South Africa – Marine Life Research and Conservation

Please Note: This program is temporarily unavailable. Check out our alternative programs available in Africa or schedule a one-on-one call with one of our expert volunteer advisors.

Our Marine Life Research and Conservation project is an informative and fun marine focused educational program. It consists of learning through marine and coastal volunteering along the Garden Route of South Africa. The program is founded on outcome-based learning objectives with innovative approaches to understanding marine animal behavior and applying marine conservation strategies, procedures and protocols applicable to marine and coastal ecological, conservation and ecosystem management.

Our objective is to ensure that all volunteers take away invaluable knowledge and experience which can be measured through the acquisition of new and innovative knowledge and acquired skills.


Location icon Location of the Project: The Garden Route, South Africa, between Mossel Bay and Addo

Project length Project length: 4 weeks

Arrival Airport Arrival Airport: George Airport (GRJ)

Volunteer Work Volunteer Work: Interactive and experiential learning with marine life

Age Age: 18-60

Number of Volunteers Number of Volunteers: Up to 12 international volunteers

Important Note Important Note: All necessary training and introductions provided upon arrival.


What’s Included

Accommodations Accommodations: Shared room in volunteer house

Food Food: Three meals per day

Airport Transfers Airport Transfers: Included on arrival and departure

Orientation Orientation: Orientation: full project details will be sent following registration. Training: all necessary training and introductions provided upon arrival.

Support Support: Comprehensive and professional pre-departure travel guidance, 24/7 GoEco emergency hotline, experienced local field team.


What’s not Included

Flights, visas (if required), travel health insurance, personal expenses

The Garden Route is a stretch of land on the southeastern coast of South Africa. It is located between the seaside town of Mossel Bay in the Western Cape and the famous Storms River in the Eastern Cape. The area is well known for its lush and environmentally varied vegetation as well as the many lagoons and lakes scattered along its coast. It includes towns such as Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and George – the Garden Route’s largest city. The varied ecosystems of the region are home to soft coral reefs, dolphins, seals and a myriad of other marine life.


The programming format for the project is divided into five key areas: Theoretical Modules, Practical Modules, Practical Research Projects, Presentations and Program Outcomes, Assessments and Evaluations

Week 1: Marine and Coastal Ecology and Ecosystem Functioning: Volunteers will be guided through the various facets of what makes the Marine and Coastal Ecosystem ‘tick’. We look broadly at marine guiding principles, coastal conservation, plant biodiversity, marine fish, the reef ecosystem and ecology and more. All of this is done in a fun, informative and interactive manner where newly acquired knowledge is applied. Volunteers will report back on their daily experiences and provide feedback to fellow volunteers about what they have learned each day. Every day they will be tasked with individual and group research assignments.

Week 2: Marine Animal Awareness – Whales, Dolphins and Otters: Much of what volunteers experienced and learned during the first week will carry over to this second week. Volunteers will now immerse themselves into the lives and behavior of whales, dolphins and otters. They will do research, workshops and explore the lives of these animal groups using three key principles in behavioral monitoring; namely, observation, interpretation and deduction. Volunteers will have the opportunity to do land-based as well as sea-based viewing of these amazing animals.

Week 3: Marine Animal Awareness – Sharks, Seals and Penguins: Volunteers will now immerse themselves into the lives and behavior of sharks, seals and penguins during this exciting week of natural and interactive discovery. Volunteers will do research, participate in workshops and explore the lives of these animal groups in the same threefold manor of observation, interpretation and deduction. This will involve learning about specific adaptations and behavior of these species. The week will include shore and sea-based observations as well as visits to bird projects and conservation research initiatives. Volunteers will get a Seal-of-Approval from this experience!

Week 4: Marine Animal Rehabilitation and Marine Conservation Research: During the last week of the program, volunteers will be exposed to an additional group task where all observations found within the marine environment and marine animal populations from our journey are brought together in a group project. Individual experiences and interesting facts pertaining to the marine ecosystem and its iconic animal inhabitants are collated by the group, and each participant will receive a bound copy when the program concludes. Additionally, volunteers will be exposed to a variety of local conservation projects and research initiatives and explore and research the principles, protocols and procedures for marine rescue, rehabilitation and release of animals back into their natural habitat. They will explore and research a wide range of rehabilitation techniques, tools and methodologies and explore ecosystem conservation projects.

Volunteers will work from Monday to Friday, during which they will cover different aspects of the project. Daily schedule starts at 8:00 and finishes at 16:30, unless otherwise specified.

Internet icon Internet: There is no WiFi available

Laundry icon Laundry: Washing machine and iron are available for volunteers’ use

Accommodations icon Accommodations: Dorm-style accommodations, shared with up to seven other participants.

Food icon Food: Volunteers receive three balanced meals per day. Basic breakfast, brunch/lunch or packed lunch, and dinner are supplied daily. Volunteers will be required to assist with meal preparations when requested.


Please take note of this project’s minimum requirements:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • CV/Resume
  • Basic level of English
  • Copy of return flight confirmation
  • Medium level of fitness
  • A sense of humor, patience and a positive attitude
  • Learn about marine conservation in South Africa.
  • Get involved with regional marine conservation projects and research initiatives.
  • Learn about the perpetual threats to ecosystems and the environment.
  • Develop an appreciation for the coastal and marine ecosystems and their various inhabitants.
  • Experience observing marine animals in their natural habitat.
  • Create long lasting memories and friendships with people from all over the world.


For an additional fee the following activities may be available. Please enquire about availability and cost after registration.

  • Bungy Jumping off Bloukrantz Bridge.
  • Canyoneering.
  • Cage Swimming with Great White Sharks in Mossel Bay.
  • Animal Sanctuary Visit in Crags – Monkeyland, Birds of Eden and Jukani Predator Park.
  • Guided Walks and Guided Canoeing at different spots in the area.
  • Guided Interpretive Bush Walk Experiences
  • Various Experiential Bush Eco-Adventures and an Overnight Bush Survival Adventures just outside Plettenberg Bay
  • Skydiving in Plettenberg Bay and Tandem Paragliding in Wilderness or Sedgefield.
  • SCUBA Diving in Plettenberg Bay or Knysna or Jeffreys Bay.
  • Learn to Kite Surf or Sail in Knysna.
  • Swim with Seals in Plettenberg Bay.
  • Oudsthoorn Full Day Adventure – Cango Wildlife Ranch, Ostrich Farm and Cango Caves Wild Adventure
  • Horse Riding in the Forests in the Crags or at Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve.

Volunteer Experiences

Want to join this program?