South Africa – Penguin and Marine Bird Sanctuary

This program is now open and accepting international volunteers!

Volunteer to help with conservation efforts of African penguins and other marine birds at a sanctuary in South Africa! This sanctuary in Port Elizabeth takes in sick and injured African penguins and other marine birds in need of rehabilitation. This organization is an internationally recognised leader in oiled wildlife response, rehabilitation and chick-rearing.


Program Highlights:

  • Experience the lovely, beach-filled town of Port Elizabeth
  • Contribute to a non-profit where 24 different seabird species are rehabilitated each year
  • Work hands-on for the rehabilitation and conservation of African penguins
  • Assist with releases when possible
  • Organized group excursions every Friday afternoon


Your Schedule at a Glance (Minimum six-week commitment):

Arrival Day, Monday: Arrive at Port Elizabeth International Airport (PLZ). You will be picked up by the local team and taken to settle in to the accommodations. If there is time, volunteers will embark on a city tour of Port Elizabeth. Volunteers will receive an introduction before dinner.

Days 1-3, Tuesday-Thursday: Rewarding volunteer work. Volunteers will work at the sanctuary 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM. Volunteers on this project will be involved in a wide array of tasks, from direct care of the animals to assisting with daily tasks around the sanctuary itself. Volunteers may be involved in office work, such as administrative tasks; physical tasks such as cleaning and feeding the animals and even hospitality work such as assisting with group tours and educating visitors.

Day 4, Friday: Volunteers will work in the morning, and have the afternoon free.

Days 5-6, Saturday-Sunday: This project runs 7 days a week and volunteers are expected to be available on weekends. In this case, they will have 2 days off during the week instead of the weekend.

Remaining Weeks: The remaining weeks will follow a similar schedule of volunteering.



Location icon Location of the Project: Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Project length Project length: Minimum 6 – Maximum 12 weeks

Arrival Airport Arrival Airport: Port Elizabeth International Airport (PLZ)

Volunteer Work Volunteer Work: Animal care, teaching, office work at the sanctuary

Age Age: Minimum age of 18

Number of Volunteers Number of Volunteers: Up to 25 international volunteers

Important Note Important Note: A portion of your project fee is donated directly to the rescue sanctuary.


What’s Included

Accommodations Accommodations: Shared rooms in a backpackers lodge

Food Food: Three meals per day are included

Airport Transfers Airport Transfers: Airport transfers are provided on both arrival and departure days if you arrive and depart on weekdays

Orientation Orientation: An introduction and city tour will be provided upon arrival to the accommodation on Monday

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

This project takes place in Port Elizabeth, which is situated on the Eastern Cape of South Africa, more specifically, on Algoa Bay. This port city is filled with historical landmarks, bustling beaches and excitement. There are hilltop parks to hike through, museum to wander in and plenty of water sports to be enjoyed while here. Dolphins, whales and other marine life can often be spotted just off the shore.

For More Volunteer Opportunities Along the Garden Route, Click Here.


The Algoa Bay area is home to 20,000 of the remaining 25,000 breeding pairs of African penguins left in the world. The African penguins are in danger from climate change as well as boat tourism affecting the Bay. The oil spills from boats and changing water temperatures and currents have put this species at risk, which is why this organization was created and built the sanctuary. The sanctuary needs the help of volunteers to care for the injured marine birds that have washed onto the shore of Algoa Bay in order to conserve the population.

Volunteers will work at the sanctuary 8:00 AM-4:00 PM. Volunteers on this project will be involved in a wide array of tasks, from direct care of the animals to assisting with daily tasks around the sanctuary itself. Volunteers may be involved in office work, such as administrative tasks; physical tasks such as cleaning and feeding the animals and even hospitality work such as assisting with group tours and educating visitors.

Some of your tasks may include:

  • Helping the sanctuary run with day-to-day office duties
  • Guiding and teaching visitors and school children about the sanctuary’s conservation efforts
  • Cleaning the bird hospital facilities
  • Preparing food and feeding the animals
  • Cleaning and caring for the birds
  • Preparing medication
  • Assisting staff during releases, when possible


A typical week: Volunteers will work Monday – Thursday from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM. Volunteer work ends at noon on Fridays, and volunteers may take part in a group excursion. Excursions are usually free, but there is no obligation to participate. Volunteers have weekends free to spend as they wish.

Holidays: Please note that this program will not be running from December 20, 2019-January 5, 2020. Volunteers who join before December 20th can travel for two weeks and then resume their volunteering on Monday, January 6th.

Internet icon Internet: WiFi is available for use at the accommodations.

Laundry icon Laundry: There are two washing machines available for use at the volunteer lodge.

Accommodations icon Accommodations: Volunteers will stay in single-gender, shared rooms in a volunteer house. There will be two to five volunteers per room. Amenities include a swimming pool, two lounges, two kitchens and a dining room. The house is just a five-minute walk from the beach. There is a cleaning staff as well. For an extra fee, and if there is space available, private rooms may be booked for individuals or couples. Please note that private rooms are not available in June and July. Bedding is provided, but volunteers must bring their own towel.

Food icon Food: You will get 3 meals a day during the program. There is free coffee and tea available. For breakfast you will have toast, fruit yoghurt, cereal and/or eggs. For lunch, you can have sandwiches with cheese, marmalade or other spreads.
There will be variety in the dinners, since all the volunteers have different preferences and will be expected to cook as well. We can accommodate as well vegan requirements or food allergies.


Please take note of this project’s minimum requirements:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • Basic level of English
  • Love of animals

Weekends are free for volunteers to spend as they wish. Aside from the weekly Friday excursions, volunteers have the opportunity to venture around the area as they please, at their own expense. A few suggested travel highlights can be found below:


Addo Elephant National Park
This park is home to thousands of free-roaming elephants, lions and black rhinos and offers games drives, horse trails, four-by-four trails as well as marine eco trails.

Tsitsikamma National Park
This park is a famous destination, part of the larger Garden Route National Park. There is a marine reserve, a bird sanctuary and plenty of trails to explore.

Bayworld Museum
This established museum contains an oceanarium, snake park and displays that includes a dinosaur section, promising to keep our animal enthusiasts entertained for a while during free time!

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum
For the artsy volunteer, there is the art gallery named after Nelson Mandela which should not be missed!


Click to see additional volunteering projects in South Africa


Volunteer Experiences

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