Get hands on with this award winning marine conservation programme located in the beautiful Plettenberg Bay. This comprehensive programme combines conservation, education, research, community development and tourism, so you can be sure that no two days are the same.
Conservation: Within the conservation part of this project you will be helping with seals, turtles, seabirds or cetaceans, assisting in response events when the wildlife is injured, or aiding in their release. You will also be part of local beach clean-ups, and health assessments of the rivers.
Education: Partnering with a local pre-school and primary school, you will teach English where needed, partaking in environmental education programs and providing educational entertainment.
Research: Noting observations, both land-based and boat-based, is a really important part of the ID aspect of this project. Collecting photo ID for white sharks, seal-sharks and cape fur seals as well as seal fisheries interaction aids with the research. You will also assist with sample collection during marine mammal necropsies and scat processing to identify prey remains.
You will be lucky enough to be working in one of the best locations across the whole of Africa, in Plettenberg Bay. Located along the heart of the Garden Route and offering some amazing coastal scenery, you will get to explore long stretches of unspoilt golden sandy beaches, dramatic rocky peninsulas, intriguing lagoons and estuaries, towering indigenous forests, clear rivers. and of course the Indian Ocean.
Working alongside the experienced local team who are qualified marine guides you will get to engage in and observe some amazing marine wildlife such as; Bottlenose Dolphins, Great White Sharks, seals and more. You will also get to see many whale species, including Southern Right Whales, Humpback Whales and Orca / Killer Whales.
Your time will be split across sea and land operations where you will gain valuable experience in collecting research data, bird ringing and educating the local communities. You may have the opportunity to assist with rescuing stranded animals such as penguins, turtles and birds.
There are always other activities that you may get the chance to be involved in, such as hikes across nature reserves, helping out at the local rehabilitation and conservation centres, aquarium maintenance, bait collection and fish capturing.
You should be aware, that although the outdoor fieldwork is a much more enjoyable process, data entry is an integral part of this research process and will require time at a desk.
With such an in-depth list of activities this amazing programme does, everyday will provide something different. As with most things, the weather is a major factor and may influence the duties you get involved in and activities can change at a moments notice.
Generally, the programme runs from 8am to 5pm between Monday and Friday, and some of the tasks you may get to experience are below.
Research boat trips – You will join in on the adventure boat trips where you will get to explore the bay and surrounding areas. You will get to see a variety of marine life and you will be responsible for filling in data sheets.
Fin Profiling – Another important conservation technique is taking fin profile photos of the whales and dolphins you encounter while out at sea. Every dolphin and whale fin is unique, so is the ideal way of building an identification catalogue that will help aid research and conservation. The long-term goal is to have a catalogue for each three species of dolphin and two species of whale.
Stranded Animals Response – The local team are always on high alert and on standby to assist with any marine rescues. During times of rough seas and strong onshore winds the team carry out beach patrols in search for stranded birds and animals.
Alien Vegetation Removal – You will be able to assist in removing alien vegetation using saws and pangas. These alien plants take a vast amount of valuable water away from the indigenous plants and native species that can hinder their development. Preventative measures are then put into place to stop them from re-growing, allowing the area to return to its nature vegetation composition. Removed vegetation is then used to build fences and other structures in the local area. You will also get to assist in planting indigenous trees across various sites as part of offsetting the programmes carbon footprint.
Bird Ringing – During the early mornings, before sunrise, mist nets are put up at certain locations to catch a variety of bird species. Any birds caught then have a metal band engraved with a unique alphanumeric code placed on their leg and a number of body measurements are taken. All data collected is then uploaded to a central database. This important research technique can help answer a number of questions, such as; how long do birds live, where do birds go, how is climate change affecting the birds and when do birds breed? You will get to assist with the data entry and releasing of the birds and longer-term volunteers may even be taught how to extract the birds from the nets and how to ring.
River Health Assessments – You will be able to assist in the weekly monitoring of the health of the rivers across four different sites in the greater Plettenberg area. Macroinverebrates are collected by drawing a net through the water and surrounding vegetation and identified. Each group present is then given a sensitivity score and thereby the relative health of the river can be assessed and uploaded to an online database that monitors many rivers across South Africa.
Elasmobranch Egg Case Collection – As part of a long-term research monitoring initiative, you will have an active involvement in the collection of wash up elasmobranch (shark, skate and ray) egg cases across three different sandy beaches in the area. Volunteers will spread out and walk the designated length of the beach to cover as much area as possible while scanning the immediate area for egg cases. Each egg case that is found is placed inside a numbered bag and the GPS coordinates are recorded. Egg cases are then left to soak overnight to allow them to regain their true size and shape. The following day each egg case is identified, measured and inspected for damage. The egg cases are then dried and stored away for future reference.
Beach Clean Ups – Generally this is not done as a separate activity, but instead combined into other duties. While on the beaches carrying out research, it is often necessary to keep the beaches clean to ensure the ecosystems present can thrive. You will get to learn about marine debris and the associated problems.
Community Education – Once a week you will be able to assist in a local pre-school, where you will be able to help with under privileged children aged between 2 and 7. The emphasis will be on teaching English, but we encourage all volunteers to introduce aspects of wildlife conservation. You will be responsible for planning and preparing your lesson that lasts around 45 minutes and can consist of reading a story and playing fun games.
During the evenings and weekends you will have plenty of time to explore this beautiful country and to get involved in many activities, all of which our local team can arrange. These can include visiting game reserves, sky diving, bungee jumping, scuba diving and abseiling!
During your time on the programme you will be staying at accommodation located right by the beach and on the project site in Plettenburg Bay. Our local team will be staying on site next door, so are always on hand. There are plenty of amenities just a short walk into town, such as shops, ATMs and restaurants.
The accommodation offers a friendly and lively atmosphere and although basic, it is comfortable and clean. You will be staying with other volunteers from around the world, so you can be sure to make new lasting friendships.
You will be sleeping in shared single sex rooms in single beds with up to 4 people per room. All bedding is provided, although you are advised to bring some warmer clothes as the temperature can drop during the night. There shared bathrooms that have western style toilets and hot showers.
The communal areas have comfortable sofas and a big screen TV. There is a balcony area at the top of the house that is a great place to come together and socialise and take in some breath-taking views and sunsets. There is also fridge space and a kettle.
There is free WiFi available in the main volunteer house, and you are welcome to bring a laptop or table if you want to. We recommend that you bring a small padlock to secure your valuables in your suitcase or to give anything of value to our local team.
Wifi – Yes (free)
People per room – Up to 4
Single sex rooms – Yes
Nearest ATM & shops – 10 minute walk
Airport Transfers – 90 minutes
All meals during your volunteering days are provided within the programme fee (Mon-Fri) and are aimed to be as varied as possible across the week. Breakfast and lunch operate on a self-serve basis, whilst dinner is prepared for you.
At the weekends, or if you would like something different, you are of course more than welcome to head into Plettenburg Bay where there are plenty of restaurants by the beach and even fast food outlets.
You can expect some of the following meals:
Breakfast – Cereals, eggs, toast, jam
Lunch – Chicken, ham and / or cheese sandwiches
Dinner – Pizza, spaghetti bolognaise, fish & chips, burgers, sausage and mash
With prior notice we are able to cater for the following diets:
What are the requirements to join?
We welcome all volunteers from any background, religion and nationality, as long as you have no criminal convictions and are able to supply a clean criminal background check. In order to join the programme you need to be at least 18 years old on the programme start date.
Individuals need to have a good level / understanding of English but it dose not need to be your first language. As some programmes can be quite strenuous, we recommend that you should be physically fit.
What date should I arrive and leave?
You should arrive to George Airport (GRJ) on your selected start date, being any Monday. You will be met by one of our local team members who will be holding a named sign and will take you to the accommodation to settle in.
If you prefer, you can arrange to be picked up from Port Elizabeth Airport, however there will be an additional fee.
The programme ends on a Sunday of your final week and you should depart the accommodation on this day. Return airport transfers can be arranged by our local team for an additional fee.
Are there any age restrictions?
The only age restriction in place is that you have to be at least 18 years old before your programme start date. Anyone over this age is welcome. Generally the average age range for our programmes is 18 – 25, although this is by no means definitive.
When should I apply for the programme?
You can apply for this programme at anytime, however we advise all volunteers to apply as soon as possible to have the best chances of securing your placement on your selected dates.
Generally speaking, you need to book at least 60 days before your programme start date, although if you are wanting to apply after this, please contact us and we will do our best.
What duration would you recommend?
On gaining feedback, we believe 2 – 4 weeks is the ideal time to get settled in and really involved in the placement. This also allows you to make the most of free time and explore the local areas and participate in any activities.
Can I volunteer if I live outside of the UK?
Yes of course. We welcome volunteers from around the world, no matter how far away from the programmes you are.
The majority of volunteers that we host, come from the UK, US, Canada and Australia.
Can I go with my friend / partner?
You can travel and volunteer with friends, family and / or your partner.
If you are wanting to request to stay in the same accommodation please outline this in the special requirements section within the application form.
Is it safe to travel to these destinations?
We regularly visit and participate in each and every one of the programmes we offer to rigorously check all aspects of the project and accommodation are safe and that all procedures are being followed. These include but are not limited to checking the living conditions within the volunteer accommodations, checking the neighbourhoods you’ll be staying in, tasting the food you’ll be eating and going on any weekend trips recommended by us or our local team.
We monitor the stability of all of our volunteer destinations on a daily basis and have constant contact with our overseas teams to ensure that our volunteers are safe.
All volunteers will receive a comprehensive volunteer handbook when you choose to join us on one of our programmes. This detailed document addresses a large range of issues such as health, safety, visas, as well as going into details about local cultures and traditions.
When you arrive in-country, you will be given a safety briefing during your orientation that will cover things like emergency procedures, how to use local transport and any cultural differences.
Our in-country team are on hand to help with any issues or to answer any questions and please do not forget that our UK office is available 24/7 in case of any rare emergencies.
While we can never guarantee your volunteer experience will be 100% trouble free, we have taken all of the necessary precautions to minimise all risks and to ensure the programme is as safe as possible.
Before You Depart
When do I pay?
To confirm and guarantee your placement on one of our programmes, you need to pay the registration fee of $129 within 7 days of receiving confirmation that your application was successful. The remaining balance is then due to less than 60 days prior to your programme start date.
Payments can be done all at once or be spread out over several months and can be paid via BACS (bank transfer). We do accept additional payments methods, such as debit and credit cards, although there may be additional fees.
Do I need any vaccinations and / or malaria tablets?
As we are not trained medical experts we cannot tell you exactly what vaccinations or other medication you may need for your trip. You will need to consult with your local doctors or travel clinic.
You can also find additional information on the NHS Fit For Travel website.
How do I arrange my flights?
All flights need to be booked by you, although we can point you in the right direction on where you may be able to find the best prices.
Before booking any flights, we strongly recommend that you wait to have confirmation that your application was successful.
How do I arrange my travel insurance?
We have teamed up with Endsleigh to create an affordable and comprehensive travel insurance policy that is suitable for all of the programmes we offer. You will receive information about this policy along with your volunteer handbook.
If you decide to purchase your travel insurance from an alternative provider, please ensure it covers you for everything you will be doing. Adequate travel insurance must be in place no less than 60 days before your programme start date. Without proof of this insurance, we will not be able to accept you onto the programme.
When will I receive my volunteer handbook?
You will receive a welcome email from us as soon as you have paid the registration fee and your placement has been confirmed. The welcome email will include the volunteer handbook that provides a wealth of information that will help you better understand all aspects of your upcoming trip as well as details about our insurance policy.
Please note, that all material is sent via email and hard copies cannot be sent.
On Your Trip
Can I arrange a private room?
The majority of our accommodation only offers shared rooms that are usually same-sex. However, if you would prefer a private room please let us know and we will at least try for you.
Can you cater for my dietary requirements?
We will try are best to cater for any dietary requirements. When you submit your application please include any required details within the dietary section and we will liaise with our local coordinators.
Are there any public holidays that would effect the project?
Although we try to be as clear as possible of all holidays that effect project availability, due to the nature of some countries, holidays can often be sporadic or prone to change.
If such a holiday falls when you are on your placement, this is generally a good time to experience unique festivities where you can join in with the locals.
What is the dress code at the projects?
We ask that all volunteers take the approach of a smart and responsible image during your time in the communities and on projects. It is best to also take some older clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
Generally, it is best to avoid tight and very short clothing and anything that may have offensive slogans on it. Its recommended that you take some nicer clothes for weekends or any free time you may have.
We do not wish to impose strict regulations, however we do ask that you respect the local culture and do your best to adhere to the clothing guidelines within the volunteer handbook.
How much spending money will I need?
For general expenses and some travelling, you should find that $50 – $100 per week is sufficient. However, this can vary greatly depending on the amount of activities or trips you do and if you are eating out during the week..
Will I be able to travel whilst on the programme?
There should be plenty of time to travel while on your placement and we actively encourage that you do! The local coordinators will be able to give you lots of travel tips and provide any help needed for your independent adventure.
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