Incredible wildlife, varied landscapes, warm people and thrilling adventures await you on this unforgettable student travel through South Africa. From working with the youth of South Africa, to unforgettable wildlife safaris viewing the Big 5 in Kruger National Park this program combines service, wildlife education, cultural immersion, and adventure, and will truly be your experience of a lifetime.
We begin this trip with a chaperoned overseas group flight from New York to Johannesburg. Our trip leaders greet you at the airport and are with you from check-in onward. Everyone has the opportunity to begin trip bonding before we even land. For our many travelers from outside the New York area, we strongly encourage all participants to join our group flight to South Africa and are happy to assist you with arranging connecting flights at suitable times into New York.
For your return from Cape Town, we offer a chaperoned flight to New York. You may choose to join that flight and arrange transfers (if required) at suitable times after the group has cleared customs and immigration in the USA; or you may fly from Cape Town to your home city and our leaders help you to check-in and remain in the airport until flights in designated times have departed.
Children’s Eco Training is a program that focuses on hands-on environmental education amongst the youth in the Hoedspruit and Acornhoek areas of the Klaserie Nature Park. Children’s Eco Training committed itself to becoming involved in local schools to spread the theme of conservation through creating awareness, teaching, and inspiring youth to appreciate nature in many areas. In the past we worked alongside the students of the Primary School to construct vegetable gardens. We dug holes for the foundation, laid the bricks, filled the gardens with soil and compost, planted seedlings and erected a fence around the mini eco village. The bonds created with the children left us with both smiles and tears – you can count on the same!
We are often asked about what a typical service project is like but as no two are really the same, here is an example of what we accomplished over a few days in the Seganyane eco village. The goal was to construct 28 sustainable vegetable “keyhole” gardens at the school so teachers can cook meals for students. Often times, the only meal students eat the whole day is provided by the gardens on school property. Any leftover produce is brought to the market and sold to purchase more seeds that are replanted in the gardens.
The project started by mapping out the location of the circular gardens. Then, working in teams with a local leader from the community, we dug the foundation of the keyhole and then laid bricks and cement for the entire structure. Baskets were woven to filter the compost and the keyholes were filled with soil. We returned the next day and some of us built a fence around the mini eco village to keep out neighboring goats who like to nibble on the fresh produce, others arranged tires for carrot beds to be planted. Finally we planted and put finishing touches on the mini eco-village. We watered the gardens, painted the fence posts in bright, friendly colors and placed signage before the final unveiling to the great delight of local students and community leaders!
The beautiful area of St. Lucia which is located on the coast of the Indian Ocean is surrounded by communities that have HIV/AIDS infection rates of over 70%. You will be working in the two nearby villages of Ezwenelisha and Khula running a holiday camp for the children and orphans in the community. You will play soccer and games, run arts and crafts activities and help these amazing kids practice their English, all while learning about each other’s cultures. These communities run their nursery schools (crèches) out of single-room mud and stone huts. They need your help to work on projects like constructing fences to protect the crèches and the surrounding land, to build a playground or even start construction on a new crèche!
In contrast to the rural communities you will have worked with until now, here you experience the urban poverty of Red Hill or Masi Pamolailai and lend a hand where your help is desperately needed. In these townships, multiple families share a water source and are unable to build any permanent structures on the land, thus leaving them in poor living conditions. You will either work with crèches, run programs at a library or participate in a building project. You will help teach the children English through songs and play games in these informal settlements to support the families and communities.
Your adventure begins with an orientation to South Africa as well as to one another by whitewater rafting the Sabie River. Visit the Apartheid Museum and take a tour of Soccer City – one of the stadiums of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Heard of the Big 5? Scout with bush trackers for elephants, leopards, rhinos, cape buffalo and lions on an exciting safari drive in Kruger National Park, home to South Africa’s most varied wildlife. Meet Jessica the Hippo, the world-famous hippopotamus who will drink tea from a bottle from your very own hands. Discover Blyde River Canyon, the third largest canyon in the world, and take in the beauty of Bourke’s Luck Potholes.
Get to know some of the local customs and learn a few words in Zulu as you partake in an interactive Zulu Cultural Evening. Travel to Durban, on the Indian Ocean, and enjoy the day learning to surf, swimming and exploring the coast.
At Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, experience spectacular views from some of the southernmost tips of the continent. Stop off at the Cape Point Ostrich Farm before exploring Boulders Beach and the colony of African penguins which call this bay home. Experience a Seal Island boat cruise and see firsthand where some of the incredible scenes from the Discovery Channel’s Planet Earth were shot.
Welcome to Cape Town, South Africa’s oldest and most striking city! Journey up to the top of Table Mountain and be amazed by the sights and the views of this world class city. Descend by cable car and then explore the V & A Waterfront for hidden treasures and to check out the seals basking on the wharf in the South African sun. Learn to cook local cuisine at our cooking class. Ferry out to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Robben Island and tour the Maximum Security Prison where Nelson Mandela spent many of his 27 years in prison. Upon returning home, images of your journey will play like a slideshow in your mind – the soothing sunset from your safari, the first time a child reached out for your hand and made eye contact with you, the picturesque landscape of South Africa and the new you – a mentor, teacher, friend and volunteer. All of this made possible by you and a remarkable continent called Africa.
This property is conveniently located ten minutes from O.R. Tambo International Airport and a great place to start your South African adventure. Rooms have TVs and WiFi.
This amazing and authentic lodge is situated close to Kruger National Park. You’ll share the lodge area with local inhabitants such as Bush babies, Giraffe, Impala, Wildebeest, Bushbuck, Duiker, and Warthog who graze on the lush green grass and can regularly be seen from the verandas of the rooms. Here you will also enjoy dinners alternating between eating inside and outside with a braai (South African BBQ). The property has Wi-Fi.
The hotel’s rooms all share a westerly view across the St. Lucia Estuary. All rooms are equipped with TVs and safes. There is Wi-Fi in all public areas of the hotel.
The Holiday Inn Express Durban Umhlanga Ridge’s curving facade faces the Indian Ocean. Our hotel is situated next to Umhlanga Beach and within minutes of the heart of Durban’s vibrant city center. All rooms are comfortably furnished with TV, Wi-Fi, air conditioning and safes.
Each bedroom at the Quayside Hotel has a magnificent view of either False Bay and the Simon’s Town yacht basin or the majestic Simon’s Kloof mountains. The rooms are all comfortably furnished with Wi-Fi and TVs.
Located in the heart of Cape Town, the Cape Town Lodge Hotel offers spacious rooms that are located on the higher floors, so that guests can appreciate the views of Table Mountain, Lions Head, Signal Hill, Cape Town Harbour and the eclectic colours of the Bo–Kaap Village. The property has WiFi.
At Westcoast Connection nothing else comes first. From our extensive trip planning department through our management team and our leaders, it is our single biggest priority! Safety procedures, equipment – we’ve got it covered. All Trip Leaders and Directors are certified in First Aid and CPR. We are extremely proud of our safety record and welcome all questions you may have in this area. Please see more under Safety First.
Once you are on your trip, you will have sensitive leaders that are caring, approachable and always there for you. Your Trip Director and Trip Leaders are people with incredible backgrounds including teachers, guitar players, IRONMAN triathletes, SCUBA divers, volunteers, and so much more.
Every staff member takes part in and must complete our extensive training weekends that review our philosophy and procedures to provide a well-supervised and fun-filled program.
Our Trip Directors, the individuals responsible for overseeing each itinerary, take on the roles of teachers, coaches, camp counselors, mentors, concierges and hosts. They’ve been trained to provide individual attention and create an all-inclusive family atmosphere (our EACH & EVERY philosophy). There’s a definite art to building dynamic groups, and we’ve worked hard to master it! We want you smiling on day one right through to a teary goodbye at your farewell banquet.
Our leaders are non-smokers. To learn more about our staff, please visit our Summer Leaders section.
We can’t say it too many times, this is a really incredible group experience. A great dynamic starts with our secrets for group bonding. Our bag of tricks goes way beyond traditional ice breakers. Imagine people hunts, Rock, Paper, Scissors championships, Ninja tournaments, flash mobs and so much more. We work hard to get everyone moving beyond first impressions and creating an atmosphere of total acceptance. Our staff hiring and training emphasizes social safety and establishing an inclusive culture. Many of our travelers come as individuals and we have a geographically diverse enrollment with students joining us from across the U.S., Canada and internationally. This mix helps eliminate cliques at the outset and establish an open environment that benefits you. We take great care in assembling groups to create an unforgettable social experience. Our international service programs are for up to 24 group members.
Our service projects can change from one year to the next as we adjust to the needs of the local communities and the guidance of our service partners. This way, our service hours have the greatest impact and move forward the projects with the greatest priority. We also focus on service-learning throughout the process, where education and reflection are key to enriching these experiences for all.
We partner with established organizations that have a long history of achieving their goals and integrating teen volunteers into their efforts. Over the years we have built strong relationships with various organizations in the communities we visit who look forward to hosting our groups year after year. The specific service projects that we will work on are finalized in late spring and depend on what is most needed in these communities. Past projects have included building homes with Habitat for Humanity in Costa Rica, planting sustainable gardens with Children’s Eco Training in South Africa, teaching children to read with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hawaii. Last summer we completed 22,917 hours of service (that’s equivalent to 2.6 years!) in just 8 weeks.
Whether it’s building and planting sustainable food gardens in South Africa or lending a hand by making mud bricks for a community in rural Peru, our community service programs participate in a wide array of meaningful projects on five continents! With the help and direction of our longstanding local partners on the ground, our projects focus on five main themes: community welfare, youth leadership, environmental sustainability, infrastructure, and wildlife conservation. Check out some noteworthy projects we completed in previous summers to give you a glimpse at how we make our summers count!
Our groups participate in well-planned and substantial community service projects in between surfing in Hawaii, snorkeling in the Galapagos, zip lining in Costa Rica, climbing to the top of Machu Picchu in Peru, or marveling at the Big 5 on a safari in South Africa. We know when to pick up the pace to get the adrenaline flowing; we also know when it’s time to chill with some downtime on the beach. The balance of service and recreation is what sets our programs apart. By integrating adventure and recreational highlights into our itineraries, we are able to maintain a high level of enthusiasm.
Volunteer with experienced nonprofit organizations and alongside the locals who often directly benefit from your help, as you become part of a team working towards a common goal. Everyone’s contribution and cooperation are so important to help the service projects progress as planned, so please join us with the right expectations and a positive attitude. The rewards in sharing this experience are many, such as lasting friendships, improved interpersonal skills and personal growth. You will receive a letter of completion recognizing 20-70 hours of service (depending on the program) and listing the projects you helped to complete.
Westcoast Connection is a Certifying Organization for the President’s Volunteer Service Award. The award program was developed in 2003 as a way to honor and thank U.S. citizens and residents who engage in service both domestically and abroad. Presidential recognition of what you have achieved speaks to the type of person you are and hopefully inspires others to take positive action to change the world. The award requires completing 100 hours of community service within a 12 month period. Your service hours with our program qualify towards that total to earn the award.
As you travel to new places and experience different cultures, your journey may challenge your ideas and preconceived notions. We recognize this and strive to provide an environment where you are free to question and learn. This is nurtured by our leaders’ open and non-judgmental guidance. The opportunity for growth through service learning is endless!
Of all our summer programs, community service provides the greatest opportunity to interact with the local people and culture. Being exposed to families and children who have different customs and daily realities can broaden our perspective and raise our awareness of important issues. In a multicultural world, this education can break stereotypes and help us understand the role we play as global citizens.
There really is a difference in how different summer programs operate! Motivated teens going away with qualified leaders is a given. But what sets us apart is the depth of our qualified personnel that allow us to perform with the greatest consistency at the highest level.
Your Trip Director and Trips Leaders are with you throughout your program. They have daily contact with one of our two 24-hour Communication Centers and are in regular contact with our Company Directors. Our Company Directors are the most seasoned veterans who each oversee specific programs providing support to trip staff and to assist with any situations that may arise. Collectively our team is an incredible resource with 420+ summers of combined teen travel experience. This way, we can lend a hand wherever and whenever a little extra effort is called for. This investment in depth of personnel is unrivaled in teen travel and is a critical element to achieving consistent, excellent program quality and surpassing client expectations!
Included in the trip tuition are all activities and entertainment described, breakfast & dinner daily, lunches as indicated on your specific program, gratuities, taxes, land transportation, accommodations, and fanatical customer service from our full-time team and summer Communication Centers. This can add up to tremendous value!
We provide clean and comfortable accommodations. Please don’t expect luxury resorts and at the same time we know you need a good night’s rest to perform community service as well as have energy for our many other included activities. For quality and consistency of the group experience, we do not have any homestays. Each student has their own bed. For more detailed information on any specific program, visit the section marked Where We Stay.
A big part of a program’s success depends on how well you eat. We are proud of the fact that year after year we are complimented for our quality and quantity of food and variety of options. Part of your travel experience will be immersing yourself in the local cuisine and culture so please bring with you an open mind and a willingness to try new things. In South Africa, you can taste local game including warthog, kudu and impala but don’t worry, they also have North American style options on the menu. In South Africa, we recommend against drinking the local tap water and we provide clean water for our travelers.
We have satisfied the choosiest of eaters and gladly accommodate most special dietary requests including vegetarian, anaphylactic food allergies, lactose intolerance, celiac disease and kosher style. We welcome discussing your individual requirements with you and have extensive personal experience in this area. International travel may present more challenges than domestic locations and we are happy to review your personal needs and help you select an appropriate itinerary.
On international community service programs, you’ll ride in air-conditioned professional driven vehicles (from motor coaches to smaller passenger vans).
You only need to bring one week’s worth of clothing as outlined in our packing list as we have the opportunity for laundry weekly.
On our international programs, every week you will drop off your laundry at a local wash and fold service and then pick it up clean, folded and ready to go.
While you’re out having the summer of your life, your parents should feel like they are in on the action as well. We post updates to our blog and Facebook page and e-mail photos approximately once a week so those at home can be in on the fun. Parents also have access to our dedicated office Trip Monitors 24/7 for any questions and/or concerns. We’re as in touch as any trip operator could possibly be via smartphones with e-mail and text. The goal is uncompromising safety and peace of mind, day after day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Participants may bring their personal cell phones.
In last summer’s surveys, 98% of responding teens and parents said they would recommend us to others. We must be doing something right!
To enter South Africa, your passport must have two blank pages facing one another. If you travel often and no longer have this space available, you have to get a new passport, as this requirement is strictly enforced.
New regulations from the Republic of South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs have recently come into effect. Children under 18 traveling without a parent are required to produce an unabridged birth certificate, along with an affidavit from the parents confirming that they give permission for the chaperone to travel with the child. The traveler also needs copies of their parents’ passports and the contact information for the child’s parents.
This is in addition to any other required travel documents such as passports and/or visas. Travelers are invited to visit the Republic of South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs or to contact the South African High Commission at 202-272-7991 for more information.