Volunteer Testimonials   |   Nature's Valley Project Photos

This exciting programme is ideal for young conservationists looking to get work experience or field knowledge, or to experience conservation work as a team member of a small organisation. It is also ideal for students that need to complete an intern component for their degree. On this programme you will be treated as one of the team and you will be given specific project responsibilities.

You will spend at least 3-4 days a week in the field, working on whales, seals, marine birds, plants and their pollinators, fish, aquatic macro invertebrates, primates and more. You will interact with staff working full time in conservation, and see what it is like to be a conservationist in Africa.

Our research team consists of acclaimed biologists who are well published professionals with decades of experience doing conservation based research in Africa. As a research volunteer you will get to work on the important long term ecological projects we run in the region.

Included during your stay are two marine excursions that should be on everyone's bucket list: a boat trip to view whales and dolphins, and a seal snorkelling experience. Within Nature’s Valley there are many free and wonderful activities such as the beach, swimming in the sea and lagoon, canoeing, fishing, picnics, bird walks, mountain bike routes and countless others. In the local area you will find plenty of popular attractions including Monkeyland, Treetop Canopy Tours, Shark Cage diving and much more.

Over a relatively short period of time you will be exposed to what it is like to be doing conservation based research in several different biomes and habitat types including marine, beach, estuary, river, Fynbos, forest and urban areas. We work on a range of systems, and study plants, insects, mammals and birds, giving volunteers a range of different wildlife experiences.

Typical activities you will participate in include facilitation of school groups during outdoor classrooms, event assistance and support during holiday programmes, environmental calendar days and other events, research support for updating of environmental education resources, general administration assistance with event preparation and liaison with the schools, planning of outdoor activities for eco clubs and school camps, support and assistance during community projects and events (e.g. Tree planting, village clean-ups, beach clean-ups).
This is a hands on life-changing experience that brings real change to communities and how they see the natural resources they use.

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. You must have an interest in environmental education & conservation, be willing to work varied and sometimes long hours, be good with children, be committed to ensuring the scientific integrity of the projects are upheld, and be willing to get hands-on with a wide range of field work activities.

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.

Arrival AirportCape Town (CPT)
Arrival dayMonday or earlier
Join Project OnWednesday
DurationYou can volunteer at Natures Valley for 6 weeks or more
Volunteering HoursVariable hours, 5 to 6 days each week
Main activitiesAssisting with a wide variety of research projects covering mammals, fish & birds, and assisting with outdoor eco-classrooms
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 Cape Town team is on hand with expert advice and assistance to ensure you are fully prepared for your trip to South Africa
Airport TransfersOne of our team will be at the airport to welcome you when you land. We will also get you back to the airport in time for your flight home
Welcome BriefYou will receive a comprehensive welcome brief shortly after you arrive
AccommodationFor your first two nights (Monday & Tuesday night) you will stay at Ashanti Lodge in central Cape Town. At the project you will stay in comfortable volunteer accommodation near Natures Valley
FoodBasic breakfasts are included at Ashanti Lodge. All other meals are self-catering
TransportReturn transfers between Cape Town and the Natures Valley Conservation Project are provided
OrientationOn your first full day at Natures Valley you will have a full orientation
ActivitiesDuring your stay we will arrange a seal snorkelling experience and a boat trip to watch whales & dolphins
Vodacom Sim CardA free, pre-registered Sim card for your phone
Wi-FiFree Wi-Fi at Ashanti Lodge
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 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
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.
Wi-FiNo Wi-Fi at the Natures Valley Conservation & Education project

Volunteer Testimonials   |   Nature's Valley Project Photos

Your stay in Natures Valley will be an exciting and varied experience which will equip you with new skills and expose you to a wide range of conservation and educational activities. During the course of a six week stay, you will be guaranteed of working in the field on the following research projects:

  • Raptor ringing and monitoring – every month, we drive out in search of raptors to trap and ring, as part of a long term study of several of these magnificent creatures, kings of the sky! Trap buzzards, kites, kestrel and goshawks with us!
  • Tsitsikamma Fynbos Research Programme – during your stay, you will catch and ring birds, learning how to hold them, extract them from the mist-nets, and release them once ringed. You will also work in the field with pollination ecologists gathering valuable data on plant flowering season, and studying the close relationships between Fynbos plants and their bird pollinators
  • Groot River Estuary Mosquito Fish Programme – monthly monitoring on this dreadful invasive species of fish is part of your schedule while with the research team – help us work out where these fish’s strongholds in the lagoon are, and how many we have!
  • Groot River Estuary Marine Fish programme – research volunteers help in our regular seine netting of fish in the estuary, helping us discover which marine species use the estuary, and at what times of the year

Seasonal research work:

Summer (September to February):

  • Marine Bird Research Programme – work in one of the biggest Kelp Gull colonies in South Africa, studying this amazing highly adaptable species that is thriving in urban environments. Help us study the effect of human disturbance on Kelp Gull and the threatened African Black Oystercatcher. This project is intense, hands on, and not for the faint hearted!
  • Seal research – assist in regular monitoring of a colony of Cape Fur seals, including research studying the impact of commercial tour operators on these fantastic sea animals.

Winter (June to Aug):

  • Whales! Come and help our marine biologists study the rare and elusive Bryde’s Whale. Get up close and personal with this and other species of cetaceans, as we get you where commercial operators can’t.

You will also have opportunities to assist with many of the outdoor classroom activities as listed in the Useful Info section for this project.

Volunteer Testimonials   |   Nature's Valley Project Photos

You will stay in comfortable shared accommodation with your fellow volunteers and long term South African interns:

  • Single-sex dormitory accommodation with a maximum of 4 volunteers in each room
  • Meals are not included but there is a fully equipped kitchen for you to prepare your own meals
  • All bedding including linen, duvet and pillows (linen is changed weekly)
  • Shared showers and bathrooms
  • Laundry service
  • Housekeeper during the week.

If you are travelling as a couple or as friends that want some extra privacy, please ask us about twin room availability.

The project is located in Nature's Valley, a beautiful coastal area of pristine wilderness not far from Plettenberg Bay in South Africa.

Volunteer Testimonials   |   Nature's Valley Project Photos

We have arrival dates for this project every Monday throughout the year.

  • You should aim to arrive in Cape Town on or before your chosen Monday 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-project accommodation, one of Cape Town's best backpackers close to the city centre.
  • You will have Tuesday free to relax or you can explore Cape Town, visit Table Mountain, or perhaps join a day trip to the Cape Peninsula.
  • On Wednesday morning we will transfer you to Plettenberg Bay by coach for an 8-hour journey along the Garden Route.
  • When you arrive in Plettenberg Bay one of the project team will be waiting for you.

It’s easy to add extra nights to your stay, so if you find a cheaper flight that arrives earlier than your Monday arrival date just let us know. You can also add extra nights after your placement for the same reason.

If you want to add another project, a Scuba Diving Course, a Surfing Week, or even a longer tour, we can help you with that too. Please ask one of our friendly team at any time before you arrive in Cape Town.

Volunteer Testimonials   |   Nature's Valley Project Photos

Environmental Education and Community Outreach Programme

The project has developed an outstanding, tried and tested environmental education (EE) and community outreach (CO) programme, consisting of outdoor classrooms, associated curriculum linked resources and a wealth of expertise backed by an informed, supportive, mobilised and multi-skilled network. 

The EE programme comprises of a few major projects and programmes which include the national Adopt-A-Beach and Adopt-A-River programmes, the international Eco-Schools programme, holiday programmes, international enviro-calendar event programmes, weekend camps and eco-guidelines for sustainable living. The CO programme includes tree planting, river clean-ups and greening projects. 

In support of these programmes the project has established 16 outdoor classrooms in Nature’s Valley, each one focusing on a different environment.  Each of the outdoor classrooms is complimented with interpretive information, a curriculum linked booklet and a trail route. Below is a brief summary of all the booklets developed by the project:

  1. WETLANDS – Marshy Manoeuvres
    This booklet take us through a story about wetlands, the impacts of the wetland, and how they impact the environment. There are tasks in the booklet for the reader to improve their knowledge and the main character who will take you through the journey is Freddy the frog.
  2. FYNBOS - Billy The Butterfly trail
    Billy the butterfly trail is an outdoor classroom based in the Fynbos reserve at Nature’s Valley. This outdoor classroom focuses on the Fynbos area which is home to the Brenton Blue butterfly, a rare species. It covers the lifecycle of a butterfly, the different stages of the butterfly insects, pollination and Fynbos conservation. It is an interactive programme that gets children involved with the different plant species found within the Fynbos reserve and how insects play a role in pollination.
  3. MARINE - Extreme Marine
    The Extreme Marine outdoor classroom is themed around the ocean and estuary environments. It covers issues such as Marine Protected Areas, what estuaries are and whichanimals occur within the estuaries. This programme allows children to be actively involved in discovering the estuary environment and learning about the different animals occurring there.
  4. GEOLOGY – Geology Rocks!
    The Geology Rocks outdoor classroom focuses on the basis of geology, such as different types of rocks and the formation of mountains through plate tectonics. Children will be able to experience the different rock formations found around the valley because of the mountain ranges in the area. It also touches slightly on fossilization which also is a process that forms rocks.
  5. SHELL MIDDENS - A Journey Through Time
    A journey through time is a story about the people that were living here a long time ago. This story is about the history of the people called the Bushman, also called the San people. The story tells us about the Middle stone age, Iron stone age and today. The San people got their food by hunting in the mountains during spring and summer and in winter their source of food was in the oceans. Their food remains were thrown in a midden (a rubbish area).
  6. RIVERS – Salt River Trail
    This booklet is telling the learners about the importance of our rivers. It explains Salt River as the home of insects. Therefore the booklet is encouraging the people to take care of rivers for the sake of life that is there.
  7. FOREST - The Hobbit Trail
    This area gives the learners an overview of a protected forest. The Tsitsikamma forest lies between the Indian Ocean and the Tsitsikamma mountains. As this is such a beautiful and special forest, the government decided to protect it and it is now part of the Garden Route National Park.
    The change in global weather is the long-term alteration in global weather patterns. Our weather is influenced by the sun. The sun heats the earth and the water during the day. When the sun sets, all the heat that was trapped evaporates and rises, and these movements determine the weather of a region. The atmosphere traps the heat and bounces it back to the earth and this is called the greenhouse effect.
  9. BOTANICAL GARDEN – Phyl Martin Botanical Park
    A botanical ‘Treasure Route’ has been established through the botanical garden in the centre of Natures’ Valley. Treasure Hunt clues must be found by small groups of learners. The clues are linked to plants and landmarks that are located in close proximity. Additionally, an interpretive hut has been erected in the garden to showcase natural objects and background information for learners of all ages.
  10. ALIEN VEGETATION - Weezey The Weed Buster
    This booklet is about Weezey the forest weevil who is a weed buster. He takes us through his journey discussing alien plants, the impact they have on the environment and how they can be controlled. He also explains how these plants arrived here. The booklet is a lesson plan with wonderful activities.
  11. ASTRONOMY - Starry-Star Adventures
    This is the story of the smallest star that was travelling all over the planets. Now Starry is telling us about the planets from the smallest to the biggest. Starry also tells us that the sun’s heat and light provide the energy for life to exist on earth.
  12. FOOD WEB
    A food web shows how energy is passed on from one living thing to the next. It shows the feeding habits of different animals that live together in an ecosystem. This booklet also tells the learners that within ecosystems there are also predators and prey.
    The booklet covers the ocean, dunes, and the rocky shores. Crusty the Crab, who is the narrator, is leaving his home under the rocks to explore the sand dunes that he can see from a distance. On his journey he meets some of his friends and they have told Crusty about the four zones of vegetation that are found in the dunes.
  14. TSITSIKAMMA & KNYSNA ELEPHANTS - Undlovu The Elephant
    U “Ndlovu” is a Xhosa name for elephant. Ndlovu is a narrator in this booklet. She tells us about the history of the elephants that were roaming in Tsitsikamma forest a long time ago. This is a very sad story that explains and gives the learners the reasons why we should take care and protect our wildlife.
    The deforestation booklet was introduced to raise awareness about environmental concerns related to the loss of vegetation, and the impact that humans have on this. Throughout the pamphlet, issues of how to control and save our forests are explained in more detail.
    Land pollution booklets have been developed to give learners a background understanding of land pollution, the impacts, pollutants and possible solutions.

Durations & Pricing

Change your currency
6 weeks - £ 930
8 weeks - £ 1170
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.

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