Hear From An Alum: Volunteering in Cape Town

Wondering what it’s like to volunteer in South Africa? Here’s a first hand account from Lucy, an African Impact alum who volunteered in Cape Town!

I arrived in Cape Town for my volunteer adventure with African Impact and was surprised by how familiar the weather was to back home in Scotland – I think I arrived on the only rainy day in a few weeks! As I left the limits of the airport however, it became apparent how unique Cape Town is. Even from the motorway you can see the mountains dissolve into the ocean and the famously flat-topped Table Mountain, an iconic backdrop for most of the city. Cape Town is even more striking from great heights; whilst perched on a mountain peak it is easy to wonder what more you could want from a city as you stare down at a huge number of beaches, impressive mountains and a busy waterfront.

Aerial view of Cape Town

As a volunteer you don’t just experience Cape Town as a tourist, but really become part of this amazing city. Going out into the local communities and giving your time and expertise to improve the lives of others is an experience that will be with me forever. Here you witness the unbound spirit of African communities as children laugh and play with each other, despite not having the same privileges that we have at home. The children are cheeky and playful, demanding to braid your hair, and climbing up on you when you turn your back. The never-ending laughter is able to teach anyone a lesson happiness and you leave feeling like you have learned as much from them as they have from you. Cape Town has an exceptional history, which can be explored by visiting places like Robben Island or the District 6 Museum, where you will gain an understanding of how the city around you was shaped.

Penguins in the shores of Cape Town

As you meet like-minded volunteers you can cross many adventure activities off your bucket list, including sky-diving, shark cage-diving and sand-boarding, to name a few. The peninsula even has its own penguin colony at Boulders Beach where penguins waddle amongst bathers and happily pose for photographs. This part of Cape Town is dotted with perfect beaches and small seaside towns. Whether it’s learning to surf at Muizenberg or paying a visit to the seals at Kalk Bay Harbour, you get to know them quite well. The pinnacle of the Cape Peninsula is the dramatic Cape Point, the most southwesterly point in Africa. You can climb to the lighthouse at the top of the peak and watch the rugged cliff fall away dramatically, and if you’re lucky you’ll catch some of the wildlife of Table Mountain national park, which includes zebras and ostriches.

Volunteer at the peak of a mountain in South Africa

In Cape Town even endings are beautiful, as every evening people line the west coast and crowd the slopes of Signal Hill to watch the African sun dip below the Atlantic Ocean. As people discuss their day in the golden light it is easy to see why so many people consider Cape Town the most beautiful city in the world. Interning or volunteering provides the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in local life as you become accustomed to the culture and experience an extended time period of Cape Town life. Whether it is jogging along the beach as whales thrash their tales on the horizon or being frustrated as baboons hold up the traffic, I have found that no day in Cape Town is the same.


A big thanks to Lucy White from Edinburgh, Scotland for sharing her experience in Cape Town. in Cape Town, South Africa for a volunteer adventure you will never forget!