While it’s never cited as the major motivation for joining a Global Volunteers Tanzania service program, a weekend trip to Ruaha National Park and Game Reserve can’t be topped.  This Tanzania safari destination is East Africa’s largest park and game reserve, about 40 miles from Iringa. It’s home to 10,000 elephants and over 500 species of birds, plus giraffes, lions, buffalo, cheetahs, leopards, hippos, baboons, zebras and antelope. And best yet – as compared to $2,500 up to $10,000 charged by commercial operators – the costs for this two-day Tanzania Safari is between $300 and $400. And, team members enjoy it just as much as so-called “luxury safaris.”

“When I applied, you didn’t tell me how much fun I was going to have!”
– Jim Colburn, Tanzania Volunteer

Tanzania Safari “Bonus:” A Volunteer’s Story

Team member Alyssa Kornowa writes about her Tanzania safari with seven other Global Volunteers at Ruaha National Park  – after a week of working with children and mothers in Ipalamwa.

Tanzania safari weekend trip

The landscape around Ipalama is green and vast.

“Our weekend guides Darrel and Joseph (driver) arrived and off we went! As we left Ipalamwa in daylight, we were able to see what we’d missed on our arrival in the dark. The landscape of the region is breathtaking – soaring mountains covered in countless shades of green; deep valleys where we see groves of fragrant eucalyptus and hillsides of farmed pine trees. The air is scented and cool. The rust red dirt adds to the beauty of the area. The road is bumpy, but the scenery and sense of adventure make the trip into Iringa. A short stop to take a “rest” and we head in a new undiscovered direction.

weekend tanzania safari road

The journey to a weekend away is bumpy, but scenic.

As we head to Ruaha we notice a dramatic change in the landscape. We leave the lush green and head into a flat, dry, monochromatic land of leafless trees some with the wildest Suessical shapes, especially the Baobab. More unpaved roads but the trick on the flat stretches is speed to minimize the jarring. It works!!

Tanzania safari trip to the savana

a drastic change in landscape – the baobabs are characteristic of the lowlands.

Our destination overlooks the Rift Valley!! The views from the lodge were amazing, stretching out from our individual cabins was a vast sea of grey leafless trees, the flat landscape was accentuated by mountains either singular or with a range. It looks so much like the high desert of California – once a seabed, is this the same geographic history? It’s also the same with Ipalamwa which to me looks like the mid-coast of California around San Simeon. I imagine this is what California might have looked like 200 years ago.

Tanzania safari lodge

The Ruaha Hill Top lodge is indeed on top of a hill!

The lodge is rustic and comfortable and the staff great us warmly. Dinner is buffet style and very good. After dinner, we are treated to the most wonderful night “star-vies.” The Milky Way and so many constellations which for a city dweller like me was a beautiful experience. We are off to sleep with open windows and nice breezes. We have an early start tomorrow for the safari.

A Full Safari Day – Saturday, September 9, 2017

We awoke this morning with the air blowing fresh through the barren trees as we anticipated the sun’s rise over the eastern mountains. A splash of golden color, and our day had begun. Ezra served us eggs, of course, along with cinnamon bread, fruit and some type of savory pancake. And juice of a mix of passionfruit and avocado. It was pretty delicious. We gathered up our things and left the lodge for our Tanzania safari, and a day of ADVENTURE it was! The number of animals we saw was unbelievable!

Impalas on tanzania safari

Impalas on our Tanzania safari adventure.

The large group split into two, with an open-air safari jeep and another jeep with a pop-up roof for 360 degree viewing. Park entries were paid by us, Joseph (our driver) and our guides Moses and Darrell and then we were on our way. Not even a few minutes into Ruaha National Park we were greeted by beautiful impala with their tan coats, stunning black and white markings, and spiked horns. Then came the kudu (greater and lesser), for which the park is known. As we rolled down the dusty road, we caught glimpses of the baboons and had our first encounters with giraffes, their long, black tongues plucking the red brush-like flowers from all that remains on the burning bush. During the dry season, this shrub is one of the only plants that sustains some of the animals. The bare trees left more opportunity to see the animals, but I think we all wondered what exactly it would be like during the rainy season when all the vegetation remained and varying shades of green quilted the landscape.

hippos on Tanzania safari

Our first stop was over the Ruaha River where we could view hippos and crocodiles from above. Many of us struggled to see the hippos as they appeared right before our eyes but blended in so well with the rocks. The crocodiles were very inactive as they sunbathed on the shore or slowly swam with their heads just above the surface. The birds we saw in the park often took a backseat to all the other animals but were impressive to watch in flight or when we could catch a glimpse of their colors. The birds included kingfishers, palm swifts, red-billed and ground hornbills, social weavers- who made nearly perfect round and golden grass nests- Guinea fowl- which frustrated Maynard to no end as he could never get a good photo before they scattered- tawny, batura, brown snake, and fish eagles, vultures, starlings, hammerkops, and saddle-billed storks, whose huge black and white wingspan and red markings and bill could be seen from a great distance. And these are just the birds that were pointed out to us. There were so many more.

lion on Tanzania safari

As we made our way through the 22,000 square kilometer park, we came upon zebras, water bucks, elephants, warthogs, mongoose, and finally gazelles and jackals. But some of the most impressive were the lions and leopards. Earlier this morning, Ezra said we were going to have a very good Tanzania safari day because we had the good fortune of seeing the baboon below us in the trees while eating breakfast. And he was right! While we were driving along the road, Moses had his eyes peeled for all animals and there he found, lying under a tree on a rock, a female leopard sitting perfectly still. She didn’t hardly move as we pulled right up alongside her. With her tail twitching slightly, she seemed to be unaffected by our presence. Whether this is good or bad, I don’t know. Moses was very excited to tell Darrel in the other vehicle and word was passed around to the other guides about the leopard’s location, since they are so rare to find.

Elephants on Tanzania safari

Our group stopped for a packed lunch near the dried riverbed where we could view some elephants who were digging their trunks in the sand to obtain any moisture that might remain below the ground. It was getting pretty hot so after lunch it didn’t seem like we saw as many animals out. They were probably trying to protect themselves from the heat. You could tell that the guides were looking for something special though, and it felt like we were in habitat where some lions might be. Suddenly, one of the guides spotted an area with a ton of vultures in the trees, and where there are vultures, there is most likely something dead for them to feed on. And where there is a fresh kill, there is oftentimes a lion. And this was exactly the case. Under the vultures lay a fairly fresh giraffe carcass, probably taken down by one of the 3 lions we found lying beneath a bush in the shade. It’s not a Tanzania safari without seeing lions feeding on a fresh kill. Again, the lions hardly noticed us as we pulled right up next to them. At this point, our day had pretty much been complete but not without seeing hundreds of impalas as we headed back to the entrance of the park.

Jeeps for Tanzania safari

But our day got even better with another type of adventure! We had to cross the dried riverbed once again before leaving the park so our guides told us to “hold on tight, always” as the big safari jeep tried to keep up its speed as it sunk into the sand. Joseph pressed on getting some magical traction from somewhere, leaving the smaller jeep with the other volunteers in the dust, now stuck in the hot sand. After crossing, our guide was able to connect with another vehicle that had a massive chain to tow the jeep. After about 20 minutes, we were again on our way. It’s hard to imagine what might happen without trusty guides and vehicles! It’s a long way to the park entrance!

As we ended our Tanzania safari, we passed through an “elephant graveyard”- not the type with skulls and bones but one with dead and fallen trees. We learned that the elephants strip the bark from mostly the massive baobab trees to obtain the calcium, nutrients, and moisture during the dry season. As the elephants strip the bark down low, they try to reach up further and further, even standing on their hind legs to get as much bark as they can. The stress this puts on the trees weakens it until eventually it becomes so deprived of its nutrients that it can topple down with the tug of an elephant’s trunk. The elephant, and then even some other animals, finish stripping the bark and remaining leaves, if any, and what’s left is a very blackened, dead-looking forest of downed trees. Driving through the “elephant graveyard” left an indescribable eerie feeling.

Somehow, we left the park feeling exhausted. It could be riding in the heat, but more likely it was just the fact that our senses were on overload all day as we tried to take in everything we could. Just after turning off the main road to head up to the lodge we saw yet another surprise! No, not a cheetah or water buffalo like we were hoping for to complete our Big 5 list, but the other jeep with a flat tire! One of the volunteers ironically had just asked Darrell how long tires last on a vehicle that puts up with so much abuse from the rough terrain – and not a minute or so later, bam… a flat tire! Thankfully these guys know what they are doing, and can have a flat fixed within minutes. How long would it take us since I’d bet most of us are either out of practice or have never even had to change a tire? It wasn’t long at all before the rest of the group joined us in receiving a  sweet cold towel from the lodge staff to wipe all the sweat and sand from our faces. Since we had some time before dinner we all freshened up and rested a little. Delicious peanut soup and salad, along with fish, vegetables, and potatoes were served for dinner. We reminisced about our day and soon everyone retired to their cottages, too tired from our Tanzania safari of a lifetime.”

Want a true humanitarian trip – helping mothers and children – and enjoy a Tanzania safari as a bonus?  Talk with a volunteer coordinator:

Chat online about volunteering abroad

 

Volunteer Voice: Read more about serving as a Global Volunteer in Ipalamwa, Tanzania from Tanzania volunteer alum Ruth Curran.

 

Cuba Volunteer in Havana

Reflections from Karin, Cuba Volunteer, about her service in Havana with Global Volunteers:

I absolutely loved my week in Havana. I really did not expect it would be like that, since I knew no one and it was my first time going with Global Volunteers.

My Teammates were wonderful. The Abuelitas at the Senior Center were so humble, sweet, affectionate and welcoming. They sung, danced and played with us. I promised to come back and already decided to join the October 14th group. It was very sad to say goodbye… Many hugs, tears and promises. I have to say, I personally learned you do not need richness to give love. Happiness is in the most unexpected places. And if you just look past the small inconveniences, you will be surprised what you can find.

Cuba Volunteers in Havana

I chose to go to Cuba for a childhood memory I had. In 1952, my mom, my siblings, and I took a ship from Liverpool, England to Valparaiso, Chile. I was 9 years old. We stopped in Havana, and my mom kept telling us to look at the beautiful lights in Havana. I always remembered the lights and thought I would never see them again. But I did… and met some wonderful people that I can’t wait to see again in the process.

Havana Lights

And last but not least, our team leaders were superb. Stephanie, Aymara and Gema made everything that we did very easy. I loved, loved, loved being a Cuba volunteer and can’t wait to be there again.

Experience Havana’s Lights and Become a Cuba Volunteer

Visit our Volunteer in Cuba page to learn more about Cuba volunteer opportunities. We offer one-week and two-week service programs year-round in Havana as well as Ciego de Avila. Or, chat online with a Volunteer Coordinator. We’re ready to answer your questions!

Chat online about Cuba volunteer opportunities

 

Dominoes Game in Cuba

There are some people who can just walk up to a person and make conversation in the most kind and natural way. I’m definitely not one of those people. But Jerry is. His ability to quickly bond and make friends gave him the chance to be asked by total strangers to take part at an intense dominoes game in Cuba. Here’s the story.

After a morning of teaching conversational English at the community center in Ciego de Avila, volunteers usually go out for little walks to find out those interesting places every town has. One of this places was an arts & crafts store, where local elderly artists sold their wonderful work. While the rest of the volunteers were finishing up their souvenir and gift shopping, Jerry walked towards the street right outside the store where you could hear a lively conversation going on. There he saw a picture you might be able to see in Miami, and for sure everywhere in Cuba. A bunch of men around a table in the street playing an intense dominoes game. It is sunny, loud music coming from the house, a bunch of people gather around the table to watch the game, and both conversation and laughter make you want to join in. It is just one of those little things in life you should do.

Dominoes Game in Cuba

Jerry teaching basic English to children in Ciego de Avila, Cuba.

Jerry just walk towards the table and stood there to watch. I joined him. The players quickly acknowledged him and ask him where he was from. They seemed somewhat surprised when they heard he was American. Jerry clearly wanted to join them, but he was a little scared about the speed of the game. Plus, I didn’t know how to ask them, or if I should. But Jerry, being friendly as he is, started communicating with the players and the people around with a mixture of gestures and nods that everyone seemed to understand. One of the players finally asked Jerry to join. Jerry hesitated at first. It was just too fast and he didn’t want to intrude. The player insisted and promised he will help him, they would play together. The other players nod and show they will take it easy on him.

A dominoes game in Cuba is just a small moment, but a significant one. Strangers and foreigners being kind to each other and letting each other in. They don’t care about the politics. Perhaps we could put those aside for a moment, and, like Jerry, walk towards the strangers, be friendly, and enjoy a wonderful moment of sharing, learning, and enjoying. Perhaps is time for you to join on a service program to Cuba.

Student serving in Cuba

Brandy was part of a University of Central Missouri summer student volunteer group in Cuba. After two weeks of teaching conversational English to Cuban children and people and supporting the community of Sancti Spíritus in other ways, she wanted to share a message with anyone considering serving in Cuba. Brandy hopes you will pick up where she left off with her work – as do we!

Given the opportunity, I would go back to Cuba as often as possible. The people, the culture, the beauty of the Island, the food, all tied together to create a wonderful experience that I will never forget. Since I returned from serving in Cuba, the only thing I can talk about is the time I had there and how I want to go back someday.

Although the free time, the old cars, and the group were great, I think it was the volunteering I enjoyed most. Almost every time I volunteered I decided to practice English with the kids. Through this I learned that kids would get up early and walk to the church on their own just to work on their English during their summer vacation. This showed me that the kids truly wanted to be there and pulled the future teacher inside of me out. I wanted to be there for those kids.

Serving in Cuba

My favorite memory was the day we were able to assist with the water project. We helped the church fill containers with water. Then, the local people and the volunteers carried the water containers either back to their houses or to their makeshift carts waiting outside. What made this memory my absolute favorite were two different people. One, a man that said he was truly thankful for our help. He said that the work we were doing was God’s work and that they were blessed to have us that day. The second person was a lady who had originally planned to carry her containers full of water back to her house alone – along with some of her bags. Brooke (another volunteer) and I wanted to help her. As we carried her bags, she saw some friends and yelled “look at all the help I have!” several times. We could tell she was overfilled with joy.

Cubans are nothing like what I expected. They are prideful, happy, innovative, and caring people. If you are stuck between choosing which trip to go on, go to Cuba. You will not be disappointed.

Photos from Brandy’s experience serving in Cuba:

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Get started today!

Experience Cuba now before things change – through the unique perspective of a volunteer. Visit our Volunteer in Cuba page or chat online with a Global Volunteers Cuba Specialist to learn more and get started.

Learn more about serving in Cuba

Some 35 percent of our 32, 000 alumni volunteers have served on previous programs. Lori is a particularly loyal Poland volunteer, and over her 30-plus service programs,  she’s  formed relationships with several of the same students year after year. Her reflections as a Global Volunteer alumnus are excerpted from the team journal.

I’m fortunate to have met so many great kids in Poland.  Now in the second decade of the 21st century, we have fun  with Facebook chats when we’re separated by 6000+ kilometers. For example,  Olas wrote recently: Good afternoon Mrs. Lori. I miss you in Poland. When are you coming to Reymontówka?  Earlier, Alex wrote: Hello Lorene.  Me and my schoolmate, we work on project. It’s sort historical and social project. So maybe you would be interested.” Last year,  Kacper wrote: “I learning English hard because I would like going to camp.”

I enjoy helping the students who contact me to practice their English throughout the year!

At this year’s summer camp,  I recognized some of the campers when we met. Two years ago they were little girls and now they stood 4-6 inches taller than me. I said, “Either you are getting taller or I am getting shorter.” From behind me, a boy piped up, “It’s true, Lori, you are getting shorter.”

I was delighted,  and remembered that we are not here to teach conversational English only. As Global Volunteers alumni, we use the “work” – in this case teaching – to form relationships between people of different countries and these informal conversations remind me that the goal of relationships has been established!Lori volunteering with students in Poland

 

Long-time Poland alumni report that learning about the Polish people – Polish customs, dance, music, as well as their hopes and dreams is the highlight of volunteering in Poland.  This testimonial from Lori, a 30-time (!) Poland Global Volunteer exemplifies how the Polish people enrich the lives of all who come to know them. 

Several years ago, when I first spoke to friends about teaching English in Poland, one replied, ‘You won’t see much of Poland if you do that.’ I responded that, ‘I would learn a lot of about Polish people.’ In addition to my daily teaching assignments with children and teens, I’ve in fact been able to travel to many places during weekends or gaps between language camps and have come to know Polish people from North to South and East to West across Poland.

But I was right! I have learned a lot about Polish people and Polish culture in all my service programs. It’s the great experiences I have with the Polish children and the Polish language camps staff that draw me back again and again. This year, at the start of our English language camp, the Polish camp director assured us she’d come back as long as she has her health.  And, that’s my intention too. Working with and learning about the Polish people is a great delight in my life. Language camps are too much fun to miss!!!”

Polish people and students study English

Lori and her Polish students at Summer Conversational English Camp.

English language camps are a prime place to meet and get to know Polish people – students, teachers, parents and community leaders!  Days are filled with Polish dance recitals, music competitions, Polish arts and crafts, field trips and inventive ways to practice the English language.  Learning about the Polish people is one way that Poland is truly a dream volunteer abroad opportunity.  Learn about others on this list of the Top Ten Reasons to Volunteer in Poland! Your bags will be packed before you know it!

How to Volunteer Abroad as a Couple

When you consider how to volunteer abroad on your first…or tenth program with Global Volunteers, think about serving as a couple. You’ll discover much more about each other than in your daily lives. Serving together is a life-changing experience that will both challenge and strengthen you. And it’s a unique adventure you’ll share forever.

“Jake and I have taken vacations together, but we wanted to do more, to get more fulfillment from our travels, and to experience more of the culture. I had volunteered abroad before and knew that it was an experience I wanted to share with Jake. So in the summer of 2015, we investigated how to volunteer abroad as a couple in Tanzania. There were definitely adjustments to make, but the whole experience only made our relationship stronger.”

how to volunteer abroad as a couple

Jake and Kelsey on how to volunteer abroad as a couple:

“Every new experience we shared together was special and something that drew us closer as a couple. We both left with a mutual love for the country and people of Tanzania. We really believe that volunteering abroad is the only way to travel!”

How to volunteer abroad as a couple:

You are beginning an exciting journey – one that will require patience, communication, and teamwork. Work together to choose a country that you’re both interested in. What are your individual skills? Discuss how you want to spend your free time. What type of living arrangements do you prefer as a couple? Alumni volunteers suggest these steps for deciding how to volunteer abroad together:

      1. What countries are on your wish lists?

Create separate lists of your top five volunteer abroad locations – including details about what interests you. Then compare your lists. Your selections will likely differ, but Global Volunteers offers a variety of options, so look for overlapping regions.

      2. What are your skills? What type of volunteer projects interest you?

The type of work you will do depends on (1) what our host communities have requested from us and (2) your interests and skills. Global Volunteers’ unique philosophy of service requires volunteers to work at the invitation and under the direction of local community partners – and one-on-one with local people. While remaining faithful to our philosophy of service, we will also do our best to tailor to your preferences as a couple. Global Volunteers offers various volunteer projects ranging from Teaching to Childcare, Labor to Gardening. Start by downloading the Global Volunteers e-catalog here. Or, call 800-487-1074 for a mailed copy. Our catalog describes the service projects in greater detail, and how to volunteer abroad in each country.

Volunteer abroad as a couple

      3. What level of comfort do you prefer as a couple?

Depending on your appetite for challenge and adventure, you can choose a program close to home, or in a community remote and unseen by conventional tourists. And, lodging in our partner communities also ranges from dormitory style in the USA to comfortable hotels and guest houses in small towns or large cities abroad. Each has its unique appeal; it just depends what your preferences are as a couple!

We find that many couples prefer a private hotel room. Global Volunteers offers private room options in: China, Cook IslandsCuba, Ecuador, GreeceItaly, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, St. Lucia, Tanzania and Vietnam.  In West Virginia and Montana, your roomy home provides a frame or bunk bed. Private rooms can sometimes be arranged in the USA depending on the volunteer team size.

Volunteer abroad as a couple

Learn from alumni couples about how to volunteer abroad.

Alumni Global Volunteers couples can offer advice on how to volunteer abroad together. Read testimonials here or call us at (800) 487-1074 for references from the countries of your choosing. You can register online here.

Where will this journey take you? Perhaps volunteering as a family is your next adventure in service!

Take the next step! Request more information.

Request a program catalog here or by calling 800-487-1074.







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Global Volunteers' Alumni Program

Five reasons to join Global Volunteers’ Alumni Program:

   1.  To significantly reduce your service program fee

You have the opportunity to spread the word about Global Volunteers by sharing your unique volunteer story with friends, family, neighbors, school groups, and colleagues AND earn credit for your next service program – as a thank you from us to you for your time and talent. You could be on your next service program for virtually free before you know it.

   2.  To share the “Gift of Service” discount with friends and family

Not only will you benefit financially, but so will your referrals! Your recommendation is worth a $200 service program discount to every new volunteer you refer. Give this “Gift of Service” discount to anyone you think might be interested in volunteering. There are no limits!

   3.  And you’ll be tremendously helping the host community!

So far, you will receive Global Volunteers credit, your referral reduces the program expenses for your friends and family, but most importantly, the communities we serve get much needed volunteers.

Global Volunteers' Alumni Program

   4.  Because you’ll get to talk about your volunteer experience as much as you want!

When most volunteers return from their service program, they can’t stop talking about it. They feel inspired and want others to experience what they did. This is a perfect opportunity talk and share your story as much as you want!

   5.  To help with career and educational goals

Adding “Global Volunteers’ Alumni Program” to a resume, LinkedIn profile and college/job application could put you a step ahead of your peers. Two people with the same degree, work experience and age are likely to have a similar chance at getting accepted/hired. But a person showing commitment to volunteering, especially volunteering abroad, has an advantage. They have a deeper cultural and global understanding.

View our Alumni Program page to learn more about joining the team. Or, email Dana Faust, our Volunteer Engagement Manager, at dfaust@globalvolunteers.org to get started. We look forward to working with you!

Learn more about Global Volunteers' Alumni Program