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Organising Voluntary Projects Overseas since 1994.



Work on this Marine Programme includes collecting research material, monitoring daily sightings of whales and dolphins, recurring visits and the migratory habits.

Very varied activities will give you experience in all aspects of this type of conservation operation, including conservation and research, the day-to-day running, including crewing and guiding on the boats, doing land-to-sea observations/spotting, marketing, liaising with clients, assisting with community projects and educating the local children about the sea and lagoon.

Please see the Prices Page. Prices for all projects are listed and you can choose which currency you'd like to see them in. Prices exclude flights.
From 1 week to 12 weeks or longer, subject to visa requirements.
Start Dates:
All year round – you choose your start and finish dates. Not available between 10th December and 10th January. As availability on this project is very limited, we strongly advise that you book early.
Minimum age 16. You'll need to be hard working, have a love of marine life, boating, being outdoors and at sea. You don't need prior knowledge or experience, although this would be advantageous, as would experience at sea or on eco boat safaris and research.
What's included:
  • Arranging your Programme
  • Payment Protection insurance
  • Full pre-departure support and assistance
  • Personalised online project portal where you'll access all information your programme, health & safety and country advice.
  • Your own dedicated Project Co-ordinator to help you throughout the pre-departure process
  • Accommodation
  • Daily transport to your project (in walking distance for the return)
  • Full safety, support and back up from our local in-country team.
  • Project orientation & induction on your arrival.
  • 24-hr emergency support.
What's not included: Flights, Travel Insurance, Cost of Visas, Food, Pickup and Return to the airport (but we can arrange this for you).
Who can do this Programme?
All projects are open to all nationalities. Suitable for gap years or those taking a year out, grown-up gappers, career breakers, anyone interested in marine conservation, working with marine wildlife, or conserving dolphins and whales.



The estuary holiday resort town of Knysna has large groups of Common Dolphin and the occasional Bryde’s Whales found in the deeper waters of the lagoon. Closer to the shoreline, Humpback and Bottlenose dolphins are often spotted. There are also Humpback and Southern Right Whales (migrating from the months of June all the way to January), Cape Fur seals, sharks seabirds, the occasional Orca and other species.

The organisation provides trips out to sea in their own boats to tourists who want the experience of seeing whales and dolphins close-up in their natural environment. The tours are very weather-dependant. In addition to the eco boat ocean safaris, they also do sunset lagoon cruises.

Much of your role will be involved in monitoring and data collection, but you'll also have the opportunity to assist in and learn about the tourism side of the exciting activities involved in watching dolphins and whales in their natural habitat.

Your Responsibilities will include some or all of the following:

  • On arrival, you'll be trained firstly in the area of boat safety, maintaining equipment and basic skippering.
  • You'll initially job shadow one of the skippers and work in the office to gain a basic understanding of the business and of the marine life that is encountered out to sea.
  • Your duties will include being a spotter, which would entail sitting on one of the Knysna Headlands and using binoculars and then directing the skippers.
  • The boats need to be cleaned, covered, fuelled and life jackets got ready and you'll also assist guests with boarding and checking onto the boat and safety procedures.
  • You'll occasionally go on one of the 3 daily trips with the skipper and sometimes-another crewmember.
  • Daily observations need to be made of the marine life encountered and the records are sent to DAFF. For this, you'll need to photograph dorsal fins for identification, observe behavior and photograph and plot GPS coordinates. Occasionally research trips are also done with post grad students from local universities who will capture the data and study it themselves.
  • Other marine animals and life found along the trips also need to be monitored. All this data will then need to be captured onto spreadsheets and photographic software.
  • You'll also help with daily updates of records, blogs and social media. These are done from the main office, which is found where the whale watching boats are docked.

You'll start the day at 9.00 am and finish at 16.00 with an hour break for lunch. Work takes place 5 days a week spread over the 6 days of Monday to Saturday, with no work on Sundays.



The volunteer house in Knysna is within walking distance of the town, yet set against a natural green belt. The bird life is prolific and often the local Vervet monkey troop comes onto the verandahs to visit to entertain the volunteers with their antics. The sunset views from the top balcony of the volunteer house of the Knysna lagoon are beautiful and great way to relax after a day working at your placement or to catch up on your tan in the summer.

The house is large and spacious and also has a self-contained flat downstairs for couples and families. The bedding in the two same sex dorms and the towels in their ensuite bathrooms are changed regularly every Friday by our much loved cleaner, Pretty, and there is plenty of cupboard space to store your clothing.

Wi-Fi / Internet: There is FREE Wi-Fi / Internet in the Volunteer House, but you will need your own device.

Facilities include a kitchen kitted out for cooking, dining area, a few bathrooms, TV, DVD player, garden and several wooden verandahs.

There is an outside courtyard and garden in the secure grounds where you can have a typical South African barbeque known there as a ‘braai’. Make sure you try the local spicy sausage known as ‘boerewors’ and the Karoo lamb chops are to die for on a ‘braai’, but if fish is more to your taste then a fish ‘braai’ with South African ‘snoek’ is a must.


Food is not included in this Programme, but the kitchen has all the cooking amenities that you might need to take advantage of preparing meals with some of the great seafood, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables South Africa has to offer.

There are supermarkets and local shops where you'll do your food shopping.

There are plenty of excellent restaurants within walking distance that offer the most incredible local and international cuisine which our volunteers rave about. Knysna is also famous for its oysters and even has an annual Oyster Festival where everyone eats and drinks far too much!

The waterfront and marine is beautiful and full of restaurants and cafes with cuisine that ranges from breakfast, coffees, cakes and snacks, through to sumptuous meals and various different nationality menus.



Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), or, as they are known, “the angels of the sea”, are black or grey with a lighter underbelly. They can be up to 15 meters in length and weigh up to 40 tonnes.

Behavior: Humpback whales are able to launch their entire body out of the water which is known as breaching and have been recorded breaching over 100 times in succession. They are also very vocal and are known for their haunting “whale songs”. They can be sighted off the South African coast in small groups from as long as June to January when they follow their migratory pattern up the east coast to mate and calf in the warm waters of Mozambique and Madagascar. They are listed as endangered.

South Africa is the fifth fastest growing whale watching destination globally with only 16 boat-based whale-watching permits being issued countrywide to minimize intrusion on the whales and to regulate the industry.

Our whale and dolphin monitoring volunteer placement in Knysna is the only licensed and permitted close encounter whale watching holders in Knysna. Their permit allows them to approach whales within 50m and if the whales choose to come closer, the boats do not have to move away. As part of the Whale Watching Permit, the company is obligated to collect research material including daily sightings of the various species of whales and dolphins (in particular the Humpback whales).


Knysna is approximately 500km from the beautiful capital city of Cape Town and voted South Africa’s favourite town 4 years in a row! Its mountainous backdrop, impressively sized estuary and indigenous forests really give the town a natural feel to it. Although it still has that ‘small-town’ feel, Knysna is growing rapidly, and has all the amenities you could ask for such as banks, hotels, internet café’s, cinemas and shopping malls.

Knysna nestles on the banks of a beautiful lagoon in the heart of the ‘Garden Route’ of South Africa. It is surrounded by a natural paradise of lush indigenous forests, tranquil lakes and golden beaches, making it a real natural wonderland.

Knysna is a vibrant town, buzzing with creativity and energy, and the pulse of good music. It's a place where the you can enjoy the mellow atmosphere of street cafes, watching the world go by. The main street is very leafy with trees along the pavements and it has a wonderful holiday atmosphere with sun umbrellas everywhere.

Most cafes have outdoors seating areas overlooking the street or on the pavements, with colourful sun umbrellas - a perfect place to sit with the sun on your face, watching passers-by ambling along, sipping a steamy cappucino or staving off the heat with a cold drink.

About 20-30 minutes' drive away from Knysna you'll find Plettenberg Bay (better known simply as Plett), which is a bit smaller than Knysna, but equally stunning. Its' pure white beaches stretch as far as the eye can see and there is a lot to do, from whale and dolphin watching, to hiking trails and awesome nightlife.

The Garden Route is famous for all sorts of activities from adrenalin sports such as bungee jumping, skydiving and shark cage diving to more relaxed pursuits such as hiking, quad biking in the forest or visiting one of the many animal sanctuaries in the area. Your local Travellers liaison will be happy to assist you in finding interesting things to do and places to see so make the most of it!