The Mountains Are Calling – Part One

Aviva Volunteers, in partnership with Trailblazers Hiking Club, are launching new hiking (including overnight hiking) packages and excursions on some of our most beautiful peaks surrounding the greater Cape Town area – whilst you are volunteering with us.

Climbing the table_2

Towering 1086 meters over Cape Town,  Table Mountain is the most dynamic playground for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Whether it be summer, winter, autumn or spring – the mountains are always calling you. Trails run the length and breadth of the mountain, offering more than 900 different routes (counting all climbing routes as well) with hiking opportunities for all levels of experience and fitness. If you have a passion for nature, hiking or simply being outdoors, then make sure to pack your hiking boots, day backpacks, hiking poles, flasks and other handy gadgets to ensure you have a memorable hiking experience whilst you are in Cape Town.

Table Mountain is a firm favourite with volunteers where they enthusiastically tackle Platteklip Gorge on their first climb (hike) up the Table.  It is steep with lots of boulders and it is a long hike if you are not used to hiking. So many will hike up but will catch the Cable Car down after having cool beverages from the restaurant and having experienced a 360 degree incredible and magnificent view from the top.

Another firm favourite with volunteers is Lion’s Head. They usually conquer this with ease despite have to climb ladders and stairs with a firm grip on chains. Climbing the lion_2 But they do it with ease and are elated when they reach the top as the view is spectacular. You may get the one volunteer who decides the best way down is quickly achieved on her backside which she did with an unfortunate bump or two on the way down and then be at the mercy of volunteers for weeks on end with butt jokes being thrown around. She survived and we threatened to give her a helmet if she went up again. All in good fun though. Don’t think you will climb Lion’s Head once – you will climb it a lot more especially those sunset hikes or moonlight hikes on a perfect summer evening. Note to yourself: pack a head torch.

When you are issued with your personal trip planner username and password, we will be uploading documents on all the hiking trails (including costs) which you will be able to book and pay in advance.  At Aviva Volunteers we always simplify your life and take the stress out of planning.  And that my dear volunteers, is what makes us so special. You are always welcome to email us should you wish to find out more information before this is launched on our website.  Happy Hiking ….. the mountains are calling so you must go!






When it rains in Africa

One has just got to love Capetonians when it rains in Cape Town and especially when there is thunder and lightening to accompany those wet little droplets falling from a gun-metal coloured sky. Photographers race to their cars and drive to the beach front hoping to get that perfectly timed shot of lightening bolts flashing towards the earth and sea. Mother nature did not disappoint us and neither did the photographers.

For those who do not know, Cape Town is under serious water restrictions at the moment due to a severe drought which almost crippled our economy. Okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration but when Government ignore the seriousness of the situation and locals have to contend with a mere 50 litres per personal a day for everything, it does feel like a crippling situation.

Back at the Aviva Volunteer House, management stepped up to the plate and had a borehole set up with huge water tanks and filters to keep the showers flowing and the toilets flushing and the pool filled. In all the time I have been working at the Volunteer House, I have never seen so many empty 5 litre bottles which once contained fresh mineral water. The ongoing heatwave left everyone feeling dehydrated and it was a concern that the water from the taps was not pure enough for drinking purposes, although some volunteers drank it and said it was fine and they never got sick. We shudder to think what happens to those empty plastic water containers as they cannot be reused for long periods of time.

As winter approaches, we are hopeful for long rainy days, dams and reservoirs filling up to capacity and our lives (with water) returning to normal.


Unique Features on Cape Town & the Western Cape

A popular misconception (even amongst locals) is that the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean meet at Cape Point. The reason for this misconception is that the water which washes the shores cape.agulhas.4of False Bay are warmer than the cold water of the Atlantic on the western seaboard of the Cape Peninsula.

A unique feature when visiting Cape Point is that you are standing at the most South-Western tip of the African Continent. The waters are warmer on this side due to the strong south easterly winds blowing the waters being carried in the warm Mocambique current, towards the shore. So whereas we have a warm current which is sometimes blown inland, it is mainly the cold Benguela Current which washes our shores in Cape Town.

Another unique feature when visiting Cape Town is to take a trip to Cape Agulhas. cape.agulhas.1Now THIS is where the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean meet and just like various spots around the world where you can be in two places or two time zones at one time, here you can have one foot in the one ocean and the other foot in the other ocean. Just because you can.

But don’t let your venturing spirit stop there.  There is so much more to see and do, places to eat, activities to partake in, history to read up on and your first dip in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. cape.agulhas.2Take photos for your friends – they will be so impressed that you not only stood at the most south-western tip but also the most southern tip of the African continent.

Even the lighthouse has a distinct fact – yes, you are right – it is the most southern lighthouse on the African continent! Let us know when you are volunteering with us, and we will arrange a trip for you where you can stay overnight and return the next day. Our travel desk has a great way to do this AND which will give you an opportunity to see more interesting places along the way.



High on a Hill ….

Was a happy goat herd – lay ee odl, lay ee odl, lay hee hoo ….  Fairview.1Now that I have either got you singing that song from The Sound of Music or humming it, I would like to tell you about our Feature of the Month – Fairview Wine.  I kid you not, this is the place where you can spend an entire day and never get bored.

Situated in the Paarl area, a mere 1 hour drive from Cape Town on the N1 national road, lies Fairview Wine where you are able to experience heaven on earth. The mission of Fairview has been to create a fully sustainable farm and with over 900 goats, they employ conscious farming techniques by collecting the goats droppings to recycle into compost and the result?  Good quality produce! Charles Back has received numerous awards and the latest to his ever-growing awards was being name Farmer of the Year in 2017.  So you know – visiting this Farm – you will be in great hands and enjoy culinary delights and wine that you would never experience back in your hometown. Fairview.5 Fairview are agriculturally driven and are able to supply their restaurants with farm fresh eggs, goat and cow cheese, and fresh organic meat.

Just so you know I am not kidding let me tell you about the goats.  

Kidding season is at Spring time – September and October – and when visiting the farm on a Saturday or Sunday, you are able to play with the kids. During this time, you will notice that there will be limited goat cheese on the shelves at the supermarket and this is because during this time, the nanny goats are taking a well earned rest and producing nutrient nourishing milk for their kids to drink. Fairview.6 I did not know that, did you? As the saying goes …. You are never too old to learn!  I am definitely going to book a spot during kiddie season, that is for sure! And then to top it off, you have Goat Yoga in the summer with all the little kids having a great party around you whilst you are stretching into a pretzel.

The Goat Tower has a history that one should never fail to mention.

Way back in the 80’s when Charles Back visited Portugal, he was inspired by a beautiful tower in the garden of a wine farm that after a couple of months after returning home, the iconic Goat Tower was built. Now, when visiting Fairview, you will see the skywalk bridge which allows the goats to roam from the tower area to the other side of the garden where a playground has been built for them. I think I will stay here forever! Seriously now – how cute are those goats? So chat to our travel desk and let us arrange an afternoon of culinary pleasure, delightful wine and a day where music and food will have you kidding around until the sun goes down!

We would like to thank Fairview for use of their images.



Essential Apps when Volunteering in Cape Town

You have arrived in Cape Town – let the adventure begin.  Today’s topic is all about essential apps for both Android and iOS systems which have been designed to make your travelling experience a whole lot more stress-free. Most of these apps have been designed in South Africa to the tech-savvy cell phone user who are loathed to use any paper of getting around a new city.

So let us explore the one’s which we feel will come in handy whilst you are in Cape Town.

The wonderful thing about CityMap2Go is that you do not need data connection to use this app.  citymaps2goOnce you have downloaded the map from City Maps 2 Go, you will be able to use it when you are offline. So you can navigate a city without wi fi connection. You will be able to look up restaurants, place of interest and find anything of relevance as you would have as a digital map user. There are 2 versions – one which you can purchase and the other is free.




This is such a useful organising tool for all your travel documentation such as your flight details, hotel check-ins, rental cars etc and it is especially helpful should you be volunteering in Johannesburg and Cape Town. tripitYour flight details will give you gate information, how long your flight will take, convenient telephone numbers etc. And, TripIt will synchronise with other travel apps.

We have had volunteers whose flights had been cancelled and they never received the notification from the airline.  Imagine their shock when they arrived at the airport only to find they were stranded? This app will alert you to changes in your plans due to cancellations, delays or gate changers and that will make it much easier for you to notify Aviva Volunteers of the changes.


Coming to Cape Town?  Then this should be the first app you download.  Though you will receive the paper version of the bus routes in the documentation section of your MyTrip, volunteers should always have this app myciticapetownhandy when using the bus system. The greatest aspect of this app, is not only the bus routes, but you are able to see the bus timetables, your current card balance and has a fare calculator.

Even if you intend using Uber, always keep this app handy on your phone so you are never left in a position where you have no transport.




You will discover when chatting to our Travel Desk after arriving at the Aviva House, there are free walking tours in the City.  If you download VoiceMap voicemapthough, you will be connected to at least 30 walking tours – all audio and all you need is your smartphone and earphones. And then ….. explore the city at your leisure.

If you need a break, the app will be paused and once you open the app again, it will automatically reconnect you where you left. To make it more fun you have several tours to choose from – historical, comical, fantasy, sci-fi themed tours and you can discover more than one area other than the city. Muizenberg, for example.

Zomato This is a food website and app and it find the best restaurant, cafes, pubs and bars in the city.  Actually, you can use this app in any city so it will end up being a nice addition to your smartphone. Information and photographs are shared by food lovers community and their comments will guide you in making the best possible choice for having a great meal and a fabulous time.

Last but not least, let us tell you about an “awesome” app which is yet another South African development.  awesome.capetownThis is the first location-based travel app developed in South Africa.  You have 4 colour-coded options – Red is for specials, Blue is for Events, Yellow is for promotions and Green is for news. So if you are looking for a good pizza deal or what is hip and happening over the weekend, this app will give you the low down on what you are looking form.  A handy tool on this app is a currency converter and emergency numbers.

So there you go Volunteers ….. we also do our best to look after you whilst you are staying with us. Give us some feedback when you are here as to how these apps helped you.


Extreme Makeover – Volunteer Edition

Management decided that Aviva House needed an upgrade! Working on a building site is by no means the most fun position to be in what with angle grinders, saws, drilling into concrete and let us not forget dust. It was fun to begin with, especially when the builders started knocking out the window and we


sent a message to the boss who was overseas at the time stating “the last guest inside the room complained about ventilation – we fixed the problem”. We cracked ourselves up over that message.


The pain and frustration was more than worth it and by the middle of December 2017, the first phase had been completed.  The volunteers were troopers of note. They put up with the noise on their days off, were subjected to new toilets, basins, cupboards occupying the communal space in the house and endured sauna like conditions in their rooms when mini twisters spread dust all over the courtyard preventing them from opening windows and doors. Said dust which was also trampled inside made it impossible for our Vollies to walk around without shoes. Luckily in the evening, the house was quiet and clean and there was some semblance of normal conditions for them.

Three of the inside rooms were converted for private use. Volunteers are able to book these if you are happy to pay the additional cost to occupy that room.  These rooms are also convenient should your parents like to join you prior to you commencing volunteering or the last week you will be here.

Take a look at the before and after photographs and let us have your comments.

The drought in Cape Town has had a devastating affect on our garden and pool and before our garden was landscaped, before.after.2we had a borehole put in to assist in keeping our plants and lawn from dying under the hot African sun. The pool is still work in progress and through trial and error have managed to get it blue again. And after everything was finished and we had our house back to ourselves, we held a social evening for the volunteers to thank them for their patience – a typical South African braai!



Does Volunteering Change or Shape your Life?

Job Opportunity for Primate Carer.  by josie du toit

Who could not love these wonderful little critters?  You have to be honest – you cannot resist such a cute face.  Could you?

The Vervet Monkey Sanctuary was established in 1989 after seeing the need for an organisation to provide a sanctuary for the Vervet Monkeys and to holistically investigate what was in fact happening to this indigenous primate of South Africa.  During the past decade the Foundation has developed a unique rehabilitation progam that has helped revolutionise the way in which primates are rehabilitated. Their enclosure designs are now utilised in similar primate projects. Fundamentally, the Foundation has saved and improved the lives of more than six hundred vervet monkeys. AVIVA-Volunteer-Vervet-Monkey-Project-01The foundation has also achieved many firsts in the rehabilitation of this primate species with the aid of volunteers, gap year students and primate carers.

Situated in the attractive subtropical garden town of Tzaneen, with a colourful profusion of indigenous and exotic flowers and vegetation. An above average summer rainfall and temperate climate all year round ensures that everything grows here in great abundance – nuts, avocados and other vegetables, fruits (especially citrus fruits, mangoes, bananas and litchis), coffee, tea and cotton. Close by are extensive emerald green tea plantations and the surrounding mountain slopes are heavily forested with timber plantations of pine and blue gum.  Tzaneen is the second largest town in the Northern Province and is situated in the foothills of the impressive Wolkberg (Cloud Mountain), the northern reaches of the Drakensberg Mountain range. The town is the commercial center for the district with 80 000 people residing in its area of jurisdiction and 650 000 people residing within a 30km radius. To this day, the Vervet Monkey project remains a popular project with our volunteers, some who do this project and then come to Cape Town to do the popular African Penguin Rehabilitation project. So when the Vervet put out an advertisement for a Primate Carer, it was natural for us to share this on our Facebook page too and two days after appearing on Facebook, I received a message from one of our past volunteers who said, and I quote “I would just like to thank you for sharing the Vervet Monkey Foundation link to their job opportunities.  I applied yesterday and then had a Skype interview with them today and they have offered me a role as Primate Carer.  This means I will be moving to South Africa very soon and I am super excited! I am very grateful to you for sharing that link, meaning my life is going to change! This is going to completely reshape my entire life, all thanks to you for sharing that link! Thank you so much.”

This is not the first time, a volunteer has used their volunteering experience to make big moves in their careers. From volunteering on our African Penguin project, some volunteers have achieved great careers with Zoo’s in both the United States and the United Kingdom. These volunteers came to South Africa knowing they wanted to study and work in the field of wildlife conservation or marine conservation (but were not entirely sure), fell in love with the idea whilst volunteering on their project and then went on to study and working to fulfil their dream. We are so proud of all our volunteers.

Despite what many people have said on the internet about a Gap Year experience, our volunteers have only had good experiences and have carved out success in their lives