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How to get involved in South Africa’s community and conservation projects

From collaring elephant to raising literacy rates, meet the people helping the Rainbow Nation one project at a time.

South Africa is a destination which has it all: a diverse culture, spectacular topography, award-winning wine and world-famous wildlife. Yet poaching, poverty and pollution pose a continual threat to its environment and its people. During your A&K holiday to South Africa, why not discover the efforts being made to tackle these problems? You can even lend a hand. Here are just a few of the projects striving to better the Rainbow Nation.

Saving the rhinoceros

In the early 1900s, the Southern white rhino was on the brink of extinction. Thanks to conservation efforts, its population has climbed, but the threat from human activity remains. These iconic ungulates pacing the savannahs of South Africa face an uphill struggle for survival, but the nation’s game reserves are lending a hand. Join a veterinary team at Ngala Private Game Reserve in Kruger to observe up-close how rhino ears are notched to aid the tracking of its population. Stay at Ngala’s tented camp and take advantage of this rare opportunity to be close to an animal so unique and so sadly at risk. 


Caring for the African elephant

The African elephant is the largest living land mammal on Earth. But despite its star power, it faces the same two-pronged threat as its thick-skinned friend the rhino: poaching and habitat loss. 20,000 elephant are poached each year, whilst the encroachment by humans into their habitat gives them an ever-shrinking area within which to live. Game reserves such as Phinda in KwaZulu-Natal play a vital part in protecting this majestic pachyderm. Join the conservation staff as they swoop in to replace the radio collars of the seven resident herds. Overhead, a veterinary team in a helicopter sedates the elephant with a tranquiliser dart whilst you follow the action from an open-top 4x4. Once the elephant is out for the count, join the team by its side as they undertake this important work. All funds raised by visitors go directly to supporting the elephant conservation efforts at Phinda.

Funding the three Rs

Research by Stellenbosch University in 2016 revealed that functional reading and numeracy skills are weak amongst South African children in the critical early stages of school. This can have a dramatic impact upon their prospects later in life. To remedy the situation, The Click Foundation is turning to the power of technology. Set up in 2012, the charity has helped over 39,000 students by implementing a fun online literacy programme across the country, and plans to do the same with mathematics. Cape Town’s Ellerman House hosts an annual auction of South African art to raise funds for The Click Foundation. Called ArtAngels, the event brings together generous artists and passionate collectors in support of a worthy cause. Rub shoulders with art lovers, enjoy an evening of entertainment and bid on unique lots to give South African children a great start to their education.    

Providing livelihoods

An eco-reserve boasting 2,500 hectares of lush plant-life, Grootbos is a little bit of Eden on the southern coast. A stay at its luxury accommodation includes opportunities to take botanical tours, whale watch from the shore and ride along trails on horse-back. Such pristine wilderness needs to be preserved, however, and the Grootbos Foundation was formed in 2003 to do just that. Its mission is to conserve the unique Cape Floral Kingdom, but also to develop sustainable livelihoods for surrounding communities. One of the foundation’s many schemes, the Green Futures Horticultural & Life Skills College gives up to twelve unemployed young people the benefit of accredited training each year, developing skills in everything from finance to horticulture. Candidates walk away with new confidence, knowledge and a better chance to succeed in the world of work. The Grootbos Foundation also offers tourism and hospitality courses, aids early childhood development centres and uses sport as a vehicle for change in young people’s lives. Visit one of its projects to see the passionate work happening firsthand – and there are even opportunities to volunteer. 

Philanthropy tours

Take a break from bumping around on safari for a tour of a different kind. Uthando, which aptly means love in Xhosa, is an award-winning tourism organisation that puts people at the heart of a holiday to South Africa. Based in Cape Town, its philanthropic tours take in vibrant townships, their historical sites and their community-led projects. Visit schemes focusing on everything from youth development and care of the elderly to arts and crafts and animal welfare. True to its Fair Trade Tourism accreditation, Uthando ensures every tour is respectful, meaningful and creates a connection between tourists and the communities they visit. 

Find out more about philanthropy projects and the best time to go to South Africa.