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Gap Year Goals: See the World, Have Fun, Make a Difference

School is finally over and it’s time to look forward to the next chapter in your life, but first a vacation abroad is in order. If you’re thinking about spending some of your gap year as a volunteer in Africa it’s a great decision for multiple reasons. 

You will make a positive impact by offering your time and skills and gain world experience that will make it easier to navigate college, university, or work life. But you will also have fun and meet incredible people from all around the world who will become life-long friends.

Africa is a wildly popular choice as a gap year destination because of the things you can do when you aren’t volunteering. It offers adventures unlike anywhere else on earth.

Wander along the strange and surreal streets of Zanzibar, glide through the reeds of the Zambezi River as elephants wade nearby, get up close to prides of lions on a walking safari, or meet the proud and mysterious warriors of the Maasai tribes of Tanzania.

The opportunities for adventure are aplenty and each moment and interaction offers something special. This is the magic of Africa and what will make spending some of your gap year volunteering here such a life-changing and worthwhile experience.

Here are 5 gap year ideas for volunteering in Africa that will make 2021 unforgettable:

Live the tropical island dream while teaching children and adults on the idyllic coast of Zanzibar!

You will make a positive impact by teaching children at nursery schools and teaching adults English at community classes, and you will become part of the community by learning some of the local Swahili language, participating in community initiatives, and living in a small village on Unguja island.


Unguja is the main island of Zanzibar and your doorway to unreal island adventures like swimming with dolphins, island hopping trips, sunset sundowner cruises in a traditional Dhow boat, and dancing beneath the moon on the shores of paradise at a full moon party.

Also see: Top 10 Reasons to Visit Zanzibar

This is my first volunteer experience abroad and I can say for certain that it was the best experience of my life. The project, the people, the students, the community, my expectations were blown away. – Erin, Canada

You literally wake up to paradise every morning and the sunrise here is the most beautiful I have ever seen. It was amazing to experience Zanzibar not as a tourist but as a part of the community. – Charlotta, Austria


Whether you’re a pre-med student or thinking about a career in healthcare, volunteering on a medical project gives you a chance to make a tremendous difference in the lives of people who live in communities where medical resources are scarce and access to healthcare is limited.

You will gain valuable healthcare experience in a variety of departments by assisting in medical clinics, accompanying local caregivers to their rural homes to offer home-based care, and bringing awareness to the local people through health talks at schools, training centers, and support groups that encourage healthy lifestyle choices and preventative healthcare measures.


You will also be living at the award-winning Victoria Falls Backpackers that is known for its vibe and incredible location on the edge of Victoria Falls!

Also see: What You Need to Know About Being a Medical Volunteer Abroad

The opportunity to do this with the African Impact team was truly amazing. Everything was structured and planned out while leaving enough time to do the incredible weekend activities. The morning and afternoon projects are well organised, which allows you to focus on the people you work with. Every day there was something new and exciting to do and discover. – Tycho, Netherlands


The work you do on this multiple award-winning volunteer program will contribute to important wildlife conservation efforts to protect and conserve threatened and endangered species.

Join our field guides and wildlife conservation research team in the most beautiful game reserves in the world-famous Greater Kruger Area for the ultimate African safari and encounters with magnificent wild animals, including the iconic Big 5: Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino, and Buffalo!


You will get involved with every aspect of wildlife conservation including tracking wildlife through the bush, going on night drives to survey nocturnal animals such as leopards, identifying animal tracks on morning walks, camping out under the starry skies at research camps, and offering much-needed assistance with removing invasive plant species and poaching snares.

Also see: The Volunteer Trip That Opened My Eyes

This was my first time doing anything like this so I was unsure what to expect, but what I got was a life-changing experience. I absolutely loved every minute, every experience, and every interaction – whether it be with the staff, the other volunteers, or with the community. – Chris, England

I was fortunate enough to see all the animals I wanted, yet the main aspect which contributed towards this amazing experience was the people I met and the friends I have made. All the project staff and guides are extremely accommodating, friendly, and knowledgeable. I would definitely recommend this project for any animal or travel lovers! – Ellie, United Kingdom


The Girl Impact is an initiative that aims to support, educate, and encourage adolescent girls as they become empowered young women in their community.

You will get involved with community projects that empower girls and women with skills and knowledge, as well as projects with young boys to introduce, educate, and raise awareness on gender equality.


You will also get to fully immerse yourself in local Zambian culture and enjoy the slow way of life or heart-pounding adventures that have helped Zambia earn the title of ‘adventure capital of Africa’. Your home will be Victoria Falls Backpackers – they were just named ‘Best of the Best’ in the TripAdvisor Awards for 2020.

Also see: 10 Reasons Why Now is the Time to Visit Zambia

From the planning stages to trip execution to my experience on the ground, this trip has been amazing. The projects are well planned out, well-executed, and it is obvious that the goal is for them to be sustainable and meaningful. I never felt that my day was not useful. – Mel, Canada


Our sports coaching and development program in Cape Town provides much-needed coaching and physical education sessions to kids to help them develop teamwork and communication skills.

You will provide sports coaching and help teach physical education sessions in various sports to children in Cape Town’s townships. Sport is known to reduce risks of gangsterism and drug use, but sports opportunities are limited in townships. Volunteers offer an extra set of hands that can help children burn off energy, deal with frustration, or inspire a love for sports.


This volunteer program won the Outstanding Volunteer Project Award in the Global Youth Travel Awards.

Also see: Tackling Inequality the Need for Sport Volunteers in South Africa

An immersive experience in the Cape Town community. An opportunity to experience a different way of life and support those in need. The kids are amazing and treat you with both playful cheekiness and awe. A moving and unforgettable experience. – Andy, United Kingdom

I had a tremendous 2 weeks working with the sports coaching and development project; the access to meaningful projects within local communities was excellent. Would certainly consider repeating this! – Simon Martin, United Kingdom


Haven’t found a project that interests you? Browse all of our Conservation Volunteer Programs and Community Volunteer Programs. Or get in contact with us and we can advise you on which project would suit your interests and skills!