South Africa Service, Adventure and Safari
$5,995 + Airfare + $275 Intra Program Flights
Jun 30 – Jul 20
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
|Optional group flight back:||
Cape Town to New York (JFK)
Meaningful service projects, thrilling adventures, and an abundance of wildlife come together on our South Africa program to give you a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a difference and reshape your worldview. Our goal will be to get in touch with the heart of this amazing country by working with conservation experts and marine ecologists to learn more about South Africa’s natural beauty, wildlife and conservation practices. On this program we will discover everything South Africa has to offer while exploring the major cities, stunning country-side and mind-blowing game parks.
For our service project we we will work together to build a playground at a local elementary school. The new playground will have a huge impact on the community and 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 5 on an exciting safari through a famous game park, ziplining, hiking, riding horses, whale watching, swimming with sharks and more!
On this program you will:
- Visit the Apartheid Museum for a better understanding of this part of South African history
- Lose yourself in the awe inspiring views from “God’s Window” along the route from Johannesburg to Nelspruit via Blyde River Canyon and Bourke’s Luck Potholes
- Safari in Kruger National Park and spot the “Big 5″ in South Africa’s largest game reserve
- Earn up to 40 community service hours as you perform a much needed revitalization of the school’s playground
- Connect with the friendly people who live along the Wild Coast of South Africa as you volunteer at an elementary school
- Surf on the gorgeous beaches of the Wild Coast
- Eat a traditional Xhosa meal and enjoy a local cooking lesson in a rural village to gain insight into village life
- Soak up some sun on the wild coast after your service is complete by riding horses on the beach*, playing beach volleyball, and trying ultimate frisbee
- Hike along the spectacular coastal cliffs above Morgan 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
- Encounter herds of elephants as you drive through the Addo National Park and learn from conservation experts about the threats facing these endangered pachyderms
- Educate yourself about the tremendous biodiversity during a canopy tour through the 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 panorama over Cape Town
Get your blood pumping as you come face to face with Great White Sharks from the boat or if you are brave enough, from inside a cage in the water*
- Step back in time on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated during the Apartheid regime
- 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 come face to face with penguins, ostrich, and other native species
- 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
*These are optional activities
DAY 1: DEPART FROM NEW YORK (FOR THOSE WHO OPT TO TAKE THE GROUP FLIGHT)
As the group flight takes off, our South African journey officially begins!
DAYS 2 – 3: JOHANNESBURG
Our journey begins in Johannesburg, where we will see first-hand the juxtaposition that exists between rich and poor. Here 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 began.
DAYS 3-6:KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
We will wave goodbye to big city life in Johannesburg to 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. Our journey will take us to one of the most unbelievably beautiful regions of South Africa, Mpumalanga, where we will explore the incredible locations of Kruger National Park. 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.
DAYS 6-12: COMMUNITY SERVICE ON THE WILD COAST
We’ll bid Kruger goodbye before catching a flight from Nelspruit to East London, the capital of the Wild Coast. The Wild Coast of South Africa boasts beautiful beaches, incredible wildlife, and friendly locals who will welcome you into their homes. For the next week we will be based in Chintsa, just outside the city of East London. You will spend your 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 anyone 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 too! Spend your time surfing, horseback riding, engaging in discussions about developing world issues, beach sports, and visiting a local game reserve.
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, 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
After our week of service projects and fun in the Wild Coast sun, we will embark on an action packed overland journey along the southernmost portions of the African continent. Our first stop will be Addo Elephant National Park for a full day game drive through this 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 what are the threats facing their survival from conservation experts. After bidding our new pachyderm pals goodbye, we will kick it up a notch in terms of adrenaline as we head to Tsitsikamma for a canopy tour of the internationally recognized biodiverse forests of the world-famous Garden Route. Continuing our journey, we will meet up with of marine biologists for a whale watching trip to see 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,” as the locals call it, 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 spending 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 with African Penguins, Cape Seals, ostrich, and other native species.
Last but not least, we will have the option to go in pursuit of a once-in-a-lifetime experience, getting eye to eye with a great white shark! The nearby town of Gaansbai is the great white shark capital of the world, and there’s nothing more that these sharks love than to feed around Seal Island, just off the coast of Simon’s Town. 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 hunt, hide, 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!). 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 the city. End your day on the golden beaches of Camp’s Bay and for those who live 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 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 towards 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 have the opportunity to visit an amazing 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: GROUP FLIGHT ARRIVES TO THE USA
What kind of teen typically participates in this program?
We have teens join this program from all over the world! They are typically culturally curious teens who are excited about making new friends, stepping out of their comfort zone, expanding their horizons, and trying something new.
What are the requirements to join?
This program is only for students who are currently in 9th through 12th grade and approximately 14 to 18 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!
Where do we stay?
Our hotels and hostels 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 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 Johannesburg. We have en suite dormitory accommodation, with a maximum of four students per room, 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 beaches.
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 program.
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 program 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 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 they meet on this unforgettable three week 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?
Ground transportation, accommodations, all breakfasts, eleven lunches, all dinners, chaperones and guides, program related activities, program related activity admissions, taxes and tips.
Not Included (not intended to be an exhaustive list): Airfare, visas and visa application fees, eight lunches, beverages other than filtered water at meals, activities and admissions not referenced in the itinerary or deemed not program related, such as movies, expenses incurred by the participant that are outside the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels, expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters, as well as personal and medical expenses.
How do the optional group flights work?
Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss this program’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 program starts, and we get preferred group flight prices on programs 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 LEADS THE PROGRAM?
The Trip Director for every program 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 program 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. Programs 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 the group for the entirety of the program.
What are the safety qualifications for our staff?
All of our staff members attend a week-long training session 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?
Group size is important! A smaller group size provides unique opportunities that a large group cannot accommodate. Think of your favorite local restaurant; could it easily accommodate a group of 50 teens? Probably not! Our group sizes average between 14 to 21 students, which means that we are able to comfortably use local transport, enjoy local restaurants, and have a more authentic experience overall! A smaller group size also eliminates the likelihood of cliques, meaning that our groups all tend to bond as a cohesive unit. We guarantee that you’ll have enough people to meet some new best friends, but not so many that you feel like “just a number” or lost in a crowd.
How does this program connect to other programs?
This program can be connected to programs in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. At the end of the South Africa program, your counselor will escort you to the Cape Town 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 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.
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.
How much free time do we get?
Our counselors are with the group almost 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 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.
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.
Do I need any vaccinations for this program?
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/. After you register, we will provide you with a list of vaccinations you should consider discussing with your child’s family doctor.
What kind of Visa do you need for this program?
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 local languages?
No, our skilled staff members will help you get around and even teach you a few fun phrases!
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