Volunteer Testimonials   |  African Penguin Project Photos

As a hands-on volunteer you will find out what it means to be a member of the team at one of the world’s leading seabird rehabilitation centers.

They have treated more than 95,000 oiled, ill, injured and abandoned African penguins and other threatened seabirds since their establishment. Independent research confirms that the wild African Penguin population is 19% higher directly due to their at efforts.

They are also an internationally recognized leader in oiled wildlife response, rehabilitation and chick-rearing; contributes to research which benefits seabirds; trains people to care for the birds and educates the public to appreciate this unique heritage. As a non-profit organization, they rely heavily on assistance from dedicated local and international volunteers like you.

During your placement you will receive training and supervision to get you up to speed in the first couple of weeks. You will learn about the various aspects of seabird conservation & care and can expect to be actively involved in catching, holding and feeding African penguins and a variety of other seabirds by the end of your first week.

African penguins have a lot of character and they will bite given the opportunity. The training you will receive combined with the protective equipment provided will enable you to handle all the birds safely.

You will be involved with other duties at the centre including preparing fish, maintaining cleanliness and hygiene standards in the pools and pens, pressure spraying mats and many more. For a comprehensive list of activities that you are likely to be involved in please see the ‘Working Routine’ section on this web page.

To join this project you will need to be in good physical condition and aged 18 years or older by the time you arrive in Cape Town. Spending much of your time in the fresh air on a variety of physical tasks will leave you feeling tired at the end of most days, so personal characteristics like commitment, flexibility and the ability to use your initiative will be key. To ensure effective communication between all team members, a good understanding of the English language is also required.

One of the most rewarding moments for any volunteer is to see the birds they have nursed back to health return to the ocean. During your time there, you will have opportunities to join one or more penguin releases, either from a boat off the Cape Town coast, or from one of the local beaches. This is a great time to bring your camera for plenty of smiles and some unforgettable images of the birds as they waddle or dive back into the sea.

Arrival AirportCape Town (CPT)
Arrival DayMonday or earlier
Join Project OnTuesday
DurationYou can volunteer with the African Penguins for 6 weeks or more
Volunteering HoursApproximately 8am - 5:30pm, 5 days each week
Main ActivitiesRehabilitation of African Penguins and other marine bird species. You will be actively involved with preparing food, handling & feeding the birds, maintaining cleanliness of pens, sterilising syringes and many other duties at the centre
Fly Home OnFriday or later
Minimum AgeYou must be aged 18 years or older when you arrive
AvailabilityAvailable dates for each duration are shown on the top-right of this page with the option to select from several currencies.
Pre-arrival SupportOur experienced team is on hand to ensure you are fully prepared for your trip to South Africa
Airport WelcomeOne of our team will be at the airport to welcome you and escort you to your accommodation
AccommodationYou will stay in comfortable backpacker accommodation close to the project
OrientationOn your first day you will have a full orientation with ongoing supervision and training
EquipmentYou will be provided with oilskins, boots and gloves
Wi-FiWi-Fi at Elements Lodge for a once-off fee of R100
In-country SupportOur 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 placement 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
TransportWe will take you to the project on your first morning. Thereafter, you will have short walks between the project and your accommodation each day
FoodAll meals are self-catering.
Wi-FiNo Wi-Fi at the African Penguin and Seabird Rehabilitation project
Transfer back to Cape Town AirportUber works really well in Cape Town and is the best value option for this.

Volunteer Testimonials   |  African Penguin Project Photos

Your first day at the project will be on the first Tuesday after you arrive in Cape Town. One of the Via Volunteers team will escort and introduce you to the on-site volunteer coordinator, who will organize your orientation, provide you with a tour of the facilities to help you settle in, and then get you started with your training.

It is important that training in all aspects of seabird care is completed as quickly as possible. Training opportunities are affected by the type and number of bird species at the centre, so the time it takes from joining them to handling the birds can vary from volunteer to volunteer. The learning curve in your first week is steep as you become accustomed to daily routines, preparing food, learning about seabird care and helping with general duties. Don’t expect to be handling birds on your first day, but certainly by the end of your first two weeks. At this stage you should find that you have become a real asset , and will be able to carry out any task asked of you.

You will be provided with a schedule so that you can see in advance when you will be helping out. You can expect to be busy for an average of 5 days each week, including some Saturdays and Sundays. Nevaillian will let you know if there are any changes to your schedule, which is likely at some point during your stay as the schedule has to revolve around the needs of the birds.

You will normally begin your day at around 7:30am when you depart from your accommodation for a 5-10 minute walk to the project. When you arrive you will have some time to get into your boots and oilskins in time for the team briefing at 8:00am. Please note that your oilskins, boots and gloves are provided.

Your working day is normally from 8:00am to 5:30pm. Working hours can vary at short notice, so you will need to be flexible and be prepared to work through to 6:30pm during particularly busy periods or in response to a late intake of birds. Your day includes a 1 hour lunch break and shorter breaks for tea or coffee in the morning and afternoon.

Please note that there are peaks and lows with seabird admissions during the year, but unfortunately there is no way to predict when these will occur.

You can expect to be involved with the following seabird care duties for approximately 50% of your time:

  • Handling and Bird care - (mostly different types of gulls, cormorants, terns, African penguins, Cape gannets as well as the odd pelican, albatross, skua or petrel)
  • Catching and handling different seabirds
  • Defrosting and preparing fish for a variety of seabird species
  • Administering medication such as ointments or tablets to a variety of species
  • Hydrating (tubing) different seabird species
  • Feeding (force feeding or free feeding) different seabird species
  • Holding birds for basic medical procedures
  • Assisting with bird release preparation
  • Assisting in the Intensive Care Unit
  • Assisting in new seabird admissions
  • Holding birds for washing and rinsing
  • Participating in a bird release (weather and bird depending).

For the remainder of your time, you may be involved in any or all of the following general duties:

  • Scrubbing and cleaning of bird enclosures, mats, crates and pools
  • Washing and drying of towels and sheets
  • Cleaning of all food preparation and feeding equipment used
  • Kitchen duty
  • Centre maintenance duties occasionally (including painting, weeding, enclosure construction)
  • Assisting in the Education department from time to time.

Volunteer Testimonials   |  African Penguin Project Photos

Self-Catering Backpacker

Elements Lodge is just a short walk from the project and provides the perfect base for exploring Cape Town. Close by you will find the excellent MyCiti bus route which provides safe reliable transport to Cape Town center and the V&A Waterfront for around R10 per trip. In the local area you will find a well-equipped shopping mall, a cinema, restaurants, bars and beaches with postcard views of Table Mountain.

You will share your Elements home with other Penguin volunteers. Elements is cleaned daily and includes the following facilities:

  • Dormitory accommodation with a maximum of 4 volunteers in each room
  • A shared kitchen with tea, coffee and sugar provided
  • All bedding including linen, duvet and pillows (linen is changed weekly)
  • Shared shower room
  • Towels
  • Laundry service – 1 free bag per week including powder, wash, dry & fold
  • Wi-fi is available for a once-off fee of R100
  • A guest phone
  • A travel desk for booking tours and activities
  • A large garden with a pool, BBQ and relaxation areas.

If you are travelling as a couple or as friends that want some extra privacy, please ask us about booking an apartment or double en-suite at Elements.

View photos of the Elements Lodge in Table View


Volunteer Testimonials   |  African Penguin Project Photos

African Penguin Project is located on the Atlantic Seaboard. The center sits on the banks of a lake with great views of Table Mountain and Cape Town to the south. The lake is home to a wide variety of birds including Pelicans, Cormorants and a colony of Pink Flamingos. Close by you will find Blouberg Beach where you can use your camera to capture classic postcard views of Table Mountain and the bay while you enjoy the fresh sea air coming off the Atlantic Ocean.

Your arrival airport is Cape Town (CPT)

  • We have arrival dates for this project on most Mondays throughout the year.
  • You can also arrive earlier if you prefer. We can easily add extra nights to your stay, before and/or after your placement.
  • You can book your arrival flight to land at Cape Town International Airport at any time of day.
  • One of our team will be at the airport to give you a warm welcome. We will also escort you to Elements Lodge and help you get settled in.
  • You will  join African Penguin Project on Tuesday morning for your orientation and first day of volunteering.

Durations & Pricing

Change your currency
6 weeks - £ 800
7 weeks - £ 930
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 £30.

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