Program Overview

Our South Africa program brings together fulfilling volunteer service, heart-racing adventures, and exotic wildlife on a once-in-a-lifetime journey that will reshape your worldview.  Learn about South Africa’s natural geological beauty, wildlife, and conservation practices from naturalists and marine ecologists. During this program, we will discover everything South Africa has to offer while exploring its major cities, stunning landscapes and mind-blowing game parks as we attempt to connect with the heart of this amazing country.

For our service project, we will work together to construct a playground at a local village school. The new playground will have a huge impact on the community and also show us what a difference we can make! Your efforts will be rewarded with the meaningful friendships and connections you’ll form with the locals along the way and the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you have completed the project.

In addition to our service work, we will have plenty of adventures including learning to surf, spotting the Big Five on an exciting safari through a world-famous game park, ziplining, hiking, riding horses, whale watching, swimming with sharks, and more!

Price

$6395 + $350 Intra-Trip Flights + Airfare

Departures
  • Jul 10 - Jul 31 Available
Days

22 Days

Finishing Grades

9, 10, 11, 12

Who Can Go On This Trip?

Students from around the world!

Places We Visit

Johannesburg, Soweto, Blyde River Canyon, Kruger National Park, Chinsta East, Addo Elephant Park, Tsitsikamma, Plettenberg Bay, Cape Town, Gansbaai

Optional Group Flight There

New York (JFK) to Johannesburg (JNB)

Optional Group Flight Back

Cape Town (CPT) to New York (JFK)

Countries

South Africa

During this program, you will…

  • Gain a better understanding of South African history at the Apartheid Museum
  • Gaze at jaw-dropping views from God’s Window along the route from Johannesburg to Nelspruit via Blyde River Canyon and Bourke’s Luck Potholes
  • Spot the Big Five game animals—the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo—on a safari in Kruger National Park
  • Earn up to 40 hours of service credit during a school playground revitalization project and volunteer at an elementary school.
  • Learn to surf alongside the rugged and unspoiled Wild Coast
  • Experience local village life with a cooking lesson of a traditional Xhosa meal
  • Ride horses on the beach*, play beach volleyball, and try ultimate frisbee
  • Learn about shipwrecks, the story of Nongqawuse and local folklore as you hike the spectacular coastal cliffs above Morgan Bay
  • Encounter herds of elephants in Addo National Park while learning about the threats facing these gentle giants
  • Experience true wilderness on a canopy tour of one of the world’s most biodiverse indigenous forests in Tsitsikamma National Park
  • Have a close encounter with Humpback and Southern Right whales on a whale watching expedition in Plettenberg Bay
  • Travel to the top of Table Mountain for an incredible panoramic view of Cape Town
  • Feel your heart race as you come face-to-face with great white sharks at a distance on a boat or up close underwater in a caged dive*
  • Step back in time on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated during the Apartheid regime
  • Capture unforgettable scenic views along Chapman’s Peak Pass en route to the Cape of Good Hope Reserve, where you’ll encounter penguins, ostrich, and other native species
  • Complete your journey by expanding your worldview with discussions about “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty” and larger global issues

*These are optional excursions

*This program is the extended version of our popular South Africa Service & Safari program, for those travelers who just don’t want their time in Africa to end!

Trip Itinerary

DAY 1: DEPART FROM NEW YORK (JFK)
DAYS 2–3: JOHANNESBURG

Our journey begins in Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa and often considered the vibrant heart of the continent. Once the home of Nelson Mandela, this city is a stark representation of the wealth divide that plagues so many developing urban centers and is the perfect place to dive into the complex history and rapid rebirth of South Africa. Johannesburg is thriving with a friendly citizenship, coffee shops, independent cinemas and incredible museums. We’ll visit the Apartheid Museum to learn about South Africa’s troubled past before exploring the city on a bikes, passing galleries, cultural spaces and courtyard cafes. Experience a welcome Braai, the South African version of a delicious barbecue!

DAYS 4–5: KRUGER NATIONAL PARK

After our initial familiarization with South African culture and people, we’ll leave Johannesburg behind as we venture off the beaten path. Outside the big city, some of the world’s most awe-inspiring landscapes await including Blyde River Canyon ,the third largest canyon in the world. We’ll travel through the misty highlands on our way to Bourke’s Luck Potholes, an otherworldly geological phenomenon. Along the way, we’ll capture sheer natural beauty from God’s Window, a breathtaking scene of waterfalls, rock formations and canyons.

Our journey will take us to one of the most diverse South Africa, Mpumalanga, “the place where the sun rises.” Known for its subtropical foliage and abdundant wildlife, this province is home to Kruger National Park where you’ll encounter treasured archeological sites and join a true African safari. Our expert guides will lead us on our wildlife expedition where we’ll discover how it feels to see a herd of elephants in the wild, feel the pride of a lion up close or savor the rare moment when you lock eyes with a leopard. We’ll even have the exhilarating opportunity to explore the park on a night safari to get a unique glimpse into nocturnal wildlife under the vast expanse of a starry sky.

DAYS 6–12: VOLUNTEER SERVICE ON THE WILD COAST

Next, we’ll hop a flight from Nelspruit to East London, the capital of the Wild Coast. The Wild Coast of South Africa boasts rugged coastline, untouched beaches and leisurely lagoons. For the next week we will be based in Chintsa, just outside the city of East London. Here, we will volunteer at elementary schools. Our local partner organization has dedicated itself to matching volunteer efforts with local communities in need. Projects include the revitalization of education buildings and the construction of a new playground for the local children.

At the completion of our project, a Chintsa mother gave a passionate speech to our group, describing our work as “oxygen for the village, as you have breathed new life into this community.”

This volunteer project is perfect for students who want to participate in a hands-on infrastructure service project with the chance to interact with children. While in Chintsa, we’ll have a true cultural immersion experience in the everyday lives of the Xhosa people with cooking and dancing lessons, surfing, and horseback riding. After fulfilling days, we’ll gather around community meals and settle into engaging discussions about developing world issues.

Once our service work is complete, we say goodbye to the Wild Coast knowing that our positive impact and bonds with the community will last a lifetime. Time and time again, those who join us on our South Africa program return home with increased confidence, self awareness, and a renewed passion for volunteer work as a meaningful part of their goals in life.

DAYS 13–16: ADDO ELEPHANT NATIONAL PARK, TSITSIKAMMA AND PLETTENBERG BAY

We depart the Wild Coast to embark on an action-packed overland journey along the southernmost portions of the African continent. Our first stop will be Addo Elephant National Park, renowned for thrilling elephant encounters. During our visit, we will learn all about these gentle giants from conservation experts, what their lives are like in the wild, as well as the threats facing their survival.

Then we head to Tsitsikamma, a national park tucked between the mountains and the sea and encompassing a marine reserve, deep gorges and lush forests. Here, we’ll do a canopy tour of the internationally recognized biodiverse forests of the world-famous Garden Route. Continuing our journey, we will meet up with marine biologists for a whale watching expedition to spot Humpback and Southern Right whales, then stretch our legs in the afternoon as we explore the Robberg Peninsular, a protected nature preserve. We will enjoy an afternoon of beach activities in “Plett Bay” before continuing west to the Mother City: Cape Town.

DAYS 17–20: CAPE TOWN

En route to Cape Town, we will stop through Knysna, the true gem of the Garden Route, before making our way to Mossel Bay, known for its pristine white sand beaches. Once in Cape Town, we’ll see everything that this coastal city has to offer, including a ride up the cable car to the top of Table Mountain for a panoramic view and spend an evening on the V&A Waterfront. We will also spend time outside of Cape Town on a Cape Point tour featuring the Chapman’s Peak drive, a spectacular drive along the southern African peninsula, ending at the Cape of Good Hope. In the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve you’ll get up close to African Penguins, Cape Seals, ostrich, and other native species.

Last but not least, we will have the option to pursue a once-in-a-lifetime experience, coming eye to eye with a great white shark! The nearby town of Gaansbai is the great white shark capital of the world, and even better known for the infamous Shark Alley. All students will have the chance to take an excursion out to sea with marine biologists and an experienced crew to teach you where these magnificent animals feed, breed, and breach. You can observe the sharks at a distance from the boat deck or jump into the ocean for a closer look in a caged dive. Those who choose not to go on the excursion will have the opportunity to check out the Company’s Garden and the many beautiful sites in this historically rich area of Cape Town. End your day on the golden beaches of Camp’s Bay and for those who love hiking, go for a climb up the infamous Lion’s Head!

No trip to Cape Town is complete without a visit to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned before the fall of Apartheid. It is here that we’ll come to better understand the long history and lingering effects of South Africa’s Apartheid past and the nation’s path toward democracy. What makes this activity incredibly unique is that former political prisoners from the time of Apartheid give personal and in-depth tours of what it was like to be imprisoned there. When we return to the mainland, we will visit a buzzing artisanal market or go for a spin on the Cape Wheel for amazing views of the City Bowl and Waterfront.

Spend your final evening surrounded by your new-found TFT family, reminiscing about a truly incredible South African adventure you will never forget! When you board the plane home on your final day in Cape Town, we will bid you “Hamba Gashle Umgani” – Go well, our friends, until we meet again.

DAY 21: RETURN FLIGHT TO THE USA

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Frequently Asked Questions

See All FAQs

What kind of teen typically participates in this program? What are the requirements to join?

Teens from all over the world join this program! Typically, our participants are culturally curious  individuals who are excited to make new friends, experience something unique, and interested in stepping out of their comfort zones and expanding their horizons.

This program is exclusively for students who are currently in grades 9th through 12th and approximately 14 to 18 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!

Where do we stay?

Our hotels are chosen specifically in safe areas and are well suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. 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 program we stay at a combination of hotels and hostels, chosen for their authentic feel and convenient locations. In Johannesburg, we stay at a modern hotel in the very safe Sandton area of the city. We have en suite dormitory accommodation with a maximum of four students per room in Kruger National Park and Plettenberg Bay. We stay on clifftops overlooking the Wild Coast in Chintsa and in well-appointed cabins (think beach bungalow) on the river near Addo National Park. In Cape Town our accommodation is a locally owned modern, ultra-chic hotel, perfectly located close to the city’s famous seafront promenade.

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 the program.

Do most travelers go on their own?

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 form along the way. When we travel by ourselves, we 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 friends on another TFT program the next summer!

If you are thinking about joining a TFT program by yourself but you are feeling unsure, please let us know! We have plenty of references from solo travelers who had great experiences and would be happy to chat with you about it.

Can I bring a friend?

Absolutely! We ask that if you do come with a friend, you and your friend(s) maintain openness to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.

What do students like most about 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 that they meet on this unforgettable journey!

What is unique about this program?

The community service component of this program 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?

Tuition cost includes ground transportation; accommodation; chaperones and guides; program-related activities and admissions; taxes and tips; all breakfasts, 11 lunches, and dinners.

Not included in cost (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list): airfare; lunches; visas and visa application fees; personal and medical expenses; activities and admissions that are not program-related or referenced in the itinerary; beverages other than filtered water at meals; participant expenses that are outside of the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels; expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters.

How do the optional group flights work?

Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss the program’s flight details. There is no requirement to take the group flight, but there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is usually chaperoned by a TFT staff member, and it also offers an opportunity for the students to get to know one another prior to the start of the program. Parents are responsible for coordinating transport to the departure airport – however, the logistics team will send out instructions detailing the exact meeting spot and airport point person. For additional information about flights, visit our dedicated flight page.

Who leads the program?

Our staff is a cut above the rest! We seek out two main characteristics in our counselors – extensive knowledge of and experience in our destinations, and a passion for working with teens. Our staff’s backgrounds include living abroad and working in summer camps or other educational settings. Team members are proven leaders and role models, who connect easily with others and form genuine friendships with each student – all while bringing each destination to life.

We celebrate diversity! Our staff represents 49 different nationalities, speak a combined total of 21 languages, and visited 142 countries. Additionally, 80% of our staff lived or worked abroad in their lives. With so many unique experiences to share, you are sure to gain a global perspective.

Our average minimum ratios are one staff member to every seven participants. Each program has one Trip Director with several support staff, depending on the group size. Directors must be at least 25 years old and have prior experience working with TFT.

What are the safety qualifications for our staff?

Our staff members undergo a rigorous hiring process. They receive the same background check as school educators, an extensive training process to go over all safety precautions and protocols, and are required to be certified in CPR and First Aid.  We exclusively hire responsible, multi-talented individuals who are safety-minded and are as passionate about teen travel as we are.

What is the average group size?

We pride ourselves on small group sizes to create a more authentic and personalized experience. Our group sizes fall between 14 and 21 students – the perfect size to facilitate new friendships without feeling lost in a crowd! We believe smaller groups eliminate the likelihood of cliques, and allows for a well-rounded, healthy group dynamic.

How does this program connect to other programs?

Our program dates are designed specifically so that participants can opt to combine trips throughout the summer.  When connecting to another program, your counselor will escort you to the airport on the last day of the program and assist you in meeting your next group at your new destination.

Families who sign up for more than one program will also receive a 15% discount on the lesser-priced program.

What is the food like on this program?

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.

Of course, we are always willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.

Do most travelers go on their own?

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 form along the way. When we travel by ourselves, we 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 friends on another TFT program the next summer!

If you are thinking about joining a TFT program by yourself but you are feeling unsure, please let us know! We have plenty of references from solo travelers who had great experiences and would be happy to chat with you about it.

Do I need to bring anything special for the community service portion of the program?

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.

A more detailed packing list will be provided upon registration.

Do I need any vaccinations for this program?

We recommend checking with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the destination you are visiting. For more information, please check the World Health Organization’s website. Upon registration, we provide a list of recommended vaccinations that can be discussed further with your doctor.

What kind of visa do you need for this trip?

Any US citizen who enters South Africa is automatically granted a free 90-day tourist visa.

When joining a TFT trip from outside of the US, please be sure to check your country’s 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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