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Program Overview


The ORCA Foundation volunteer program officially started in 2001 and was designed to create awareness about marine conservation issues in Plettenberg Bay. Today, the foundation combines conservation, education and research into its comprehensive volunteer program. Like many conservation NGO’s we depend on the willingness of volunteers to contribute their time and dedication to help further our work. Volunteers of different ages and backgrounds come from all over the world to learn and provide valuable assistance in a wide variety of meaningful projects. This allows them to make a valuable contribution to increased knowledge and awareness regarding local conservation efforts.

It’s all hands-on! Volunteers play a major role in all our projects and are expected to perform a large portion of the work. Participation in conservation, education and outreach activities involve regular hikes and surveys to perform marine debris clean-ups and record marine animal strandings on local beaches; indigenous tree planting and alien plant eradication as part of private nature reserve and municipal programs; river health assessments in the Bitou River; assistance at the SANCCOB Seabird Rehabilitation Centre; assistance at the Knysna Animal Welfare Service (KAWS); and environmental education of children at the Siyakula Pre-School Crèche and Sterreweg Special Needs Pre-School.

Volunteers also gain valuable exposure to scientific research by assisting our experienced marine biologists in the field or at sea. This involves performing routine fieldwork, data collection, sample processing and data capture for various monitoring projects focusing on some of Plett’s charismatic marine top predator species (eg. Indian Ocean humpback dolphin, great white shark and Cape fur seal). Current research projects include boat-based surveys with the foundation’s mother company, Ocean Blue Adventures, to record data on marine mammals and fisheries; land-based behavioural observations to record data on whales, dolphins, seals, sharks and fishing activity in the Robberg Peninsula Marine Protected Area; seal scat processing and preliminary identification of prey remains; and marine mammal stranding response and necropsies with members of the Plett Stranding Network and the Port Elizabeth Museum.

Below is a breakdown of our basic program. It is important to remember that each activity depends on season, weather, and need, and as such may be subject to change throughout the year. As a result all volunteer placements are different, and you may or may not be involved with all our activities during your stay. Bad weather days can delay outdoor activities which may necessitate last minute changes in the work program to include indoor activities such as data entry.


  • Beach surveys and clean-ups
  • Aquarium maintenance
  • Live marine animal stranding response and rescue
  • General assistance at seabird rehabilitation centres
  • River health assessments
  • Alien plant eradication and control
  • Indigenous tree planting

Environmental education and community outreach:

  • Pre-school environmental education
  • General assistance at local animal welfare centres


  • Opportunistic and dedicated boat-based surveys to record marine animal sightings, marine mammal photo-identification and fisheries data
  • Land-based behavioural observations to record data on whales, dolphins, seals, sharks and fishing activity
  • Marine mammal necropsies (dissections) and scientific sample collection
  • Seal scat processing and preliminary identification of prey remains
  • Bird ringing with Natures Valley Trust
  • Data entry

No previous experience is required to participate in our program. It is however recommended that you have the following qualities in order to make a valuable contribution:

  • General interest in conservation, marine biology and research
  • Enthusiastic, positive, mature and independent attitude
  • Willingness to learn and work well within our small team
  • Reliable, adaptable and patient due to the weather dependent nature of fieldwork
  • Ability to work long-hours on small vessels
  • Moderate fitness level to hike long distances in the field
  • Attention to detail
  • Willingness to perform tedious behavioral observations in sometimes challenging weather conditions
  • Willingness to perform tedious data entry duties
  • Ability to communicate fluently in English (both written and oral)

Your time with us can be as short as two weeks or can last as long as you want!

The ORCA house will be your temporary home, and is located minutes away from the beach and steps away from the estuary. Transportation for ORCA-related activities will be provided by ORCA staff in our vehicle. Plettenberg Bay (fondly Plett) is located in the Western Cape in the heart of the Garden Route. We are 210km from Port Elizabeth and 600km from Cape Town, and just a short 84 km from George Airport. Plett is a small town but experiences busy moments during the summer season, when a huge amount of tourists visit. Our days start around 8am and run to 4pm (depending on activities) from Monday to Friday; evenings and weekends are your personal time. The relaxed atmosphere of the ORCA house offers an amazing South African experience, while still feeling very much like a home with tons of friendly faces. Often, volunteers become a little ORCA family and join together for evening get-togethers that range from enjoying dinner prepared by our very own cook, Teliswa, or going out to a restaurant for a casual drink in town. Plettenberg Bay is full of wonderful nature and adventure based attractions, which volunteers often fill their weekend with. If you have a passion for marine wildlife and research, a longing to learn, a desire to help the less fortunate, and a general love for adventure, ORCA Foundation is the answer for you!

Click on ORCA Info Pack to download your own pack.

Click on ORCA Activities to download more information about our projects.

Click on ORCA Banner to download your own poster.

Click on ORCA Flyer to download our latest flyer

Click on Fundraising Kit if you need ideas to raise funds for your journey of a lifetime!

Use this link to GoAbroad and raise funds for your visit with us!