11 marine volunteering opportunities in Africa

Posted by Adel Groenewald on 24 May 2012

A holiday to East Africa’s coastlines, where marine life and fascinating coral reefs thrive, is certainly on the bucket list of many. Yet there are many others who want to do more than just admire these waters, who want to learn about Manta Rays, Humpback Whales, sea turtles and dolphins by getting involved with a marine conservation project and assisting with research that will prolong their survival.

In some cases it’s possible to get involved with these organisations directly and in other cases there are placement agencies  who organise the volunteering opportunity for you. Here are a few places in South Africa and beyond to get active in marine conservation.

1. Centre for dolphin studies: Whale and dolphin research programme

Where they are
Plettenberg Bay, South Africa

What they do
The Centre for Dolphin Studies aims to promote the research and conservation of southern African marine mammals, particularly whales, dolphins and Cape fur seals.

Volunteer responsibilities
There is a wide range of activities with which volunteers can get involved, namely hiking, bird watching, Bottlenose and Humpback dolphin research, seasonal Humpback and Southern Right Whale studies, Cape Fur Seal research, beach cleaning, fish counts, river health analysis, fishing, aquarium maintenance, bait collection and conservation education for children.

Requirements
No previous knowledge or experience in marine conservation is required, but prospective volunteers have to have a passion for conservation and enjoy working in the outdoors.

Length of stay
2 weeks to 3 months

Accommodation
Volunteers will be staying at the volunteer house in Plettenberg Bay, sharing rooms and bathrooms and catering for themselves. The house is close to shopping centers, movies and grocery stores.

Contact
Website: www.dolphinstudies.co.za
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +44 533 6185

You can also get involved with this project through All Africa Volunteers or Coastal Safaris and Tours.

2. ORCA – Ocean Research Conservation Africa

Where they are
Plettenberg Bay

What they do
 ORCA monitors the Robberg Peninsula under the supervision of Rhodes University and they’re constantly involved in creating a model for a conservation project in the Plettenberg Bay area.

Volunteer responsibilities
Volunteers will be involved in a range of activities, for example, observing whales and dolphins, fish tagging, photo identification for animal movement studies, marine debris cleanups. Secondary activities will include planting indigenous trees and removing alien vegetation, assisting in the marine education programme and taking children on sea excursions.

Requirements
A passion for marine wildlife, a desire to help the less fortunate and a general love for adventure.

Length of stay
2 weeks to 3 months

Accommodation
Volunteers stay together in the ORCA house, situated very close to the bay as well as the estuary.

Contact details
Website: www.orcafoundation.com
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +44 533 1092

Combine ORCA and the Centre for Dolphin Studies with African Conservation Experience .

3. SAMREC – South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre

Where they are
 Port Elizabeth, in the Cape Recife Nature Reserve

What they do
This non profit organisation is mainly involved with caring for and rehabilitating sick and injured African penguins. As cold currents in which they find their food are being pushed further out to sea, chicks stay away from their parents for too long or adults return beaten and bruised. SAMREC nurses them back to health before rereleasing them into the wild.

Volunteer responsibilities
Your level of responsibility increases the longer you stay at SAMREC, moving from level one to level four volunteer as you learn from the staff. Basic duties involves cleaning and general assistance while the more experienced levels include feeding, preparation of fish and medication and recording the patients and animals at the centre.

Requirements
Volunteers need not have any experience with penguin rehabilitation as they can learn everything at the centre.

Length of stay
2 weeks to 3 months

Accommodation
Volunteers need to supply their own accommodation. In return, this volunteering opportunity is free of charge.

Contact details

Website: www.samrec.org.za
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +27 41 583 1830

To go directly to the volunteering information, click here.

4. Mauritius Marine Conservation Society

Where they are
 South west coast of Mauritius at La Preneuse, 40km from Port Louis

What they do
The MMCS is a non governmental organization that aims to protect the marine mammals of Mauritius and raise awareness about marine conservation amongst locals. Some of the projects they’ve been successful at over the last 30 years have been to stop dynamite fishing and underwater weapon use, identify protected marine areas, keep record of marine animals driven to shore and create educational games about marine life.

Volunteer responsibilities
The eco-volunteer programme involves any activities that will help with the current work in progress at MMCS and can be anything from helping to generate funds, collecting field information, doing data entry, assisting with educational and awareness programmes and communication. You may also be asked to take photographs, monitor and observe animal behavior as well as routine maintenance. Volunteers with level 2 diving skills can help with underwater data collection.

Requirements
There are no requirements, except a love for the marine world and a passion for its conservation. Volunteers will receive intensive training at the project.

Length of stay
2 weeks to 3 months

Accommodation
The MMCS house is located at La Preneuse, between Tamarin and Black River and volunteers enjoy a simple, shared lifestyle that is close to beach, small shops and grocery stores.

Contact information
Website: www.mmcs-ngo.org
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +230 696 5368

To go directly to the volunteering information, click here.

Also get involved through African Conservation Experience or Travellers Worldwide.

5. Mnari Marine Turtle Conservation Pond

Where they are
The northern most tip of Zanzibar, close to Nungwi.

What they do
This community based NGO aims to conserve sea turtles native to Zanzibar Island and they’ve created a large natural lagoon and several smaller ponds where injured or vulnerable turtles are raised until they reach breeding age. This is because the locals tend to hunt them for their shells and to eat them. Therefore, Mnari is also involved with community education and community based tourism activities in the area.

Volunteer responsibilities
Volunteers will be asked to help out with cleaning the premises around the lagoon, feeding the turtles cleaning the baby turtle tank, checking up on injured turtles and collecting seaweed – the natural food for green turtles nesting in the area. Volunteers are also asked to take visitors on tours and tell them all about the project and the turtles.

Requirements
Volunteers need not have any experience in marine conservation, but a keen interest and passion for conservation are two vital requirements.

Length of stay
2 weeks to 3 months

Accommodation
Separate rooms with showers right on the beautiful beach.

Contact information
Website: www.mnarani.org
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +255 773 204320

To go directly to the volunteer information, click here.

6. World Unite: Coral Reef Conservation

Where they are
Chumbe Island, just off the coast of Zanzibar

What they do
The project is aimed at conserving the 200 species of corals and 370 species of fish that make the reef there home. This reef is still in almost pristine condition, making the conservation thereof very important. Educational diving and snorkeling excursions are offered for tourists and local school classes to make them aware of the reef and motivate its conservation.

Volunteer responsibilities
During the religious holiday of Ramadan, local diving instructors are unable to take visitors on tours, resulting in the need for volunteer dive instructors during that one month in a year. Volunteers arrive one month before the holiday to learn everything about the reef before taking over for the month of fasting. Ramadan is usually from the late August to late September.

Requirements
Volunteers need to be experienced divers

Length of stay
2 months

Accommodation
Volunteers will stay close to the diving site in shared housing.

Contact
Website: www.world-unite.de
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +49 7825 432332

7. World Unite: Uzi Island Sea Turtle Conservation

Where they are
Menai Bay on Uzi Island, to the south of Zanzibar

What they do
A big problem in Zanzibar, is that locals on the islands kill sea turtles either for food or to prevent the turtles from eating fish that are believed to be for human consumption alone. Turtle shells are also used as home decorations. Menai Bay suffers quite severe general destruction from locals, because they’re uninformed, and this project aims to educate them about the beautiful area in which they live. The project has also modified a lagoon to raise Hawksbill turtles until they reach the age of reproduction in an effort to help these critically endangered animals to increase in number.

Volunteer responsibilities
Volunteers mainly assist in environmental education, preparing educational materials and presenting classes at local schools and kindergarten. Volunteers can also assist in trying to create alternative methods of income for locals that are not destructive to the environment. The project generates many funds through eco-tourism, meaning that volunteers might have to take visitors to see the turtle lagoon and tell them about the project.

Requirements
Only a love for the environment and a passion to conserve the sea turtles of Uzi Island.

Length of stay
Not specified

Accommodation
The project does not offer accommodation, as it is still very small, but there are many accommodation options in Zanzibar. The project, in return, is free of charge.

Contact
Website: www.world-unite.de
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +49 7825 432332

To go directly to the volunteer information, click here.

8. Frontier: Marine Conservation on Mafia Island

Where they are
Mafia Island, off the coast of Zanzibar

What they do
Frontier is the first organisation to carry out research work at the Marine Park, a conservation area covering the entire southern half of the island as well as a section in the north-east.  Unregulated tourism and an increase in population results in environmentally destructive fishing techniques like dynamite fishing and the research carried out provides local stakeholders and government bodies with the information they need to design and implement management plans for the future protection of this marine ecosystem.

Volunteer responsibilities
Volunteers are needed on Mafia Island to map marine habitats, record coral reef, survey reef fish, observe marine mammals and assist in examining the effects of dynamite fishing and global warming on coral reefs. Volunteers will also do land based work like exploring and recording living organisms in the mangroves and help with maintenance activities at the base camp.

Requirements
Volunteers can learn to dive or brush up on their diving skills at the Frontier camp before their volunteering work begins at an extra cost.

Length of stay
2 weeks to 5 months

Accommodation
Volunteers live a simple life at the research camp in Utende on the east coast of Mafia Island. Utende is close to the beach and local village and camp life is communal and relaxed.

To go directly to the volunteer information, click here.

Contact
Website: www.frontier.ac.uk
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +20 7613 2422

9. Marine conservation and diving

Where they are
The island of Nosy Be, Madagascar

What they do
Deforestation and erosion are two factors causing red soil to run into sea and harm the corals and marine life. The project, together with the Malagasy government is trying to put an end to this destruction and save the island’s precious biodiversity.

Volunteer responsibilities
The help of volunteers play an important role in the success of the project and volunteers will be asked to help with mapping the coral, indentifying reef and commercial fish, recording whales and turtles in the area and surveying the mangroves – recording the different organisms that live there.

Requirements
A love for nature, water and a passion for marine conservation are three vital requirements. Diving is secondary as volunteers do their PADI training at the Frontier Camp at extra cost.

Length of stay
Not specified

Accommodation
Volunteers will stay in the beach camp village of Ambalahonko, situated in a clearing on the beach, where they’ll enjoy a communal, unsophisticated, simple lifestyle.

Contact
Website: www.frontier.ac.uk
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +20 7613 2422

Click here to go directly to this project’s page.

10. Work and Volunteer: Whale Shark Research and Conservation

Where they are
Tofo, in the Inhambane Peninsula, Mozambique

What they do
This programme is aimed at counteracting the negative impacts of tourism and other human activities on the Mozambican coastline. The project is actively involved with Whale Shark research, coral reef monitoring, Humpback Whale monitoring and turtle nest surveys.

Volunteer responsibilities
Volunteers will be working out in the field, on the beaches and in the ocean, collecting data on beach surveys, boat surveys, dives and swims. Volunteers will help research the Whale Shark population by doing underwater photo identification while reef monitoring will be done during scuba dives. During migrating season, volunteers assist with monitoring their numbers and in turtle nesting season help is needed with monitoring and protecting the nesting beaches.

Requirements
Apart from having to be strong swimmers and capable in the water, volunteers need not have any marine skills. The project offers a PADI open water diving course in the first week of volunteering if needed. Qualified divers can also brush up on their skill before starting with volunteer activities.

Length of stay
2 weeks to 3 months

Contact
Website: www.workandvolunteer.com
Tel: +44 020 8297 327

Click here to go directly to the project page. You can also get involved through Responsible Travel.

11. ACCM Zavora Marine Lab

Where they are
Zavora, South of Mozambique

What they do
Zavora is situated in southern Mozambique and is an area that is still quite wild and remote. They are dedicated to both research and conservation here as there is still very little known about its marine life. This is also one of the few places in the world where both species of Manta Ray can be seen. Their research covers the Manta Ray population, the diving impact on manta Rays, reef monitoring and photo identification of Humpback whales. They hope to effectively apply this research to avoid destructive development in the area.  They’re also involved in environmental education to inform locals about marine conservation.

Volunteer position

Zarova is in the process of constructing a marine research and education centre using eco-friendly and zero-waste techniques and they need volunteers to assist in this project. The building started in March 2012 and volunteers are needed until November 2012. They’re looking for capable, dedicated and energetic architecture or construction students or experts.

Requirements
Knowledge of architecture or skilled in building

Length of stay
Minimum of one month, anytime until November 2012

Accommodation
Volunteers currently stay in a shared house at Zavora lodge. When the centre is done, they will stay there.

Internship programme

Science students have the opportunity to get involved in marine conservation and assist with research when they assist with all the projects underway at Zarova. Some tasks will include collecting underwater and land based data, transferring data into the database, assisting with educational projects, giving talks about the projects and helping to raise funds.

Requirements
Students who are serious about marine conservation and data collection and who have completed two or more years of a science degree are invited to apply. Applicants should also have logged a minimum of 30 dives, but they can come to the project earlier at their own expense improve their diving.

Length of stay
1 month

Accommodation
Volunteers currently stay in a shared house at Zavora lodge. When the centre is done, they will stay there.

Contact
Website: www.zavoralab.com
Email: [email protected]
Tel:  +258 8484 6267 425

*Photo taken by Jason du Plessis






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