Africa Unearthed

Come join us in South Africa and Swaziland this year and help make a difference to the communities in the St Lucia area. The St Lucia area is a world heritage status wetland region with large local communities surrounding the protected eco-system. 

  • Construct housing and bathrooms for local families in need.
  • Observation, counting eggs, capture and release of crocodiles
  • Work with cheetah in a rehabilitation, breeding and release program
  • Teach English to primary school children
  • 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.

The volunteer work also includes helping build and install sustainable farming units which allow for families and, in particular, single mothers to start a micro business and through this gain employment and income for their family.

South Africa Unearthed

VESA has also begun a house building program in which the local Prince (Induna) identifies less fortunate families and VESA constructs houses and bathrooms for these needy families.

South Africa Unearthed

Our volunteers will be working with the national parks authority areas of conservation within the wetlands area in the observation, capture and release of crocodiles, the counting of crocodile eggs as well as feeding and cleaning the enclosures of the smaller crocs and alligators.

Our volunteers also work with Cheetahs and Leopards 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 you will have the time of your life. You will have the chance to come face to face with Africa’s ‘Big Five’ wildlife on safari and swim and/or learn to surf in the warm Indian Ocean… all in the one day. Have your bones read by a witch doctor, visit the University of Swaziland, White Water Raft, Horse Ride or Quad Bike in Swazi and loads more!

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.

VESA reserves the right to change this itinerary at any time and for any reason including flight schedules, natural and/or climatic events.

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 2017 - 2018

 Day  Activity
Day 1 Flight to Durban.
Day 2 You will be met at Durban airport by our friendly VESA staff member who will be easily recognisable in their VESA t-shirt and will be holding a sign. Please ensure that whatever your flight arrangements, you will be at the international arrivals hall at the time of the group flight arrival. We will be transported by minivan to St Lucia where we will stay during our time volunteering.
Day 3-8

We will undertake our volunteer work. You will be split into groups to undertake some or all of the following:

  • Working with children in a crèche/school teaching English, 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 National Parks Authority and local wildlife refuges in areas of conservation for the preservation of cheetahs and lynx as well as the capture and release of crocodiles, the counting of crocodile eggs.

8:00am - Breakfast
9:00am – Begin Volunteer work
12:30pm – Lunch
1:00pm – Continue volunteer work
4:00pm – Finish
4:30pm – Free time & Activities:
7:00pm – Dinner
8:00pm – Activities and free time

Day 9-11 See heaps that Africa has to offer on our adventure tour...
Day 1: Cape Vidal open air safari. Afternoon swimming and evening beach BBQ.
Day 2: Zulu village, visit to the iSangoma – traditional Zulu healer, river cruise for hippo and croc watching.
Day 3: Imfaluzi game reserve safari.
Day 12-13 Coach to Swaziland where we visit the local markets. Cycle/walk/Quad bike the wildlife reserve or White Water Raft. Overnight in the game reserve.
Day 14 Transfer by coach to Johannesburg and your flight home or continue on with us on “The Road to Mozambique”.
* South African Rand can be withdrawn using your own ATM card or Australian dollars an be converted at Durban Airport:


  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner on all days except for the free day
  • All accommodation
  • All volunteer materials and local builders/assistants
  • Drinking water where required
  • All in country transportation
  • Entry to game reserves
  • All activities except where indicated as optional

Optional extras (approx prices only)

  • Horse riding $20
  • Quad Biking $80
  • Bike Riding $15
  • White water rafting $100
  • The Road to Mozambique $999


10 nights 
St. Lucia BiB’s 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
All meals.
Dorm accommodation separated into male female. Electricity, bed linen/pillows,full bathrooms, common room, full 24 hour security, laundry facilities. Internet available at reception - phone cards available in the town. Close to shops, banks, supermarket and medical clinic.

2 Nights Sondzela Lodge Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
All meals
Dorm accommodation – all in together Electricity, linen, full bathrooms, swimming pool, no internet, no phones
Meals on transfer to Jo’burg are to be covered by participant.

Africa Unearthed 2017 - 2018

Please note positions are highly limited for positions in our 2017 - 2018 programs so submit your application early to secure the best chance of travelling with VESA this season.
   Africa Unearthed  Road To Mozambique


Sat Nov 18th -  Sun 3rd Dec 2017

Arrive Australia - Dec 9th 2017


Fri Dec 1st  - Sat Dec 16th 2017 - FULL

Arrive Australia - Dec 22nd 2017


Fri Jan 5th  - Sat Jan 20th 2018

Arrive Australia - Jan 26th 2018

 4 Thurs Jan 18th - Fri Feb 2nd 2018  Arrive Australia - Feb 8th 2018

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: 

 Program  Deposit  Final payment  Total

Africa Unearthed




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

Group Flights 2017 - 2018 

VESA Group Flight times, arrivals and departures will be published  on or around 1st May 2017 below and will also be emailed to you on or receipt of your program deposit. You may book your own flights and then inform VESA of your itinerary so that we can be assured you will be able to meet our schedule. 

Africa Unearthed

Group Flight: Africa Unearthed 2017 - 2018

Group Flight details Volunteer program only:

# Depart Australia or New Zealand Depart Johannesburg
1 18 November  3 December






2 1 December 14 December





3 5 January  18 January




4 18 January  31 January






Travel Dates: Africa Unearthed + Road to Mozambique 2017 - 2018

# Depart Australia or New Zealand Depart Johannesburg
1 18  November 07 December





2 1 December 20 December






3 5 January  24 January






4 18 January 06 February





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.

I am only 17, can I still come?

All participants must be 18 by the date of departure. If you are 17 now but will be 18 by the date of departure you may send in your agreement however it must be signed by your parent or guardian.

I already graduated/am not a student, can I still come?

Sure, not a problem! All we ask from our participants is that you come with an open mind and a desire to make a difference. Please note however that the majority of our participants are university students and range in age from 18 - 24 years old.

I'm a vegetarian! Is that a problem?

No, not at all. Please let us know on your application if you are Vegetarian or if you have any other dietary requirements. If you are Vegan or have Celiac disease, you are welcome to come, however you may be responsible for purchasing some of your food whilst on the program.

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 work sites 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 2016

  • Achievement


    • One new four room crèche constructed for sixty children

  • Achievement


    • Over twelve thousand hours of hands on volunteering with Cheetah, Serval, Caracals and African Wildcats

  • Achievement


    • Over thirty five thousand hours of face to face volunteering at local creche


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

Apply Now

South Africa Project Location