Volunteer Testimonials   |  Plastic Pollution Project Photos  |   Download Plastic Pollution Volunteer Guide

Join us for an amazing oceanic adventure as we sail along the South African coastline from Cape Town, to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the oceans. With cultural exchange, and options for activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, freediving, kayaking and hiking along the way, this volunteer project provides a truly unique experience.

As humans, we use over 300 million tons of new plastic every year, half of which we use only once. Eight million tons of this plastic waste ends up in the ocean.

For 2018, estimates show that we will use 5 trillion plastic bags worldwide by the end of the year – that’s a staggering 160,000 every second. Less than 1% of these bags are recycled – 1 ton of recycled plastic bags saves the energy equivalent of 11 barrels of oil. When you add the statistics for plastic straws, cups, water bottles, packaging and other single use plastics to this, it becomes clear that we have an urgent problem to address.

Over 700 species of marine life are known to suffer directly from the devastating effects of plastic pollution.
Sea birds and mammals consume plastic, and an increasing number starve when their stomachs are full of plastic waste. Studies reveal that an alarming 52% of sea turtles worldwide have ingested plastic debris.

The decisions we make on land concerning plastic usage ultimately affect the health and sustainability of our oceans and marine ecosystems.

Through our voyages along the South African coastlines from Cape Town to Gansbaai, we are working to stem the tide of plastic entering the ocean, before it is too late. With your help, we are able to educate school students and consumers to become responsible users of plastic, so they can make informed decisions about how and when they use plastic, and become more aware of the impact their choices have on our oceans.

You will join us on a two-week voyage from Cape Town as we head along the coast to Gansbaai. Along the way we will anchor off Clifton Beach, navigate the Cape of Good Hope, and visit beautiful coastal towns like Hout Bay, Simons Town, Gordon’s Bay and the world’s whale watching capital, Hermanus. Every voyage is different, and may include changes at short notice, participation in marine festivals, boat shows, working with film crews and other activities related to raising awareness about plastic pollution.

During our voyage you will learn basic seamanship skills, collect research data, engage with marine scientists, assist us with talks to school and community groups, visit a penguin colony, and meet volunteers engaged with penguin rehabilitation, shark and whale watching ecotours, and marine research. For your free time, there are plenty of extra activities that can be organized too. While we are sailing, we will be on the lookout for whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, sunfish, albatross, sea skua, gannets and many other marine species.

Your volunteer fee will also help us to sponsor young men and women from disadvantaged communities so that they can also join our voyages, gain useful skills, learn about the oceans on their doorstep, and get involved with raising awareness about responsible plastic use. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to interact with someone from another culture, to learn from their experiences growing up in South Africa, and to form lifelong friendships.

During your time with us, it is our hope that your experiences and knowledge gained will motivate you to become an ambassador for this very important cause on your return home. One thing is for sure, you will never forget your once in a lifetime voyage with the crew onboard Yacht Boaz.

To join this project, you will need to be in good physical condition and aged 18 years or older by the time you arrive. Good social skills are an advantage and a willingness to help where needed is vital as you will be part of a small crew of staff and volunteers. Personal characteristics like commitment, flexibility and the ability to use your initiative will also be key. To ensure effective communication between all crew members, a good understanding of the English language is also required.

Previous sailing experience is not required, but if you have any, please let us know when you apply.

Arrival AirportCape Town (CPT)
Arrival DayFriday or earlier
Join Project OnMonday
Duration3 weeks
Main ActivitiesSailing to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the oceans, educating local youngsters about responsible plastic use, and assisting with scientific research
Fly Home OnFriday or later
Minimum AgeYou must be aged 18 years or older when you arrive
AvailabilityAvailable dates are shown on the top-right of this page with the option to select from several currencies.
Pre-arrival SupportOur experienced Cape Town team is on hand with expert advice and assistance to ensure you are fully prepared for your trip to South Africa
Airport TransferOne of our team will be at the airport to welcome you when you land
Welcome BriefYou will receive a comprehensive welcome brief shortly after you arrive
AccommodationFor your first weekend (Friday, Saturday & Sunday night) you will stay at Ashanti Lodge in central Cape Town with a pool, restaurant, bar and wonderful views of Table Mountain. For the rest of your stay (18 nights), you will sleep onboard the yacht
FoodBasic breakfasts are included at Ashanti Lodge. Three meals a day are included onboard the yacht until return to the V&A Waterfront
TransportWe will take you to the V&A Waterfront to board the yacht on Monday morning
OrientationOn your first day onboard the yacht you will have a full orientation with a short sail out to Table Bay the following day to get your 'sea legs'
EquipmentUse of basic sailing gear (gloves, waterproof jacket, safety harness, lifejacket)
In-country SupportOur Cape Town based volunteer coordinators are available 24/7 for emergencies, and are on hand to help you make the most of your stay
CertificateOn completion of your voyage we will send you a special thank you certificate to accompany your CV or resume.
VisasCitizens from most countries can arrive in South Africa and stay for up to 90 days without a Visa. Please refer to our FAQ section for more details if you are unsure
FlightsPlease refer to our FAQ section for recommendations about keeping your flight costs to a minimum
InsuranceWe have partnered with World Nomads Insurance to give you access to great value insurance for volunteers. Please check out our Insurance page under the FAQ tab for more details.

Volunteer Testimonials   |  Plastic Pollution Project Photos  |   Download Plastic Pollution Volunteer Guide

This example schedule will give you an outline of the kind of voyage you might be involved in. Every voyage is different, and may include changes at short notice, boarding at another port, participation in marine festivals, boat shows, working with film crews and other activities related to raising awareness about plastic pollution. Weather, sea conditions and volunteer safety also play a major factor. We will be able to give you a more precise schedule closer to your voyage, but it is essential that you remain flexible to any changes.

Example Schedule:

After your weekend at Ashanti Lodge in central Cape Town, one of the Via Volunteers team will escort you to Yacht Boaz on Monday morning.

Yacht Boaz's mission is supported by Cape Town's V&A Waterfront and the Two Ocean's Aquarium, who have been kind enough to provide a sheltered berth for the yacht right next to the aquarium in the heart of waterfront. There may be times when the yacht will be berthed elsewhere in the waterfront, or even a different port. Either way, we will make sure you are onboard that Monday morning.

We will introduce you to the crew who will help you to settle in, go through your indemnity form, and begin your orientation.

Day 1 & 2:

Time to acclimatize to life onboard the yacht, with orientation and a short sail out to Table Bay on the second day to get your 'sea legs'.

Day 3 & 4:

Sail to Hout Bay along the coast of the Cape Peninsula, anchoring off Clifton Beach for lunch, and a quick jump in the ocean for those who don't mind the cold water.  Hout Bay is surrounded by mountains of the Peninsula, and we will either anchor in the bay or tie up in the busy fishing harbour.  Either way, we will make a shore excursion to see the many interesting activities in this busy harbour. When possible, we will interact with ecological organisations, and join a beach cleanup group.  There is also an option to visit The World of Birds, the largest bird park in Africa.

Day 5, 6 & 7:

After two nights in Hout Bay, we leave very early to sail around Cape Point to Simonstown on the other side of the Peninsula.  This allows us to get a very different view of the famous Cape, usually only seen from the land side. This voyage will be about ten hours, and depending on the sea state, it can be rough. For those who have not yet got their sea legs, we can arrange a bus transfer from Hout Bay to Simonstown to join up with the yacht that evening - the crew can advise you about costs for this transfer if required.

Simonstown is located in a beautiful bay, and the town is full of historical interest, having been the base of the British Royal Navy until about 70 years ago. We will spend three nights here, anchored in the bay, or if there is space, tied up at the Yacht Club marina. Here we will arrange shore visits to the town, museums and the nearby Boulder Beach Penguin Colony. The museums are all within walking distance, and the town has a variety of restaurants.

There are also opportunities for you to join activities like kayaking, scuba diving (for those who have diving qualifications), freediving or snorkeling. A road trip to Cape Point Nature Reserve (includes the Cape of Good Hope) can also be arranged. Here you are likely to see baboon, ostrich, rock hyrax and a variety of antelope species - the crew can advise you about costs and availability for all these optional activities nearer the time.

One of the objectives of this project is to qualify you as an ambassador for raising awareness about the impact of plastic pollution in the ocean.  After the days spent on board discussing ocean pollution and seeing various videos, we ask the volunteers to prepare a short talk that can be given to a school group in an interactive session that will be arranged.  The intention is to share experiences with a local group, and to talk about the state of pollution awareness in the home country of the volunteer. By the end of the adventure onboard Yacht Boaz, we hope that the bonds you have formed with each other and the crew will help everyone to spread the message about the importance of ocean health more effectively.

At Simonstown we will also meet with a Marine Science organisation who will introduce us to the research work we will be involved in. You will be actively involved in gathering the data for this study.

Day 8 & 9:

After about three nights in Simonstown we depart for Gordon's Bay across the other side of False Bay. We will pass close by Seal Island, the only place in the world where Great White Sharks can be seen launching out of the water to attack seals (refer to the 'Air Jaws' documentaries by Chris Fallows as seen on National Geographic and Discovery channels). We may be lucky enough to see a Great White, and there are very often whales, dolphins, penguins, sea birds, and of course seals to spot as we cross False Bay.

We will arrive at Gordon's Bay by the afternoon, and depending on tide and wind conditions will either enter the harbour or anchor off close to the entrance.

Again, shore visits are arranged, and possibly a visit to Stony Point Penguin Colony via Clarence Drive, one of the world's most scenic coastal drives. If possible (school terms permitting), we will visit a school to share our experiences.

Day 10 & 11:

After two nights in Gordon's Bay, we will up anchor early in the morning to sail along the mountainous coastline, rounding Cape Hangklip and on to Hermanus, the whale watching capital of the world. There is so much to see and do in this very popular seaside town that we will spend at least two nights here, interact with environmental activists, arrange diving, both scuba & freediving and whale watching walks along the coast, or on specialised whale watching boats (as an optional extra). Hermanus is a possible place for another school visit, depending on school terms.

Day 12, 13 & 14:

From Hermanus we sail across Walker Bay to Gansbaai.  This harbour town is the centre of South Africa's shark cage diving operations, famous for its fynbos and marine diversity and endless sandy beaches nearby. We will visit the Dyer Island Conservation Trust centre and meet volunteers who are active in a range of activities from African Penguin rehabilitation to shark cage diving and marine research.

Gansbaai is a possible place for another school visit, depending on school terms.

We spend up to three nights in Gansbaai, anchored in the sheltered space between the harbours, tied up to the wharf, or alongside a fishing boat.

Day 15:

From Gansbaai we sail directly back to Cape Town and our berth in the V&A Waterfront. This is an overnight sail, and we may have to wait for suitable weather.

Day 16, 17 & 18:

If all goes well with times and weather, we should be back at the V&A Waterfront on Tuesday (Day 16). We allow an extra three nights in case our return to Cape Town is delayed. Please note that meals are not included after our return to the V&A Waterfront, but you will be welcome to stay on board until your last Friday (Day 19). The V&A Waterfront has a wide variety of restaurants to choose from, along with large supermarkets for normal groceries and other supplies.You also have hundreds of amazing cafes and restaurants in and around Cape Town within easy reach.

If we experience extra delays on our voyage that prevent our return to the V&A Waterfront by Friday (Day 19), we will arrange an overland transfer back to Cape Town for you to make sure you are back in time to catch your flight home. If you are not in a rush to get back to Cape Town, you are of course welcome to stay with us onboard until we get back to the V&A Waterfront.

Day 19 (Friday - your last morning onboard):

Please ensure that your international flight departs no earlier than 12:00 to give yourself enough time to get to the airport in time for check-in.

When you are ready to leave Yacht Boaz and the crew, you can catch a taxi (or Uber) from the Two Ocean’s Aquarium to the Airport. The taxi will drop you off at the Departures doors right next to the check-in counters. Checking in for your departure flight at Cape Town Airport is quick and easy!

If you would like us to add extra nights to your stay (at Ashanti Lodge in Cape Town) for a later departure date, please let us know when you have your flight dates. You can then depart at any time of day.

Volunteer Testimonials   |  Plastic Pollution Project Photos  |   Download Plastic Pollution Volunteer Guide

For your first weekend in Cape Town (Friday, Saturday & Sunday night):

As one of Cape Town’s best backpackers, Ashanti Lodge has excellent facilities and is perfectly positioned in central Cape Town as an ideal base for volunteers. This will be your home for your first weekend and is a great place to relax when you aren’t out exploring everything Cape Town has to offer. (Please note: We can add extra nights at Ashanti for you if you want to arrive earlier than Friday, or if you want to stay on after your voyage).

Ashanti is just a couple of minutes away from the excellent MyCiti bus route which provides cheap, safe and reliable transport to Table Mountain, the V&A Waterfront, Camps Bay, Hout Bay and much more. Close by you will also find an incredible variety of restaurants and bars, plenty of great hangouts in Long Street, a well-equipped shopping mall, supermarkets, health shops, cafes…the list goes on.

While you’re at Ashanti you can enjoy all of the facilities below. Whether you’re having a dip in the pool, watching Table Mountain while you have breakfast, or booking an adventurous activity at the Travel Desk, you will find that Ashanti have thought of everything:

  • Dormitory accommodation with all bedding and linen provided.
  • Free Wi-Fi from anywhere on the premises
  • A fully equipped shared kitchen with fridge/freezers for storing your groceries
  • A basic breakfast is included in the kitchen, with tea, coffee, juice, cereals, yoghurt, toast, peanut butter and jam
  • All bedding including linen, duvet and pillows (linen is changed every four days)
  • Laundry service – R70 per 0-5 kg load including powder, wash, dry & fold. Drop it off at reception and it will be ready for you about 12 hours later
  • Lots of showers and toilets
  • A lovely pool area with sun beds and a BBQ
  • A restaurant bar with a pool table, and a balcony overlooking the pool with impressive views of Table Mountain. An all you can eat breakfast buffet is available for only R70, with great value meals available through to 10pm
  • A personal safe for every volunteer and coded access to your room
  • Lockable under bed storage for your suitcase/clothing (bring your own padlock for this)
  • CCTV Security, controlled access and a night guard
  • A night manager
  • The lodge is cleaned daily and rooms are also serviced daily.

For the rest of your stay (18 nights):

You will stay onboard Yacht Boaz, a 52 foot (about 16 metres), 40 ton steel yacht, with 5 cabins. Boaz has good headroom in all interior spaces, a walk-in engine room, a large saloon, an enclosed pilot house, good engines and high freeboard. With a ketch rig well suited to the hull, she gets along easily at 7 knots in the right conditions. Onboard you will have the following facilities:

  • Three meals a day are included until we return to the V&A Waterfront
  • Shared cabins (maximum 3 sharing)
  • Bath towels, pillows, pillow cases, sheets and blankets are provided
  • Washing powder is provided for volunteers that want to wash their laundry in the basin
  • A small shower room with a toilet, basin and shower
  • A small galley (kitchen) with an oven, microwave, fridge, freezer, kettle, toaster and a selection of pots, pans, crockery, cutlery and utensils. There is limited space in the fridge and freezer for personal items
  • A lounge area complete with table, chairs and TV screen (ideal for educational movies)
Volunteers will be on a roster of duties to help with food preparation, cooking, washing up and cleaning.

Yacht Boaz is a no-smoking zone, except for the deck where smoking is permitted downwind only. Alcohol is not to be consumed while sailing.

Volunteer Testimonials   |  Plastic Pollution Project Photos  |   Download Plastic Pollution Volunteer Guide

We have a limited number of Friday arrival dates for this project throughout the year.

  • You should aim to arrive in Cape Town on or before your chosen Friday arrival date
  • You can arrive at any time of day and one of our team will be there to welcome you with a big ‘Via Volunteers’ sign when you land at Cape Town International Airport
  • We will then escort you to your pre-voyage accommodation at Ashanti Lodge in central Cape Town
  • You will have the rest of the weekend (Friday, Saturday & Sunday night) to begin exploring everything Cape Town has to offer
  • On Monday morning we will take you to the V&A Waterfront to board Yacht Boaz and introduce you to the friendly crew.

It's easy to add extra nights at Ashanti Lodge to your stay, so if you find a cheaper flight that arrives earlier than your Friday arrival date just let us know. We can also add extra nights at Ashanti Lodge after your voyage.

Durations & Pricing

Change your currency
3 weeks - £ 1600
You do not pay anything when you book. We will provide you with a detailed itinerary and quote for you to check. When you are happy with the details, you will be able to confirm your placement with a deposit of £90.

Share this with your friends