Penguin, Dolphin and Whale Conservation in South Africa

Fieldwork hours35 hrs of fieldwork per week
Durations :
2 - 24 weeks
sdg 12
sdg 14
sdg 15
sdg 8
Gansbaai, South Africa
The project

Join us in Gansbaai, South Africa, an area known for its diverse marine life. This coastal town is renowned for its Marine Big 5 – sharks, whales, seals, penguins and dolphins – all living within the Dyer Island ecosystem. Get involved in conservation activities with penguins, dolphins, whales and other marine species, contributing to eco-tourism, research and education efforts. It’s a unique opportunity to make a positive impact in this diverse marine ecosystem while enjoying this popular coastal destination.


The program

Our penguin, dolphin and whale conservation program is all about stepping up for our oceans and spreading the word on why they matter. Typical activities include assisting with the rehabilitation of endangered African penguins, identifying different species of dolphins and whales, monitoring habitats, participating in conservation efforts, carrying out research, supporting environmental awareness campaigns, engaging in community outreach and attending educational sessions.


Participants on this program also have the opportunity to contribute to shark research by collecting data on a range of shark species like bronze whaler sharks, broadnose sevengill, short-tailed stingrays and occasionally great white sharks.


Activity highlights

Here’s a peek at some of the activities you’ll take part in on this program:


1. Penguin rehabilitation: Care for endangered African penguins through hands-on activities like preparing meals and assisting with feeding.


2. Dolphin and whale observation: Join boat trips to help identify different species and gather data for research.


3. Knowledge sessions: Engage in expert-led sessions where we’ll cover everything from shark behaviour to marine biology and conservation.


4. Community projects: Take part in beach cleanups, awareness campaigns and community outreach to promote sustainability. 


5. Community involvement: Take part in marine conservation initiatives, including beach cleanups and community outreach.


Our goal is to inspire volunteers to advocate for positive change by highlighting the sustainable and mutually beneficial aspects of eco-tourism, conservation, community involvement, research and education.



Tucked away on the stunning Cape Whale Coast, Gansbaai is a quick 2.5-hour drive from Cape Town. Walker Bay, situated next to Gansbaai, hosts an annual whale migration, making it a go-to spot for whale-watching fans. With around 80,000 global visitors each year, Gansbaai is a hub for eco-tourism, conservation efforts and exciting ocean adventures, appealing to nature lovers worldwide.



The Dyer Island ecosystem hosts great white sharks, humpback whales, southern right whales and year-round Bryde’s whale sightings. Geyser Rock accommodates around 60,000 Cape fur seals and Shark Alley offers glimpses of bronze whaler sharks, broadnose sevengill sharks and short-tailed stingrays. 


Dyer Island is also a hotspot for bird enthusiasts, home to endangered African penguins and various pelagic bird species. The Uilenkraal estuary is a birder’s dream spot with diverse bird species. Sometimes you’ll catch a glimpse of the endangered humpback dolphins, joined by bottlenose and common dolphins at the entrance.


Your impact, your way

A typical day is a mix of routine and excitement, shaped by personal interests and ongoing activities. Begin your day by preparing your own breakfast and packed lunch at the volunteer house. Head to the project site, engage in hands-on rehabilitation efforts at APSS (African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary) and take a lunch break with the team.


In the afternoon, participate in conservation projects such as beach cleanups or support environmental awareness campaigns. Wind down in the evening with free time to relax or join practical or lecture sessions. You can choose how you want to handle dinner (prepare your own, eat out or opt for takeout). Then, chill out with games, movies or presentations – every day is a fresh adventure.


Free time

On days without sea activities, you can venture into the broader Cape Whale Coast. Check out iconic spots like Shark Alley, a haven for marine predators, and the captivating De Kelders caves. And if you’re feeling adventurous, consider planning a day trip to Hermanus, embarking on cave and mountain hikes, or even enjoying a bit of horseback riding along the beach. There’s a world of exploration waiting beyond the waves! 


What’s Included

Project work

Work with penguins, dolphins, whales and other marine species to support eco-tourism, research and education.


Live in dorm-style accommodation with shared amenities, including kitchen, living room, dining room, activity room, pool, games and workspaces.


Enjoy complimentary breakfast and lunch; dinner is not included. You can prepare your own, eat out or get takeout.

Airport transfer

Arrive on Sunday, spend the night at a hotel just 4 minutes from the airport. The following morning, you'll be picked up and taken to Gansbaai.

Basic pre-departure support

Includes an Essential Info Pack and answering any questions you might have.

Basic in-country support

Receive info packs with local resources, clinic details. In emergencies, consult packs; contact Program Manager if needed.

24/7 mental health support

Receive support services provided by licensed professionals.

Local transport

You’ll be transported to and from your project work by boat.

Project training

Receive training for the project to equip you for your assigned tasks.
What's not included

Flights and airport taxes, medical and travel insurance, visa costs, police or background check, additional drinks and gratuities, extra local excursions, personal items and toiletries, dinners, laundry, snacks, sweets and alcohol, local transport during free time, food and accommodation outside of the research station.

Your accommodation

You’ll stay in dorm-style accommodation comprising four cottages and a new building that can accommodate up to 40 individuals. Sleeping arrangements and bathrooms are shared, with bedding provided and weekly cleaning. Each unit has a kitchenette, but the main cooking takes place in the communal kitchen, along with a nearby dining room and sitting area. Other amenities include a lecture room, workspaces, a pool and an activity hall with weights, table tennis, pool, foosball and various board games. Stay connected with Wi-Fi and satellite TV, and there’s an inverter for power outages. It’s not just comfortable – it’s the perfect space for a fantastic experience!