South Africa 2016

When: October 29 – December 10, 2016 (6 weeks)

Dates subject to slight shift.

Where: South Africa

Who: 11 participants (ages 14-19) plus trip leaders Blake Boles + 1 other leader + 1 trip assistant (TBA)

How Much: $5,500 includes housing, group activities, ground transportation, breakfasts, and dinners
International group airfare from the east coast USA (~$1,500) and lunches not included.

Airports: East Coast USA (TBA) / Cape Town

Priority Application Date: March 12, 2016

Application StatusCanceled due to low interest – sorry!

Welcome to South Africa

Join Unschool Adventures and 10 other self-directed teens for an adventure of a lifetime. We designed the South Africa trip for first-time international travelers (seasoned travelers welcome too!) who are excited to get to know a totally different part of the world, stay in youth hostels, explore with new friends, spend lots of time outdoors, gain independent travel skills, and learn the history of a fascinating and complicated country.

On the U.A. South Africa adventure, you’ll:

  • Climb mountains, jump into natural swimming holes, and hike along the southernmost coast of Africa
  • Explore Cape Town—South Africa’s most cosmopolitan city—independently in small groups
  • Spend time in a rural township and participate in a group volunteer project
  • Learn the history of apartheid in South Africa by visiting some of its most significant historical sites in Johannesburg
  • Take optional surfing lessons in Jeffrey’s bay, a world-renowned surf spot
  • Go on safari in search of lions, hyenas, giraffe, and rhinoceri
  • Travel across the country in the sleeper car of a train
  • Relax, swim, and surf on South Africa’s beaches in the summer sun (because it’s summer there in November!)

If you’ve been hungering for a long-term international adventure with other for independent young people like yourself—this is it. Welcome to South Africa.

The Wild Coast


Week 1: Cape Town

Fly from the U.S. to Cape Town International Airport together. Explore the city’s eateries, art, and beaches. Climb Table Mountain and explore Boomslang Cave. Adjust to the new time zone.

Week 2: Rural Township

Homestay and group volunteering project in a rural township in the greater Cape Town area (details TBA).

Week 3: Johannesburg/Soweto

Ride the train (in a sleeper car) from Cape Town to Jo’burg. Stay in the up-and-coming Maboneng precinct and then Soweto township (where Nelson Mandela once lived). Visit the Apartheid Museum and landmarks on the Liberation Heritage Route.

Week 4: Safari + Wild Coast

2-day safari in Pilanesberg Game Reserve. Bus to the Wild Coast and relax beachside in the small hippie town of Coffee Bay.

Week 5: Wild Coast

2-day hike from Coffee Bay to Bulungula (with a homestay along the way). Stay at the remote, community-owned Bulungula Lodge among Xhosa villagers (read more). Bus to Jeffrey’s Bay to soak up the world-renowned surf culture and take optional surfing lessons.

Week 6: Cape Town

Bus to Cape Town. More independent city exploring and beach time. Bike to Simonstown to see African Penguins. Hike the beautiful Boesmanskloof trail and jump in its natural swimming hole. Closing meeting. Fly back to the east coast together (escorted by a trip leader) and fly home separately.

Nelson Mandela Capture Site Monument


We expect gorgeous weather during our visit to South Africa—this is part of the reason that we planned the trip for this specific time period! (We also did so to avoid the busy tourist season which starts in early December.)

In Cape Town, Johannesburg and the Wild Coast, November highs are in the 70’s and lows are in the 50’s. Cape Town will have a a low chance of rainfall, Johannesburg a higher chance, and the Wild Coast somewhere in between. Get ready to enjoy a second summer!

Accommodations, Food, and Transportation

For most of the trip our group will stay in backpacker’s hostels. We typically rent out entire dorm rooms for our group, providing us with the safety and comfort of private accommodations alongside the social life, excitement, and resources of a hostel. For brief periods we may do homestays with local families. Participants will always receive their own beds, and rooms are grouped by sex whenever possible.

Unschool Adventures will provide breakfasts and dinners for participants every day of the trip. Breakfasts are typically simple—think cereal, milk, fruit, toast, and eggs—and will often be provided by the hostel. Dinners will typically be cooked from scratch by trip leaders with the volunteer assistance of participants. During homestays, all meals will be provided by host families.

Lunches are the responsibility of participants. This is a really fun part of each day! In urban areas, typically small groups (3+) of participants will venture out to find a cafe or restaurant that suits their fancy, or they’ll collaborate to save money by buying bulk foods from a supermarket. Sometimes lunches will be provided for you (e.g. during homestays), but we recommend you plan your budget as if you’ll be buying lunch every day. We suggest bringing $5-$10/day for lunches. Snacks are also the responsibility of the participant. Keep yourself well-fed; no one likes a hangry trip member!

We’ll use the Intercape bus system for transport along the wild coast and the Shosholoza Meyl train line to get from Cape Town to Jo’burg. Within cities we’ll walk and take public transport (local buses and trains).

Hostel rooms are fun!

Daily Schedule

Every day on an Unschool Adventures trip is different, but here’s a general idea of what to expect:

  • 9 am: Breakfast (prepared by staff or hostel)
  • 10 am: Group outing (e.g. hike, city exploration)
  • 1 pm: Lunch (either together or separately in small groups)
  • 2 pm: Group outing and/or free time for exploration
  • 7 pm: Dinner (prepared by staff)
  • 8 pm: Check-in, group meeting, and evening flex-time for games, group discussion, and relaxing
  • 12am: Goodnight!


South Africa is a generally safe country with specifically identifiable areas of higher risk. Unschool Adventures utilizes local agents, reputable travel organizations, and time-tested guidebooks to create a well-researched and fundamentally safe itinerary. We monitor international events and our trip leaders are always contactable via their South African cell phones (not including brief periods in very remote locations, during which we’ll have a GPS device through which you can track our status online). Unschool Adventures has a perfect safety record, and we intend to keep it that way!

Our group will take the following specific precautions on this trip:

  • Whenever a group ventures out independently (always in groups of 3 or larger), they will take a U.A. cell phone with South African SIM card with which they can contact trip leaders, other groups, or emergency services at any time.
  • On safari, all participants will remain inside vehicles (i.e. no walking tours).
  • In Johannesburg, we will travel as a single large group (i.e. no small group independent exploring) and not go out in the evenings.
  • When given the opportunity to swim or surf on the coast, trip leaders will always vet the safety of the specific beach  first.
  • Participants interested in taking surf lessons must demonstrate strong swimming skills.
  • We won’t visit known areas of high risk to Western travelers.
  • U.A. trip leaders will hold onto participants’ passports at all times.

Visit the U.S. Department of State South Africa page and CDC South Africa page for comprehensive safety information about traveling in South Africa.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I stay in touch with my family and friends at home?

South Africa is a modern country with wi-fi available in most locations. By bringing a small wi-fi enabled device (or borrowing one from another trip member), you can easily make phone calls or Skype calls to people at home.

Trip leaders will carry cell phones with South African SIM cards at all times, which parents may call in case of emergency.

What are the safety certifications of the trip leaders?

Both of the primary trip leaders will hold, at minimum, an 80-hour Wilderness First Responder certification. This certification is the gold standard for safety and risk management in remote locations. (Our group will only spend brief amounts of time in remote locations; mostly we’ll be in urban areas with emergency response services.)

Will there be drinkable water, showers, toilets, wifi, and electricity?

Yes. South Africa is a developed nation with every modern amenity. On the Wild Coast and in rural villages we might have less reliable utilities, but for most of the trip we’ll enjoy every modern convenience.

Is there a risk of malaria or other serious diseases in the places we’re going?

Our itinerary does not take us into any areas of malaria risk.

The CDC recommends standard vaccines when traveling to South Africa: read about them here. Unschool Adventures highly recommends that participants receive these vaccinations but does not formally require them.

Yellow fever and ebola are not risks in South Africa.

What gear will I need to bring?

No special gear or camping equipment is required for this trip. We do ask that you bring a backpack in which you can carry all of your belongings by yourself. (No suitcases, duffel bags, or roller bags, please.)

Can you accommodate my dietary restriction?

South Africa is a developed nation with food options similar to what you’ll find across North America. Vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free participants will always find ways get fed, even if their options may be restricted in more rural areas.

What special paperwork is required for my minor child to travel to South Africa?

South Africa has new rules about the transport of minors into the country. To accommodate this, Unschool Adventures will require:

1. A copy of the unabridged birth certificate of the child.
2. An affidavit from the parents or legal guardian of the child confirming that Unschool Adventures is granted permission to travel with the child.
3. Copies of the identity documents or passports of the parents or legal guardian of the child.

Is a visa required for travel to South Africa?

No. U.S. and Canadian citizens may travel for free, without a visa, for 90 days in South Africa.

When are the interviews, and when is the full payment due?

Skype interviews start shortly after the priority application deadline.

After the interviews are complete, if we offer you a spot on the trip, you’ll have two weeks to submit the trip paperwork and a $1500 non-refundable security deposit to secure your place on the trip. The rest of the program fee is due 3 months prior to trip departure.

Read more about preparing and interviewing for an Unschool Adventures trip.

What are the extra costs on this trip?

Beyond the program fee, participants are responsible for:
• International airfare to/from Cape Town (estimated: $1500).
• Domestic airfare to/from our meeting airport, somewhere on the east coast USA (TBD)
• Lunches: $5-$10 per day depending on how fancy you get.
• Snacks, toiletries, and other incidentals.
• Optional surf lessons in Jeffrey’s Bay
Please note that all participants are required to fly together on our group international flight! If you’re age 18+ and wish to stay longer in South Africa by extending your return date, we might be able to accommodate you. Please mention this desire when applying.

How are Unschool Adventures trips different from other teen programs?

Unschool Adventures trips are for self-directed young people who are ready for more freedom and personal responsibility than the typical teen trip offers. We offer our participants lots of chances to explore independently—always within reasonable safety limits.

Learn more about how we operate by browsing our FAQ or scheduling a phone call with U.A. director Blake Boles (

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