schools.
  • Cultural tour of a Zulu village including learning traditional dancing!
  • Come face to face with Africa’s ‘Big Five’ wildlife 

The volunteer work in the African program is multi-faceted and includes working with children in schools and crèches teaching English and basic sanitation, hygiene and nutrition through games and activities. Our volunteers will also renovate and revitalise the sometimes run-down facilities with fresh coats of paint, new play equipment and the construction of bathrooms or kitchens.

Secondly, the construction component varies between the construction of bathrooms and kitchens in the school and orphanage to the building of sustainable farming units; the latter allow for families and, in particular, single mothers to start a micro business and to secure an income for their family. In addition, VESA has established a program whereby the local Prince (Induna) identifies less fortunate families in dire need of help for whom we then build houses and bathrooms.

Our conservation projects were set up in conjunction with the national parks authority. Within the wetlands area around Saint Lucia, the volunteers assist with the observation, population monitoring, capture and release of crocodiles as well as general maintenance, renovation and cleaning of the enclosures at the Saint Lucia Crocodile Centre.

South Africa Unearthed

South Africa Unearthed

 Out in Hluhluwe, they work with Cheetah and other African cats in a rehabilitation, breeding and release program; preparing the food, feeding the cats and constructing new enclosures for the breeding pairs. 

The adventure tour component of Africa Unearthed is incredible... Taking in two countries and a huge array of activities the volunteers have the time of their life. They will have the chance to come face to face with Africa’s ‘Big Five’ wildlife on safari, swim in the warm Indian Ocean, have their fortunes told by a witch doctor, white water raft or quad bike in Swazi and loads more!

Experience the flavours of Africa during your volunteer experience. Enjoy buffet breakfasts and dinners at your accommodation with themed days including traditional African cuisine. During the volunteer week you’ll have freshly packed picnic lunches and on the adventure week experience BBQ’s in two game parks. It’s a great chance to experience local cuisines whilst also enjoying the comforts from home. We cater to any and all food requirements. 

A Volunteer Eco Students Abroad program allows you the opportunity to make a difference and enjoy incredible moments in some of the most beautiful and remote parts of the world.

"I have loved every aspect of this trip! The atmosphere is magical! Although the work was hard it was very rewarding to know that you’re changing someone’s life in such a huge way. I have loved this trip”. Mark - University of Cincinnati 

"I’ve had such a fantastic time in South Africa. The staff have been so friendly and helpful and nothing was too much trouble. I feel that we truly contributed to a worthwhile project and I feel proud to have been a part of it. Well done VESA" Shelby - University of Colarado 

About South Africa

The Republic of South Africa is a beautiful country at the tip of southern Africa. It is bordered by six other African countries. The population of South Africa is approaching 50 million people and is also known as the 'Rainbow Nation' due to the ethnic diversity of this population.

It has been inhabited for tens of thousands of years, firstly by indigenous Africans known as the Khoisan, and later by many of the indigenous groups that remain today. From the late 1700s, Dutch people began to settle in South Africa. This group, which became known as the 'Boers', coexisted with the British, who had settled parts of modern-day South Africa after taking control of the Cape in 1795. These two groups violently clashed in the Boer War of 1899-1902, but then united to rule South Africa until the end of the Apartheid period in 1994 when Nelson Mandela was elected in South Africa's first fully democratic election.

South Africa Unearthed

South Africa is often thought of as the gateway to Southern Africa, although it is an amazing tourism destination in its own right. Its extraordinary natural beauty, comprising game parks, mountains, canyons, beaches and coastlines make South Africa a top destination, especially for lovers of nature and adventure. There are also many cultural attractions to be enjoyed with representation of both traditional African culture as well as museums and exhibits focusing on the more recent European history, tributes to Nelson Mandela and even museums focused on the history of apartheid.

Perhaps some of the best known attractions in South Africa are the National Parks where visitors can partake in wildlife safaris and see incredible African wildlife up close in their natural environment.

The tiny mountainous Kingdom of Swaziland, sandwiched between South Africa and Mozambique, has been dubbed the 'Switzerland of Africa'. African culture and traditions flourish here alongside some modern luxury hotels and excellent wildlife reserves.

South Africa Unearthed

Swaziland is the smallest country in the southern hemisphere, but it has a big heart despite its depressed economy. The capital, Mbabane, lies at the northern end of the lush Ezulwini Valley: a small, unpretentious town that caters well for tourists. Among the country's main attractions are Mlilwane, a well-established game sanctuary; the magnificent Mantenga Falls; and the annual ceremony of the reed dances at the Royal Kraal in Lebombo on the country's eastern border.

Swaziland is also known for its exquisite arts and crafts and its breathtaking scenery, especially in the western highlands, which rise to more than 6,000 feet (1,829m), riven with abundant rivers, waterfalls and forested gorges.

Africa Unearthed

Itinerary 2019

 Day  Activity
Day 1 Flight to Durban’s King Shaka International Airport.
Day 2
Upon arrival in Durban, you will be met by our local VESA team, easily recognisable with their VESA shirts and signs. 
Whatever your travel arrangements, please ensure you are at the international arrivals halls at the time of the group flight arrival. 
From here, you will travel via minivan to the picturesque Saint Lucia, a small town at the southernmost point of the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park, South Africa’s first World Heritage site.  You will be staying at Bibs’ International Backpackers, Saint Lucia’s original backpacker hostel. This will be your home throughout the volunteer week and the first part of your adventure week!
Day 3-8
These will be your volunteering days! You will be split into three groups and work on a rotation to undertake the following:

  • Working with pre-shool and school aged children within the neighbouring Khula Village teaching English, preparing lunches, renovating and revitalising facilities, installing new equipment, constructing bathrooms/kitchens, building and installing sustainable farming units;
  • Constructing homes for local families deemed in dire need of assistance;

Working with the KZN-Ezemvelo Wildlife Authority in two wildlife conservation projects:

  • The Saint Lucia Crocodile Center, with Nile Crocodiles, Dwarf Crocodiles, Slender-Snout Crocodiles and American Alligators;
  • The Emdoneni Cheetah Project, with Cheetahs, Caracals, Servals and African Wildcats.

The daily schedule will run as follows:

08:00 am - Breakfast
09:00 am - Begin volunteer work
12:30 pm - Lunch
01:00 pm - Continue volunteer work
04:00 pm - End of work day 
04:30 pm -  Free time & activities (beach, pool, exploring…)
07:00 pm - Dinner
08:00 pm - Free time/activities (Zulu lessons, scavenger hunt, trivia…)

Day 9-11
The Adventure week begins in Saint Lucia and it will be jam-packed with activities:
  • A full day safari in the Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve (the world’s second oldest national park and the oldest in Africa) home to the Big Five: Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Rhinos, Buffalos… and countless others!
  • A cultural tour of a zulu village along with a visit to the iSangoma - a traditional Zulu healer to whom you can ask questions about yourself and your future if you dare… 
  • A boat-cruise safari along the world renown Saint Lucia Estuary to get up close to crocodiles and hippos in their natural habitat;
  • An open-air safari through the iSimangaliso on the way to Cape Vidal, where you’ll spend the day on a stunning and isolated beach, complete with a BBQ lunch.
Day 12-13
For the last part of your trip, we take you into Swaziland, a former province of South Africa which is now an independent country, and one of Africa’s hidden gems! Here we will be staying in the stunning Mililwane Wildlife Sanctuary at Sondzela Backpackers. 
While you are there, you will have the opportunity to visit local craft markets, go exploring the sanctuary via one of its many walking trails, relax by the pool, and choose between the following activities: quad biking, caving and white-water rafting!
Day 14 Transfer by coach to Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport for your flight home/your own travels or continue on with us on The Road To Mozambique.
* VESA reserves the right to change this itinerary at any time and for any reason including flight schedules, natural and/or climatic events.


  • All meals, with the exception of  lunch on the transfer day to Johannesburg. We cater to vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free/coeliacs, and most allergies. Please contact our office if you require more specific information.
  • All accommodation
  • All volunteer materials and local builders/assistants/staffs/guides
  • Drinking water where required
  • All in country transportation
  • Entry to game reserves and National Parks
  • All activities except where indicated as optional (see below)
Experience the flavours of Africa during your volunteer experience. Enjoy buffet breakfasts and dinners at your accommodation with themed days including traditional African cuisine. During the volunteer week you’ll have freshly packed picnic lunches and on the adventure week experience BBQ’s in two game parks. It’s a great chance to experience local cuisines whilst also enjoying the comforts from home. We cater to any and all food requirements. 

Optional extras (approx prices only)

St Lucia:
  • Bike riding $15 all day rental
  • Sunset safari $25 (2 hours)
  • iSangoma one-on-one session $5 
  • Quad Biking $50 (1.5 hours)
  • White water rafting $100 (includes entry to the 'cuddle puddle' and pizza)
  • Sibebe Rock hike $80 (includes entry to the 'cuddle puddle' and pizza)
  • The Road to Mozambique US$899


10 nights:  BiBs International Backpackers is comfortably nestled on the banks of the St. Lucia Estuary in St. Lucia Village. The Village is the southernmost entrance to The Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, South Africa’s first World Heritage Site. Dorm accommodation with electricity, bed linen, pillows, full bathrooms, 24h security, common rooms, swimming pool, laundry facilities and internet. Phone cards are available in town. Close proximity to medical clinics, supermarket, banks and shops.

2 Nights Sondzela Backpackers (Ezulwini, Swaziland). Dorm accommodation with electricity, bed linen, pillows, full bathrooms, common rooms, 24h security, swimming pool, no internet/phones. 

South African Rand can be withdrawn using your own ATM card or Australian dollars an be converted at Durban Airport:

"Best time of my life. The experience I will never forget. I am so happy I participated in this experience". Julia - Washington State University  

Africa Unearthed 2019


Africa Unearthed

Road to Mozambique


Sat May 4th  – Sat May 18th 2019

Through to – May 24th 2019


Sat May 18th – Sat June 1st 2019

Through to – June 7th 2019


Sat June 1st - Sat June 15th 2019

Through to – June 21st 2019

How much does the program cost?

To secure your place with VESA a non-refundable deposit of is payable immediately after you have received notification of your acceptance to participate in the program. The balance or final payment of the program costs is due 45 days before departure. The total cost (inclusive of deposit and exclusive of flights) of the VESA program is: 

Kids playing

 Program  Deposit  Final payment  Total

Africa Unearthed 2018 (2019 TBA)




Road to Mozambique 2018 - Extension trip after Africa Unearthed (2019 TBA) US$200  US$699  US$899 

What is included in the cost?

The cost includes:

  • Non refundable deposit to secure your space.
  • All accommodation for the duration of the program.
  • All ground transportation in country.
  • All meals (three meals per day) whilst in South Africa, except for the free day.
    We can cater to vegetarians and some types of food allergies.
  • Bottled water when necessary in South Africa.
  • Some snacks.
  • Building materials needed for volunteer project.
  • Hiring of local skilled trades people to assist in the volunteer projects.
  • A monetary donation to the local host organisation.
  • 5 day Safari.
  • All admission fees to local parks and sites.
  • All accompanying VESA staff members.
  • All administration costs.
  • Certification (if requested) of completion of the volunteer program. Great for your resume.

What is not included in the cost?

The cost does not include:

  • International airfares
  • Airfares to the International point of departure (if required)
  • International Departure Taxes
  • Travel insurance
  • Vaccinations
  • Any visas (if required)
  • Passports
  • Meals on one free day

What if I need to cancel?

If you wish to withdraw your enrolment please notify us in writing by post or by email. Please note that if you wish to withdraw your agreement you will be bound by the cancellation fees set out in the VESA Cancellation Policy. See our Terms and Conditions on the home page.

Am I able to fundraise to offset the cost of the program?

Absolutely! In fact, we encourage all our students to actively fundraise to help pay for their program costs. Upon receipt of your deposit and confirmation onto a program, VESA will send out a fundraising package. The fundraising package contains a letter from VESA introducing you to potential donors, a letter from the local host organisation, a list of proven fundraising ideas and a receipt document.

Many of our students have raised all of the funds necessary for their program and flights costs. Join our Facebook group and page Volunteer Eco Students Abroad to see some of their ideas.

Please note, whilst VESA is a volunteer organisation it is not a registered charity so donations will not be tax deductible.

The Road to Mozambique

One of Africa’s hidden gems, with stunning beaches, excellent diving and magical offshore islands, Mozambique is sure to catch your imagination. Sail on a dhow through mangroves, snorkel around the Bazaruto Archipelago or just laze under the palms looking out over the azure seas and shifting sands. Mozambique has an upbeat atmosphere, overflowing markets and a 2500km coastline just waiting to be discovered.

Enjoy local and traditional food with beach barbecues, lunch with a local family and even a seafood feast prepared on your wooden dhow.

Visit the local markets on the way – sampling the local food and handicrafts that are on offer.

Our small group will travel through an area with the best diving in Mozambique, the coral reefs are saturated with marine life including one of the highest Whale Shark populations in the world.

The Road to Mozambique

Mozambique, situated on the tropical Indian Ocean is one of our planet’s hidden secrets and is a marine and beach lovers paradise. From the warm turquoise water, friendly people, the stunning landscape to the laid back vibe, Mozambique is a country that you'll never forget.

 Day  Activity
Day 1 Arrive into Tofo in Mozambique in the morning after an overnight bus trip from Swaziland. Check out the sights, sounds and history of Mozambique on a tour of Tofo. Walk the beach, climb a coconut tree and then enjoy a traditional lunch in the local market and then enjoy cocktails as we watch the sun set into the Indian Ocean.
Day 2 The ocean adventure of a lifetime. We will set out in the morning and go in search of the Whale Sharks that call Tofo home. You will snorkel or dive with Manta Rays, Loggerhead, Leatherback turtles and more! That evening we will celebrate our day with a traditional beach barbecue of fresh fish, crays and calamari. Enjoy some local nightlife.
Day 3 Sail by traditional dhow to the idyllic Tongula Island. Snorkel in search of seahorses and climb coconut trees. Lunch is served on the Island.
Day 4 Drive from Tofo to Bilene via the pristine Lagoa De Bilene where we will lunch at the local beach market.
Day 5
Enjoy some beach snorkelling and then a trek up to Turtle Bay where we will enjoy a lunch of the traditional Fish Braai (BBQ) on the beach.
Day 6
Free Morning and then late afternoon cruise over the lagoon to watch a beautiful sunset while enjoying cocktails.
Day 7 Depart for Johannesburg and your trip home.


  • Accommodation in beach front dorm style bungalows
  • Activities and tours in the area
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner each day and drinking water where required
  • Mozambiquan Visa
  • Transport from Swaziland to Mozambique and return to Johannesburg, South Africa


1 night
Overnight bus

3 nights
Tofo Beach Backpackers
Dorm accommodation – all in together
Electricity, full bathrooms, no internet or phones

3 Nights
bed and breakfast - Bilene
2 person per room, TV lounge - luxury
Electricity, full bathrooms, no internet or phones

South Africa Flight Information

Group Flights to Durban in South Africa are arranged by VESA through reputable licensed travel agents and offered to our volunteers.

There are many advantages to travelling with the group:

  • You only have to pay the initial deposit to hold your seat rather than the whole amount leaving loads of time for fundraising.
  • You will be travelling with a big group of fellow volunteers.
  • You will be met by our friendly staff on arrival at your destination

VESA Group Flights booking forms will be emailed to all confirmed volunteers on or around 1st December 2018. You may book your own flights by following the arrival and departure times of the Group Flight and then informing VESA of your itinerary so that we can be assured you will be able to meet our schedule. 

Group Flights:
Africa Unearthed 2019 TBA

Africa Unearthed

Group Depart New York Depart Johannesburg 

1 + Road to Mozambique


2 + Road to Mozambique 


3 + Road to Mozambique

Frequently asked questions

Is Africa Safe?

Safety is a good question, and a matter we take very seriously. St. Lucia was actually chosen as our destination because of the security of the location. It is a UNESCO world heritage site, a gated community and police patrolled 24/7.

VESA staff members meet the designated Group Flight at the arrival hall of the airport, where they are accompanied to our mini vans for transfer to St Lucia and our hostel.

We stay in our own VESA house at our hostel, which no other guests are allowed in. There are safes for valuables.

We travel in convoy on all days, and at all times you are with three VESA staff members who are fully qualified senior first aid technicians and are based in the area, as well as touring with local guides.

As with all our programs, safety of our participants is our #1 priority.

We are aware that for some of our participants this may be their first experience abroad or even away from their families. Should you have any queries or need any assistance while on program there will always be someone nearby to help and you should not hesitate to ask any question at all. We are definitely there to make our volunteers have the best possible experience.

VESA closely monitors all political, civil and environmental situations in Fiji. Should we deem that the area is unsafe for travel we will readjust the program accordingly.

Please visit your government’s travel website for further information on travelling conditions throughout the South Pacific.

Who is leading the program?

Students on the VESA programme will be accompanied at all times by members of our staff who are all qualified Senior First Aid technicians.

In Africa at all times will be accompanied by local guides as well as two VESA staff members. On tour both staff members as well as a local guide will travel with you.

How is the weather?

The temperature in South Africa is mildly seasonal. St Lucia, where we base ourselves for the volunteer work is situated right on the Indian Ocean (complete with awesome sandy white beaches) and thus experiences sub-tropical weather year round.

I can't speak Zulu or Afrikaans, is that a problem?

Not at all,South Africa has 11 different languages, however the majority of the population speaks English.

Can I ring/email home?

There are computer terminals at reception in our accommodation. For $25 USD you can use a credit card to join the St. Lucia Wi-Fi network which will get you one month of unlimited internet on your mobiles or iPads/tablets.

There are also phone booths in town. A phone card can be purchased from the Post Office in town or the grocery store to use to call home.

There is no phone or internet access in Swaziland.

In Mozambique, there is internet at our first and second stops to email home. It is not fast enough to use Skype.

How much money do I need?

All accommodation and food is included in the cost of the program. However if you wish to buy that special necklace for back home, then you will need to bring along some cash. 

At Durban International airport on arrival there are ATMs for you to take out local currency, the South Africa Rand, for drinks, snacks and souvenirs.  There also ATMs in St Lucia. It is extremely important that you alert your bank and credit card company that you will be travelling overseas so that they do not put a hold on your card. A quick phone call is all it takes.

Optional activities in South Africa i.e. white water rafting, horse riding and quad bike riding can be paid for by cash on the spot.

What is the currency in South Africa?

The South African Rand is the only currency accepted in South Africa.

What transport in country will be used?

In South Africa we travel by minivan convoy at all times.

What do I need to bring?

VESA will be sending all participants detailed travel information approx 45 days prior to departure. This will include information on the Volunteer Project, packing lists, and other valuable tips.

Do I need any vaccinations?

No vaccinations are mandatory however VESA strongly recommends that you speak to your medical practitioner about any further immunisations you may need. Malaria prevention is recommended for those travelling on to Mozambique.

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date. Pack a travel first aid kit, especially as you will be travelling away from major city centres. There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.

Do I need insurance?

Yes. All participants must provide VESA with proof of medical insurance prior to departure. Please see our website under Travel Info - Insurance for a listing of VESA’s recommended insurer.

Do I need a Visa?

No visa is required for citizens of Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada, the European Union or the United States for travel to South Africa. For those travelling on to Mozambique – your visa will be acquired at the border and is included in your fee.

For citizens of all other countries please check your VISA requirements.

Health and Safety – South Africa

Every aspect of the program, from your departure to your return, has safety as the highest priority.

St. Lucia in South Africa was chosen as our destination because of the security of the location. It is a UNESCO world heritage site, a gated community and police patrolled 24/7.

We are aware that for some of our participants this may be their first experience abroad or even away from their families. Should you have any queries or need any assistance while on program there will always be someone nearby to help and you should not hesitate to ask any question at all. We are definitely there to make our volunteers have the best possible experience.

The Road Less Travelled

  Health and Safety - South Africa
1If you chose to travel on the group flight you will be travelling with the people who will be your companions on the program.
2Your flight will be met at Durban airport by VESA staff and will be transferred by mini bus convoy to your accommodation.
3You will be living in a shared, same sex room, in a modern hostel located in the community of St Lucia. You will have access to all the usual facilities you would expect (including a swimming pool). You will be in a safe and secure environment with an overnight security presence on the premises.
4The staff will prepare all your food, the local water supply is clean and drinkable and you will have access to unlimited supplies of bottled water when required.
5Each day you will be accompanied to and from the worksites where you have been assigned. You will be accompanied at all times by one of our Group Leaders, and any activities you are involved in will be conducted under the supervision of qualified local tradespeople and/or teaching staff.
6All VESA Group Leaders are first aid qualified. You will be located within a five-minute drive from the local hospital and within twenty minutes of a private health facility.
7At the end of the program you will be transferred to the airport and accompanied to your flight. You will travel home with your new friends and a great sense of accomplishment.

“I just wanted to thank you, the VESA staff, as well as the VESA tour leaders for an outstanding job that you do throughout the year, and that you continue to do. We need more people in the world like you guys. The trip was so well organized and Juliana had an amazing time in South Africa. She feels so privileged to have worked with your organization, meet wonderful people during her journey, work with the beautiful children, and volunteer in aiding to make a difference in an individual's life. South Africa and Swaziland are two countries that Juliana will never forget about; it will forever have a place in her heart. As a mother, it was with great comfort to know that she was in good hands with the VESA organization and every time I needed a question to be answered you were patiently there for me along with VESA. I would highly recommend your organization to all those who are willing to visit a beautiful country and partake in volunteer work.”
Cheers to you all,
Franca (mother of Juliana C)



Trip Extension

The Road to Mozambique

One of Africa’s hidden gems, with stunning beaches, excellent diving and magical offshore islands, Mozambique is sure to catch your imagination.

More Information +


Season Report NH 2018

Season Report SH 2018

  • Achievement


    • One new four room crèche constructed for 60 children
  • Achievement


    • Over ten thousand hours of hands on volunteering with Cheetahs, Serval, Caracals and African Wildcats
  • Achievement


    • Over thirty thousand hours volunteering at local orphanage

Go on, step into an adventure that will change your life!

Apply Now

South Africa Project Location