Established in 1968, this amazing non-profit penguin conservation centre has treated more than 95,000 seabirds, and recent independent research confirms that their actions alone have increased the African Penguin population by 19%.
Due to exploitation of guano and penguin eggs and the depletion of fish resources, seabird numbers have dropped a massive 90% over the past 100 years. In more recent times, oil spills have threatened to kill the last few remaining survivors, which is why the centre has pioneered and refined many oiled seabird rehabilitation procedures and is now a world leader in this field.
Their primary objective is to reverse the decline of seabird populations through the rescue, rehabilitation and release of ill, injured, abandoned and oiled seabirds – especially endangered seabirds like the African Penguin. In a typical year, the dedicated team can treat up to 2,500 seabirds, of which approximately 1,500 are African Penguins.
Despite their highly dedicated team, the centre relies heavily on the support of volunteers like you to be able to handle the large numbers of seabirds that arrive everyday. Volunteers become an extension of the staff and you will play an integral part of the daily running of the centre. Not only will you get to assist with hands on work with the seabirds, but also provide assistance in all functions of the centre such as marketing and fund-raising.
You will get to learn all about the life-cycle and conservation of the endangered African Penguin, and will have a very hands-on role where you will be taught how to catch, hold and feed these wonderful birds.
Based on the banks of Flamingo Vlie in Cape Town you will not be disappointed with the wonderful views of Table Mountain and the stunning coastlines. There are many activities to do in your free time, such as visit the V&A Waterfront shopping complex, party on Long Street (the hub of the city’s nightlife) or visit the big range of restaurants, bars and cafes – all within walking distance. You can also spend your time at one of the several beaches nearby that have golden sandy beaches and crystal clear seas for you to enjoy.
The centre is open 365 days a year and requires volunteers assistance throughout the year. You will get the opportunity to join this programme for a minimum of 6 weeks where you will be working on a full time basis, 5 days per week – including some weekends.
The local team organise a monthly schedule so you know exactly what you are doing and when. A normal working day is from 8am to 5:30pm with a lunch break of an hour around 1pm and a few shorter breaks in the morning and afternoon.
This varied role, along with large numbers of seabirds arriving daily will mean no day will ever be the same. Your time spent with the centre will see you working outside frequently and handling many different seabirds. Your work may involve:
- Regular boat release programmes at Robben Island
- Maintaining a high standard of hygiene and cleanliness in the rehabilitation centre
- Cleaning of the bird enclosures, mats, crates and swimming pools
- Food preparation, including defrosting and preparing fish
- Catching and handling of different seabird species
- Feeding of different seabird species
- Hydrating different seabird species
- Administering medication
- Other centre maintenance duties
During your spare time you will be free to travel this magnificent city, where these is a variety of activities to be involved in. You can visit one of the several famous beaches such as Blouberg and Big Bay, hike up Table Mountain, take a boat to Robben Island or even sky dive!
During your time at the penguin centre, you will be staying in the volunteer accommodation located a short walk away. The warm and welcoming environment is ideal for you to relax while socailising with other like-minded people.
Just a short walk or bus ride away you will inundated with restaurants, cafes, bars, shops, famous sandy beaches and lots of other activities.
You will be sleeping in spacious single sex bedrooms where all of the bedding and linen is provided. There are western style toilets and showers that provide hot water.
The comfortable lounge area has a sound-system, TV and a DVD player, while the large private garden is ideal for relaxing or for entertainment where you can make full use of the breakfast table, built in braai (South African BBQ) and the large swimming pool – great for cooling down in the evenings.
The fully fitted kitchen has everything you need to prepare your lunch or to make a snack and milk, tea and coffee are all complimentary.
There are lockable cupboards where you can store any valuables and WiFi is free.
A full-time volunteer coordinator is on hand to assist you during your stay with us. So whether you want to book a shark cage dive, need advice on a good restaurant, or would like to just speak to someone because you’re feeling homesick, our dedicated volunteer coordinator will be there to help you throughout your stay.
Wifi – Yes
People per room – Up to 8
Single sex rooms – Yes
Nearest ATM & shops – 5 minute walk
Airport Transfers – 30 minutes
Breakfast and dinner are provided during the week within the programme fee and are aimed to be as varied as possible. Meals are cooked off site and then delivered to the house on a daily basis. You can expect some of the following meals:
Breakfast – Cereals, toast, fresh fruits, yoghurts
Dinner – Spaghetti bolognese, macroni & cheese, shepherds pie, chorizo and tomato pasta, chicken enchiladas
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 Cape Town Airport (CPT) on your selected start date, being any Tuesday. You will be met by one of our local team members who will be holding a named sign and will then transport you to the project site.
On the last day of your programme you will be taken back to Cape Town Airport. The fee is included within the programme costs.
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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