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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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Overview:

Location Plettenberg Bay, South Africa
Duration From 2 weeks
Dates This project is open from mid January to mid November
Requirements
  • 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. You should be able to work long-hours on small vessels and have a moderate fitness level to hike long distances in the field
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

Highlights

  • Learn about and practice ocean conservation techniques together with biologists and conservationists and apply them first hand in the field.
  • Volunteer on the water – 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 08:00 to 16:00. On some days, you can be on the water as early as 06:00. Evenings and weekends are your leisure time. Some days involve more work and longer hours, while others move at a leisurely pace. Planned activities can change on a moment’s notice, especially if the weather turns or something exciting, like a marine mammal stranding, comes along. Be prepared to go with the flow.

The project involves a conservation and community focus. Many of the activities happen on a weekly basis, but some are more irregular. Depending on the length of your stay and level of experience, the project may ask you to take on more responsibility where you will perform a larger portion of the work and even train new volunteers.

Environmental activities:

  • dolphin and whale watching boat trips
  • humback dolphin photo-identification
  • marine mammal stranding response and necropsy
  • seals in estuaries monitoring
  • seal population monitoring
  • seal-shark interaction monitoring
  • seal-fisheries interaction monitoring
  • seal scat collection, processing and analysis
  • seal pup tagging and weighing
  • beach surveys
  • bayworld/SAMREC trip
  • aquarium maintenance, bait collection, and fish capture
  • alien vegetation clearing: removal, use/disposal
  • tree planting
  • assisting local rehabilitation and conservation centres
  • bird ringing
  • fish tagging
  • MiniSASS/River health assessments
  • investigating intertidal rock pools
  • hikes and walks
  • data capturing/processing/entry
  • citizen science project contribution
  • beach clean-ups
  • scientific lectures

Community activities:

  • assisting at Siyakula Creche (disadvantaged children) & the soup kitchen
  • assisting at Sterreweg (children with disabilities)
  • lunchbox theatre shows (environmental education)
  • assisting at KAWS Animal Welfare Services

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.

Accommodation

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.

Testimonials

Roxane from France

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"I worked during 3 weeks as a volunteer for the ocean conservation project, the one involved in marine conservation. You can get the chance to go on boat to see whales, dolphins, great white sharks and sea colony and in the same time take the opportunity to collect data for marine conservation research, whilst spending time on some of the beautiful beaches. I also got to plant a yellow wood tree and had a tour in the forest to learn about the indigenous plants. If you are lucky as I was, Michael will give you a tour on the Robberg Nature Reserve and maybe you will also see whales from the point. We also visited some of the local schools, where children are happy to show you their drawings. At the end of there was a bit of money for a necklace or bracelet, (from the Sabrina Love Foundation) which is making a good job of caring for children with disabilities."

Lea from France

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"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

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"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."