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Ocean Conservation

This foundation is dedicated to the conservation of the marine environment in South Africa through research, willingness to help, and dedication. You can make a real change for the future of South Africa’s beautiful coastline.

Ocean Conservation
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Location Plettenberg Bay, South Africa
Duration From 2 weeks
Dates This project is open from mid January to mid November
  • You must have an Upper Intermediate level of English
  • Special skills: You must have a love and true interest in the ocean as well as in community work
Minimum Age: 18
Your impact
Documents required Enrolment form, curriculum vitae, letter of motivation, passport copy, proof of medical insurance
Day of arrival Monday
Day of departure Monday


  • Learn about and practice ocean conservation techniques together with biologists and conservationists and apply them first hand in the field.
  • Volunteer on the water every day – with dolphins, sharks, seals and whales.
  • Be involved in community education programmes.
  • Live and work in a beautiful seaside town.
  • Experience the Garden Route’s natural beauty.
  • Enjoy a variety of activities outside of the project: Bloukrans Bungy (the world’s highest commercial bridge bungee jump), waterfall zipline, elephant & snake sanctuaries, wine estates, skydiving, adventure boating, kloofing, kayaking, etc.

Project Information

The Ocean Conservation project is part of a volunteer community dedicated to marine conservation in South Africa. Like many conservation projects, this organisation depends on the willingness of others to contribute their time and dedication to further volunteering and conservation ethics, which go hand in hand for a better future.

This project found its humble beginnings during a conversation between two friends in the Plettenberg Bay area when they noticed silverfish, a staple in the dolphin diet, being caught by foreign boats in the distance. In the weeks following, dolphins began to disappear from the bay. Not surprisingly, the cause for their disappearance was the dissipating food source; silverfish were almost removed from the bay entirely by fisherman.

This event raised many concerns for the citizens of the local community in Plettenberg Bay, which is home to some of the most diverse marine wildlife, including bottlenose dolphins, humpback dolphins, common dolphins, orca whales, humpback whales, southern right whales and great white sharks. In response to these concerns, the Ocean Conservation project created an education wing to add to their pre-existing marine eco-tourism company. This addition focused on marine education, conservation, and research, and was aptly named Ocean Conservation. When the program first started in 2000, its main goal was to create a bay management plan with the help of its first research students. A partnership was arranged with the government organization, Cape Nature, to police the Bay. The Ocean Conservation project provided the needed equipment and Cape Nature enforced the law in the area. Within a couple of months, no illegal boats could be found in the bay. The Plettenberg Bay municipality eventually accepted this plan, and the Ocean Conservation project has since continued to monitor the bay under the supervision and guidance of many universities and governmental institutions. 

It wasn’t long before the community started noticing improvements and expressing curiosity about the different “works in progress” at the foundation. The local interest and desire to help the Ocean Conservation cause snow-balled into what is now the volunteer programme, where people from all over the world come to dedicate their time and help progress education, research, and conservation initiatives.

Your Role

You work from Monday to Friday, from 08:30 to 16:30. On some days, you can be on the water as early as 06:00 and then finish as early as 16:00. Evenings and weekends are your personal time.

The project involves a conservation and community focus. Many of the activities happen on a weekly basis, but some are more irregular.

Regular environmental activities:

  • collecting bait for aquariums
  • beach cleanups
  • investigating intertidal rock pools
  • dolphin and whale watching trips and GPS monitoring
  • fin profiling
  • maintenance of aquariums at Ocean Blue Adventures
  • data capturing
  • contributing to citizen science projects (e.g. Mammal Mapping, ELMO, iSpot)
  • hikes and walks
  • tree planting
  • alien vegetation clearing
  • assisting local rehabilitation and conservation centres
  • bird ringing
  • river assessments (miniSASS protocol)
  • collecting elasmobranch egg-case

Irregular environmental activities:

  • sea horse monitoring project
  • fish capture for marine aquarium
  • fish monitoring on reefs (Open Water Diving license required) 

Regular community activities:

  • assisting at Siyakula Creche (disadvantaged children)
  • assisting at Sterreweg (children with disabilities)
  • community clean-ups
  • assisting at PAWS (animal welfare) 

It is important to note that this description serves as an example only. The daily tasks and challenges depend on the volunteer, the time of the year and the work that needs to be done. The final job description can therefore vary substantially from the above.


You stay at the project’s volunteer house, which is located in Plettenberg Bay, minutes away from the beach and steps away from the estuary. You are accommodated in dorm-style rooms (4 to 8 volunteers per room) with shared bathrooms (2 to 4 volunteers share a bathroom). With your fellow volunteers, you share communal areas like kitchens and living rooms.

The relaxed atmosphere at the volunteer house offers an amazing South African experience while still feeling very much like a home with many friendly faces. Often, volunteers join together for evening get-togethers that range from enjoying dinner prepared by the projects’ own cook, Teliswa, or going out to a restaurant for a casual drink in town. 

Free WiFi as well as a laundry service and satellite TV are available.


Lea from France


"It was such an amazing experience to have the opportunity to participate in lots of different researches (orcas, whales, dolphins) and activities. Also, to meet people from all around the world! I wish I had more time to discover South Africa, but I am very glad to have found this project. People need to learn more about our oceans and this project helps me to understand why in so many ways!"

Luisa from Brazil


"The Ocean Conservation project is a life changing experience! The people and the culture that I’ve got to know there are amazing and I can’t put into words how much I have grown by doing this. My only regret is that I couldn’t stay longer."