South Africa Service, Adventure and Safari
$5,995 + Airfare + $275 Intra Trip Flights
Jun 29 – Jul 19
9, 10, 11, 12
|Who can go on this trip?||
Students from around the world!
Cape Town, Gansbaai, Plettenberg Bay, Cango Caves, Tsitsikamma, Addo Elephant Park, Chintsa East, Kruger National Park, Blyde River Canyon, Johannesburg
|Optional group flight there:||
JFK to Cape Town
|Optional group flight back:||
Johannesburg to JFK
Meaningful service projects, adventure experiences, and mind-blowing wildlife come together to give you a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a difference and reshape your worldview on our South Africa program. Our goal will be to get in touch with the heart of this amazing place by experiencing the best of the country’s natural beauty with the help of conservation experts and marine ecologists, forging local connections via a life changing service project, combined with insider access through the country’s major cities, stunning scenery, and exciting game parks.
On this trip you will:
- Travel to the top of Table Mountain for an incredible panorama over Cape Town
- Connect with the friendly people who live along the Wild Coast of South Africa as you volunteer at an elementary school
- Earn up to 40 community service hours as you perform a much needed revitalization of the school’s playground
- Safari in Kruger National Park and spot the “Big 5″ in South Africa’s largest game reserve
- Get your blood pumping as you come face-to-face with great white sharks from atop a boat or, if you are brave enough, from inside a cage in the water*
- Walk with the “king of the jungle” and learn about helping orphaned lion cubs be reintroduced into the wild
- Surf on the gorgeous beaches of the Wild Coast
- Hike to the southwestern tip of the African continent
- Visit the Apartheid Museum as well as Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison
- Feast your eyes on incredible views as you drive along Chapman’s Peak en route to the Cape of Good Hope Reserve, where you will see ostrich and other native species up close
- Have a close encounter with Humpback and Southern Right whales on a whale watching expedition in Plettenberg Bay
- Educate yourself about the tremendous biodiversity during a canopy tour through the Tsitsikamma National Park
- Learn the true meaning of “adrenaline” as you jump from Bloukrans River Bridge, the highest bungee jumping bridge in the world!*
- Encounter herds of elephants as you drive through the Addo National Park and learn from conservation experts about the threats facing these endangered pachyderms
- Eat a traditional Xhosa meal and enjoy a local cooking lesson in a rural village to gain firsthand experience into village life
- Complete your journey with discussions about “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty” and addressing larger global issues as your worldview expands from all you have seen during the program
- Soak up some sun on the Wild Coast after your service is complete by riding horses on the beach*, playing beach volleyball, and trying out ultimate frisbee
- Go back in time at the Nahoon Point Nature Reserve where famous footprints were found on the roof of a sea cave and which may provide a missing link in history
- Hike along the spectacular coastal cliffs above Morgans Bay to learn about shipwrecks along our coast and the story of Nongqawuse and the prophecies that have colored the rich history of the Wild Coast
- Lose yourself in the awe inspiring views from “God’s Window” along the route from Nelspruit to Johannesburg via Blyde River Canyon and Bourke’s Luck Potholes
*Cage diving with sharks, riding horses, and bungee jumping are optional excursions
DAY 1: NEW YORK (FOR THOSE WHO OPT TO TAKE THE GROUP FLIGHT)
As the group flight takes off, the trip officially begins!
DAYS 2 – 4: CAPE TOWN
Our journey begins in the coastal city of Cape Town, where we will get to know South African city life. We’ll tour the city, ride the cable car to the top of Table Mountain for a panoramic view, spend an evening on the V&A Waterfront, and visit Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 29 years. It is here that we’ll first come to know the long history and lingering effects of South Africa’s Apartheid past and the nation’s path towards democracy; a theme we will carry with us throughout our travels.
We will also spend time outside of Cape Town on a Cape Point tour featuring the Chapman’s Peak drive, a spectacular drive after we visit most southwestern African peninsula. In the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve you’ll get up close views of African Penguins, Cape Seals, ostrich, and other native species.
Each day is capped off with incredible food to better understand the diversity of South African cuisine.
DAYS 4-8: GANSBAAI, PLETTENBERG BAY AND TSITSIKAMMA
After three wonderful days in Cape Town, we will embark on an action packed overland journey along the southernmost portions of the African continent. Our first stop will be in pursuit of a once-in-a-lifetime experience, getting eye-to-eye with a great white shark in Gansbaai, the great white shark capital of the world! All students will have the chance to take an excursion out to sea with marine biologists and an experienced crew will teach you about where these magnificent animals hunt and hide, as well as how and where they feed, breed, and breach. For anyone brave enough to do this excursion, you will also have the chance to jump into the cage and see them underwater (don’t worry, it’s completely safe!). We know this experience is not for everyone; participants who elect not to do this excursion will enjoy time to explore the beautiful seaside town of Gaansbai!
Next we will go underground…at the head of the picturesque Cango Valley, lies the spectacular underground wonder of the Klein Karoo – the Cango Caves. Situated in a limestone ridge parallel to the well-known Swartberg Mountains, you will find the finest dripstone caverns, with their vast halls and towering formations. As our journey progresses, we will meet up with marine biologists for a whale watching outing to see Humpback and Southern Right whales, then stretch our legs in the afternoon as we explore the Robberg Peninsular, a protected nature reserve.
Kicking it up a notch in terms of adrenaline, the next day we will head to Tsitsikamma for a canopy tour of the internationally recognized biodiverse forests. For those in need of even more adrenaline, you can take an optional excursion up Bloukrans River Bridge for the ultimate bungee jumping experience! We will also enjoy a full day game drive through Addo National Park, renowned for excellent elephant encounters. During our visit we will learn all about these iconic animals, what their lives are like in the wild, as well as the threats facing their survival from conservation experts. After bidding our new pachyderm pals goodbye, we will enjoy an afternoon scenic drive to Chintsa, our home for the community service portion of our program.
DAYS 8-17: COMMUNITY SERVICE ON THE WILD COAST
The Wild Coast of South Africa boasts beautiful beaches, incredible wildlife and friendly locals who will welcome you to their home. For the next ten days, we will be based in Chinsta, just outside the city of East London. Teens will spend their time volunteering at local elementary schools to revitalize the school buildings and focus on finishing a new playground for the local children. Our local partner organization has dedicated itself to matching volunteer efforts with local communities in need.
One of the local school mothers gave a passionate speech to our last group at the conclusion of our project and described our work as “oxygen for the village, as you have breathed new life into this community.”
This service project is perfect for any teenager who wants to participate in a hands-on construction service project with an abundance of interaction with young children. We’ll be welcomed into the homes of those who live here, and enjoy lessons in cooking and dance, getting insight into the everyday life of the Xhosa people. There’s plenty of time for activities outside of work; spend your time surfing, horseback riding, engaging in discussions about developing world issues, beach sports and visiting a local game reserve where we’ll have the chance to interact with young lion cubs.
Once our service work is complete, we’ll feel the satisfaction of having made a real contribution to people’s lives, as we say goodbye to the Wild Coast. Time and time again, teens on our South Africa trip return home with increased confidence, self awareness and a renewed passion for volunteer work as meaningful part of their goals in life.
DAYS 17-19: KRUGER NATIONAL PARK AND BLYDE CANYON
We will fly from East London to Nelspruit, journeying into one of the most unbelievably beautiful regions of South Africa, Mpumalanga, where we will explore the incredible locations of Kruger National Park and Blyde River Canyon. Picture yourself in a game drive vehicle passing herds of elephants, pods of hippos, dazzles of zebra and of course a pride of lions! Have the chance to see the “Big 5” in the wild during exhilarating wildlife safaris and a night game drive! You will be astonished by the beauty of this place, as we are led by experienced local guides who take care of our safety while still bringing us close to the many animals who call the park home. As we bid Kruger goodbye, we will traverse some of the most awe inspiring landscapes including the third largest canyon in the world, Blyde River Canyon, checking out the misty highlands, the incredible geological formations of Bourke’s Luck Potholes, the magnificent views of God’s Window and even spot a soaring Taita falcon.
DAYS 19-21: JOHANNESBURG AND RETURN TO JFK
Our final location for this amazing trip is Johannesburg, where we will learn about the country’s oppressive past at the must-see Apartheid Museum before a bicycle tour exploring the truly unique Soweto Township where the downfall of Apartheid started. Spend your final evening surrounded by your new-found TFT family, reminiscing about a truly incredible South African adventure you will never forget!
As you board the plane home, we will bid you Hamba Gashle Umgani – Go well, our friends, until we meet again.
Who can go on this trip? What kind of teen typically goes on this trip?
We have teens join this program from all over the world! They are typically slightly more adventurous than the average teen who just wants a cultural trip. They are want to involve themselves in a more intense and meaningful service project and are curious about modern day life in Africa. Most teens do this program by themselves but friends are of course welcome to travel together. This trip is only open to high school students.
Where do we stay?
Our hotels are specifically chosen to be in safe areas and well-suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. This means we do not use large, impersonal chain hotels on the outskirts of cities. We prefer to select smaller, family run hotels where we establish personal relationships with the owners.
During the trip we stay at a combination of hotels and hostels, chosen for their authentic feel and convenient locations. In Cape Town our accommodation is a locally owned modern, ultra-chic hotel perfectly located close to the city’s famous beaches. We have ensuite dormitory accommodation, with a maximum of 4 students per room, near Gansbaai, Plettenberg and Kruger National Park. We will stay in well-appointed cabins (think beach bungalow) on the river near Addo National Park and on clifftops overlooking the Wild Coast in Chintsa. Finally we finish the trip staying at a hotel near Johannesburg and Pretoria.
For safety reasons, we do not publish the names of the accommodations we use. We do not feel it is safe to publish the name of a hotel where a group of teenagers is staying abroad. After registering, participants and parents are given access to our secure parent website where you will be able to see the names of all of the accommodations for a trip.
Do most travelers go by themselves?
Yes, in fact over 75% of students who travel with us choose to come independently. This encourages teens to step further outside their comfort zone and make new friends. We believe that one of the most rewarding and exciting elements of travel is the new friendships that are formed along the way. If you travel by yourself, you are bound to make new friends from all over the country and even the world. The best part is, you can travel again with your new BFFs on another TFT trip the next summer!
Can I bring a friend?
Absolutely! We just ask that if you come with a friend, you and your friend(s) are still open to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.
What do students generally like most on this program?
Students love that this program takes them out of their comfort zones, on an incredible journey through all the best parts of this enthralling country. The broad range of experiences and sights gives them unparalleled nature and wildlife, incredible vistas of unbelievable locations and a boatload of cultural experiences and activities. They form close bonds with their fellow travelers and the locals they meet on this unforgettable three week journey!
What is unique about this program?
The community service component of this trip is nothing short of captivating. The days are incredibly rewarding; working to improve the facilities of the local school for the appreciative children who you will form very strong bonds with as you interact with them each day. This is also one of our more adventurous programs that captures the best of this diverse and fascinating country.
What is included?
Ground transportation, accommodations, all breakfasts, lunches and dinners, chaperones and guides, trip related activities, trip related activity admissions, taxes and tips.
Not Included: (not intended to be an exhaustive list) Airfare, visas & visa application fees, beverages other than tap water, activities and admissions not referenced in the itinerary or deemed not trip related such as movies, clubs and the like, expenses incurred by the participant that are outside the trip description such as damage to hotels, excess baggage fees and the like, expenses related to unforeseen circumstances such as transportation strikes, natural disasters and the like, personal and medical expenses.
Horseback riding on the beach and the cage diving with great whites are also small extra costs.
How do the optional group flights work?
Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss this trip’s flight details. You are not required to take the group flight, although there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is chaperoned by TFT staff, it offers an opportunity for the students to get to know each other before the trip starts, and we get preferred group flight prices on trips that have group contracts (ask for details). Parents are responsible for arranging for participants to get to the group flight airport. Travel For Teens staff are at the airport, greet arriving participants, and help them get to where the rest of the group has assembled. For more information about Flights, visit our Flights page.
Who are the counselors on the trip?
The Trip Director for every trip is a seasoned teen travel professional with extensive TFT experience. Trip Directors often live or have lived and worked in the destination country. Extensive knowledge of the language and culture of the destination is crucial. Our Senior Counselors are experienced, responsible and fun-loving individuals who our participants can share experiences with and look to for guidance and support. At Travel for Teens we pride ourselves on our rigorous staff application process and the professionalism of our full time and summer staff.
It is the job of the counselors to keep the trip fun and exciting, the learning and the laughter in good balance, and to oversee the safety of the participants. Minimum ratios are on average one staff member to every seven participants. Trips may also include one or two Junior Counselors, who are college students with a history of TFT travel, and one or more Counselors in Training (CIT’s) with limited responsibility. CIT’s are not counted in staff-participant ratios.
In addition to the TFT staff from outside South Africa, there will also be a local full time TFT guide with them the entire time.
What are the safety qualifications for our staff?
All of our staff members attend a week long training session every May to prepare for the upcoming summer and go over safety precautions and protocols. Likewise, every counselor is CPR/First Aid certified and Trip Directors are Lifeguard certified. All staff undergo a rigorous interview process and thorough background check.
What is the average group size?
At Travel for Teens, our trips typically fall into 3 different size categories.
Small: 7-14 students where 14 is the maximum.
Medium: Average is between 14-21 students with 21 as the maximum.
Large: Trips 21-35 students. These are our largest trips.
Typically South Africa trip falls into the small range with a maximum of 14 students per year.
How does this program connect to other programs?
This program can be connected to trips in Europe and Latin America. At the end of the South Africa trip, your counselor will escort you to the Johannesburg airport and help you get to your next destination where you will meet up with your new counselors and group.
What is the food like on this trip?
In a word – Delicious! At TFT, we believe food should be an integral part of the travel experience and always make an effort to eat at authentic establishments when we can. What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a place than by sampling the local delicacies, and we encourage students to do so whenever possible! Just as we stay away from Americanized hotel chains, we try to avoid restaurants with menus that cater only to tourists because every good traveler knows the best food is found wherever the locals are eating!
South African food is colorful, interesting and unlike anything you’ve tried before, it is also known as Rainbow Cuisine, due to the wide variety of multicultural influences including Dutch, French, Indian and Malay. Meat is an integral part of the food culture, highlighted by South Africans love of a good Braai (barbecue). We will have the chance to enjoy a few traditional South African meals in a buffet style so that participants can try a lot of different local foods found nowhere else but here.
We also love to have picnics al fresco, and do this whenever possible, which is a great way to taste some local food while sitting out in the fresh air taking in the sights and sounds of our surroundings.
As always, we are willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
Do I need any vaccinations for this trip?
We recommend that you check with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the areas you will be visiting. For more information, please check out the World Health Organization’s website www.who.int/en/.
I’m concerned about Ebola, should I be?
There is no need for concern. During the most recent outbreak in West Africa, there were no cases of Ebola reported in South Africa or any of its neighboring countries. As always TFT has contacts on the ground in South Africa that monitor the situation very closely to ensure the safety of all participants.
Do I need to bring anything special for the community service portion of the trip?
Participants will need to bring a pair of work gloves as well as a set of clothes and a pair of close toed shoes that can get paint on them. All tools and materials will be provided to participants on site.
Is South Africa a dangerous country?
We only visit and stay in the safest places and hotels in South Africa. We have carefully avoided any areas which are prone to crime. Safety is our number one priority at all times.
Will we encounter dangerous animals in Kruger National Park?
Participants will be able to see all of the Big 5 from a safe distance. On every safari/game drive, there will be guides in order to keep participants safe. Outside of the game parks, there is almost no chance of encountering any dangerous animals.
How much free time do we get?
Our counselors are with the group nearly always. Everyday we will break up into smaller groups to give our participants some choices and flexibility in their itinerary. At our accommodations, students will have a good amount of free time to enjoy the facilities but will not be able to leave the grounds without one of our staff members. Our time in Johannesburg and Cape Town will be fairly regimented to maximize the activities we can enjoy during our time, however there will be some free time to go shopping in certain safe areas of Cape Town and some rural markets. Additionally a lifeguard certified counselor will be supervising the students any time they are involved in water activities.
What kind of Visa do you need for this trip?
Any US citizen that enters South Africa is automatically granted a free 90-day tourist visa. If you are coming from somewhere outside the US, please be sure to check your country specific visa requirements.
Do I need to speak the language?
No, our skilled staff members will help you get around and even teach you a few fun phrases!
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