Eco Africa Experience unveils gap year course for South African students

Conservation and wildlife gap year programmes have seen a rise in popularity whereby students can gain educational and practical experience in a field they have a passion for, before deciding on a future career. There has been a recent increase in numbers of South African students taking gap years and in response to this, Eco Africa Experience has devised a new 7-month course, Eco Odyssey, at the Nakavango Conservation Centre based on the beautiful, game-rich Stanley and Livingstone Private Game Reserve in Zimbabwe.

Eco Odyssey is the ultimate conservation experience for students and volunteers from across the globe to complete a journey of personal growth whilst acquiring life skills through learning about the importance of integrating conservation, community and education. This comprehensive course includes a wide variety and range of activities, unparalleled by any other gap year programme.

  • Advanced first aid course presented by Medical Air Rescue Services
  • Nature guide training course (including the opportunity to gain a Field Guides Association of South Africa Level 1 Qualification) presented by EcoTraining
  • Nakavango survival and navigation course
  • Introduction to tracking, including CyberTracker Track and Sign evaluation, presented by Down to Earth Nature Training
  • Photography course with Dusty Rhodes Photography
  • Hospitality industry exposure at the Stanley and Livingstone Safari Lodge
  • Communication skills workshop
  • PADI open-water diving course
  • Basic training in mechanics, welding, electrics and plumbing
  • Filming theory
  • Veterinary and dangerous wildlife drugs theory
  • Skipper’s lake license
  • Participation in the Nakavango Conservation Programme (including conservation, education, community development and sustainability projects

Based within the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area extending into Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Angola, the purpose-built Nakavango student centre is just 10 minutes from one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls, and is in no better place to get to the heart of nature. The centre is recognised for its high standards in conservation and community work, providing participants with the opportunity to preserve the unique natural environment of the Victoria Falls area for future generations, and simultaneously enriching the lives of local communities in Africa through programmes such as Children in the Wilderness.

The Nakavango Conservation Centre can accommodate 20 people in simple yet comfortable single rooms with communal bathrooms, and there are en-suite rooms for teachers or facilitators. A further 20 can also be accommodated in the more rustic bush camp. Three meals a day are served from the well-appointed kitchen using vegetables from the garden, with frequent bush meals under the stars. Nakavango also boasts a lecture room with a fully equipped library and internet access, along with a swimming pool to cool off in the warm weather.

The Nakavango

Along with the conservation, community and education programmes, Zimbabwe has carved itself a niche in adventure travel and is one of the most exciting places to visit for any adrenaline junkie. During time off, visitors and volunteers can join in with a number of exciting activities including white water rafting, bungee jumping, boat cruises on the Zambezi River, helicopter rides over the Victoria Falls, canoe safaris, Zambezi River elephant safaris, and horse-back safaris.

In addition to the gap year and volunteer programmes, there are also courses for groups from schools, universities and corporate experiences.  From survival and navigation courses to anti-poaching volunteer programmes with the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, Nakavango offers a range of hands-on and informative courses along with an adventurous “In the Footsteps of Livingstone” two-week expedition in commemoration of Dr. David Livingstone’s bicentenary.

Nakavango is an initiative launched by Eco Africa Experience, a division of the education arm of Mantis, a collection of luxury boutique hotels and eco-escapes around the world. Mantis has long been synonymous with the establishment of one of South Africa’s most famous Gap Year programmes located at the Shamwari Game Reserve, with over 6,000 students having passed through the program in the past decade. The founder of Mantis, Adrian Gardiner, developed an eroded piece of land measuring a mere 2,000 hectares in 1992 into an impressive reserve, which now measures 25,000 hectares in size and has seen the re-introduction of all the game that once roamed the wilds of the Eastern Cape 200 years ago.

Author: Muzi Mohale

Hi there, am your host and I blog about the tourism industry in South Africa. You're also welcome to contribute your expert content on matters affecting the industry. You can reach me on muzi[at]

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