This program is now open and accepting volunteers!
Go on an experience of a lifetime in South Africa as you volunteer for the conservation of the Marine Big Five species! Gain hands-on experience working in marine conservation with this highly reputable organization.
- Volunteer with a Fair Trade Tourism and Blue Flag certified research and eco-tourism organization
- Work directly with marine biologists
- Learn about the Marine Big Five Species: great white sharks, whales, dolphins, penguins and the cape fur seal
- Educate tourists about marine conservation
- Conduct research that supports conservation projects
- Ethical wildlife volunteer tasks and interactions
- Help out at the African penguin and seabird sanctuary
Your Schedule at a Glance (Minimum two-week commitment):
Arrival Day, Sunday: Arrive at Cape Town International Airport (CPT). Make your way to the city centre and spend the night there before getting picked up by the local team on Monday, who will take you to the project site.
Days 1-7, Monday-Sunday: Once you are on the project site you will be able to choose between a few experiences, based on your skills and interests. You can decide to join the shark cage-diving vessel one day and go on the ecotour/ whale-watching vessel the next. You can also help out with bird rehabilitation at the African penguin and seabird sanctuary or have a restful day doing a beach clean-up.
Remaining Weeks: This project doesn’t have any scheduled free days. Volunteers will need to coordinate with the project directors if they want a day off, however as everyday can be so varied on this project, many people enjoy staying the duration of their time there. Departures are on Monday.
It is important to remember that we are working with wildlife and nature, both of which are unpredictable. We cannot guarantee sightings of any specific species. For this reason and in case of bad weather days, when we can’t go to sea, we recommend a 2-4 week mimimum stay. If you join us for a one-week stay, you might be very disappointed if you miss several days on the sea due to the weather conditions.
What's not Included
As a volunteer on this project you will be completely involved in eco-tourism (cage diving) and conservation work throughout your stay. While working alongside marine biologists, you will learn about the behaviors of the marine species in the area including Southern Right whales, Humpback whales, Bryde's whales and a variety of dolphins. You can learn about how researchers track marine life and what data needs to be recorded. You will also assist on the tourist boat by helping cage divers and educating visitors, plus you will have the opportunity to go cage diving yourself to get up-close and personal with Great White sharks. Volunteers can also sign up to support the activities at the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary or join a whale watching trip as part of their daily tasks (pending availability).
Time at Sea:
- Shark Cage diving
- Tourism education and helping tourists on board
- Population assessments of great white sharks through photographing fin ID’s, assisting with environmental data using a YSI, seabird data and other observational tasks as required
- Tagging and tracking white sharks happens depending on research schedule and volunteers are accommodated on these trips
- Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) studies take place quartlerly off the research boat
- Some research observation on whales, dolphins, penguins, seals, or seabirds (seasonal)
Daily work includes:
- Assisting in the daily diving operations (including taking part in the dives)
- Assisting the skipper and crew in various duties
- Laying and retrieving of anchors
- Assisting with clients
- Working with local children in education and beach clean-ups as needed
- Data input as needed
- Cleaning boats and preparing wetsuits
- Photo identification of species
- Helping out at the seabird rehabilitation center
- Supporting various conservation projects
A typical day: You may find yourself educating cage divers about sharks and ongoing conservation methods before they cage dive or spend the morning on the research boat. In the afternoon, you could be cleaning the boat and wetsuits or working with local children to clean up the beach. You will work every day, weather permitting, for about 5-8 hours per day. During inclement weather, there will be organized excursions, or simply free time to explore the area.
Please note this project is completely weather dependent and there will be days when the weather is too bad to go to sea. On these days, volunteers will have excursions or lectures arranged for them by the volunteer coordinators.
- Love for marine animals
- Willingness to get hands dirty
- Work well in a team and take directions from the skipper and crew
- Ability to swim/ Volunteers should be physically fit
- Minimum age of 18
- Immunizations (consult your doctor)
- It is highly recommended to bring seasickness tablets, as there is a lot of work to be done at sea.
African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary: Volunteers have the option to assist at the sanctuary as well (dependent on availability, number of birds at the sanctuary at any given time, and volunteer skills and experience). Those who choose this add-on may expect to be involved in the following tasks:
- Assisting visitors
- Handling administrative tasks at the reception desk
- General cleaning
- Preparing food for the sanctuary's inhabitants
- Data capturing
- Shadowing the staff
Whale Conservation: Whale trips (June to November) and eco trips throughout the year are conducted by the partner company and volunteers will have the option to assist at a local whale tourism and conservation organization, which conducts studies on the biology and behaviors of marine species, with a strong focus on eco-tourism, conservation efforts and education. Please note this project only operates from June-November. Those who choose this add-on may expect to be involved in the following tasks:
- Assisting and educating ecotourists
- Data Capturing
- Boat preparation and cleaning
Scuba Certification: For an additional fee, volunteers who are staying a duration of at least 3-4 weeks can become NAUI SCUBA certified during their time on this volunteer project. (The recommended minimum duration is four weeks to allow for bad weather days.) Volunteers will be required to provide proof of having completed a medical examination that certifies you fit to do a scuba course and dive up to 18m. Please remember to bring this certificate/letter with you!