Marine Biology and Rehabilitation Experience
Do you love the ocean? Would you like to be immersed in a fascinating underwater world of colour, beauty, tranquility and magic? If so, discover the wonders of the oceans surrounding Cape Town by assisting a young, dynamic and passionate team who are committed to the marine environment.
Volunteer in an aquarium with over 3000 living sea animals, including sharks, fish, turtles and penguins at this spectacular underwater nature reserve.
The Aquarium is ideally positioned to showcase the incredible diversity of marine life found in the Indian and the Atlantic Ocean.
Become an Ambassador for the ocean
Experience beautiful Cape Town and all it has on offer
At a Glance
Project duration: 4 to 12 weeks
Location of project: Cape Town
Arrival airport: Cape Town (airport code CPT) arrive by 4.15pm at the latest
Activities: Clean displays, prep food, feeding animals in quarantine and on display, accompany collections team out at sea, assist the full-time staff on a variety of tasks
Working hours: Monday to Fridays 07h00 am to 15h00 (16h00), one hour lunch break between 13h00 and 14h00.
Requirements: 18 years
Accommodation: Private room in volunteer/internship house
Food: Food is not included; you’ll need to purchase your own food (budget approximately US$65 per week)
Airport pickup: Included on arrival date - ask us for details if you're arriving early
For you to organise: Flights, insurance, visas, return airport transfer (at the end of your trip)
Assist a small and dedicated team who are young, dynamic and passionate about their work. The aquarium has a small team of marine biologists, they also have staff members with degrees in architecture, law, education and psychology!
As a volunteer on this project, you’ll be assisting full time staff on a variety of tasks such as cleaning displays, prepping food and keeping the aquarium animals happy. You may even get involved in rescue missions or animal releases! Working with animals on a daily basis, you will get to know them in an intimate way, you will start to notice their individual behaviours and begin to develop a strong sense of their characters.
You will be an ambassador for the oceans, sharing your knowledge with visitors and school children assisting in conveying the message of the oceans and its inhabitants.
The position requires physical labour and applicants must be able to lift a 20 kilogramme bucket and be able to swim. You will gain experience in Public Aquaria with general husbandry of all plants and animals house within our facility. Duties will include daily care, maintenance and appearance of exhibits. Preparing food and feeding of animals (fish, penguins, turtles, etc.). Assist on collection trips out at sea. Record keeping. Siphoning of exhibits. Special projects as needed which could include research and exhibit construction
Day 1 (Monday) – hello and welcome!
Arrive at Cape Town International Airport (airport code CPT) where you’ll be met at the airport and taken to our volunteer house in Fish Hoek where you will stay for your first night. You’ll need to arrive before 4.15pm so that you’re in time for orientation at 5pm. The journey from the airport to Fish Hoek takes about 45 minutes and you’ll see the magnificent Table Mountain on the way! Orientation will take you through what you can expect from your project, dos and don’ts and how to stay safe. It’s also a great opportunity to ask any burning questions you’ve got. Afterwards you can relax and enjoy a traditional dinner
Note: If you aren’t able to arrange a flight to get you into Cape Town before 4.15pm then we recommend you fly in a day early. We can arrange an early airport pickup for you including one night’s accommodation. Please give us a call for more information.
Day 2 (Tuesday) – Move to your new home!
In the morning the team will transfer you to your new accommodation. Once you have settled in they’ll show you how to get to your project each day (a choice of bus, mini bus taxi, cab) and then introduce you to the staff at the aquarium.
Day 3-5 (Wednesday
to Friday) – get stuck in!
Now that you’re familiar with your accommodation and transport route, it’s time to pop on your new team shirt, have fun and get stuck in!
Day 6-7 (Saturday and Sunday) - it’s the weekend!
The weekends are your free time to spend as you please and, living in a volunteer house, there’s golden beaches, surfing, Table Mountain and wine tasting closeby.
Following weeks (dependent on length of stay)
You’ll be working Monday to Friday forming special bonds with all the creatures and staff. You’ll learn a lot about the animals on a daily basis, you will start to notice their individual behaviours and begin to develop a strong sense of their characters and needs.
The position requires physical labour and applicants must be able to lift a 20 kilogramme bucket and be able to swim. You will gain experience in Public Aquaria with general husbandry of all plants and animals house within our facility. Duties will include daily care, maintenance and appearance of exhibits. Preparing food and feeding of animals (fish, penguins, turtles, etc.). Assist on collection trips out at sea. Record keeping. Siphoning of exhibits. Special projects as needed which could include research and exhibit construction.
Your last day – goodbye, we’ll miss you!
After saying goodbye and Hamba kakuhle (go well in isiXhosa), you’ll head off back to the airport. The return transfer from Cape Town to the airport is not covered within your project fee but our regular transfer company will be able to assist you to organise it, the costs will be about US$35 / R350.
About the Project
The southern tip of the African continent is the meeting place of two mighty oceans, the Indian and the Atlantic. This Aquarium is ideally positioned to showcase the incredible diversity of marine life found in these two oceans. The Aquarium opened in November 1995 and is recognized as a key player in raising environmental awareness through its high-quality exhibits, conservation and education programmes. It is recognized as a leading environmental education centre in South Africa and is respected internationally for its high standards of animal husbandry and the expertise of its staff in collecting and transporting live animals. The team is committed to environmental education in South Africa and promoting positive changes towards the management of our marine resources.
It does not receive any funding from municipal, provincial or national government. It is a self-sustaining organisation that relies on revenue generated through visitation and corporate sponsorships.
The centre is involved in a number of conservation and research programmes
Sharks are in deep trouble. Around the globe millions of sharks are slaughtered every year for their meat, fins, teeth, skin, oil and cartilage
The aquarium successfully releases several sharks back into the ocean frequently. They are tagged with satellite tags which affords the opportunity to study ragged-tooth sharks and other shark species in general, monitoring their migration patterns along the southern African coastline. The data from the tagged sharks reveal fascinating aspects of the sharks’ lives.
Seven species of sea turtles live in the warm tropical oceans, only the loggerhead and leatherback turtles nest in South Africa.
During winter turtle strandings increase as juveniles (mainly loggerheads) are swept down from where they hatch in KwaZulu Natal and are washed ashore by stormy seas. They are often in a weak condition, having been exposed to cold water and are suffering from dehydration.
The Aquarium rehabilitates these turtles and releases them back into the warm ocean. The Aquarium also rehabilitates sub-adult and adult turtles that have washed up on the shoreline. To date the aquarium has also rehabilitated green, olive ridley, hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles. Rehabilitation of these turtles can take a year or more, depending on the needs of each individual, as some are not only suffering from hypothermia, but are also injured and require treatment.
· 2009 – 8 turtles released
· 2010 – 19 turtles released
· 2011 – 16 turtles released
· 2012 – 16 turtles released
· 2013 – 10 turtles released
· 2014 – 18 turtles released
· 2015 –162 turtles released!
· 2016 – 11 released (51 currently in rehabilitation)
Seals are being threatened by increased commercial fishing and by the pollution in the water. The Aquarium has a seal rescue team who assist seals in harbours which have straps or nooses cutting into their necks. It is extremely difficult to get close to these wild animals. The seal team has developed several methods to assist injured seals.
While you're here
You will stay in a private room in a volunteer/intern house in Cape Town. Bathrooms are communal with hot, running water, showers and regular flush loos. There’s also a lounge area with WIFI on offer (10 – 20 USD per month) The house is serviced daily and has free laundry facilities. Electricity is shared and worked on a pre-paid metre – budget around ZAR300 per month. You’ll need to pay 250 USD deposit when you arrive which will be given back to you when you leave if everything’s still as you found it!
You’ll be self-catering while in the house. The kitchen has everything you need from cookers, loads of fridge space and microwave to toaster, kettle and kitchen utensils. You can eat at the dining room table or grab takeaways at the many spots in the town, about 5 minutes’ walk away.
The house does also offer meal plans Monday to Friday - dinners (40 USD per week)
What to wear and bring along:
Jeans or shorts depending on season. We supply aquarium t-shirts. We always recommend to bring an additional set of clothing with you in the event that you get wet. Comfortable, non slip shoes. There will be days that you will go out to sea on collection trips, so please bring along hat and sunblock. A locker will be supplied to store your personal belongings in so please bring a padlock
Facilities and the area
Washing can be done on site.
Cape Town has a temperate climate but winter is still chilly so pack warm jumpers and even some cosy socks as SA doesn’t have central heating.
Bedding is provided but bring a sleeping bag for away weekends and extra warmth.
Bring along a towel
The main street is only 10 minutes’ walk away where you’ll find a supermarket, banking facilities bars and restaurants
The train station and taxi rank is close by. Uber and Cabs are a call away
Taxis charge R9.90 per km
What you get
We're always available to offer support and guidance before, during and after your trip.
Thorough project briefing materials
Once you’ve booked you'll receive a full pack of all the information you need for the project. It contains general information about volunteering, your specific project and South Africa as well as advice on safety, visas and inoculations.
Don’t worry about arriving in a new country on your own. We’ll be there to welcome you and take you to your accommodation.
Soon after you arrive you’ll attend a thorough orientation with our team. It covers everything you need to know about your next few days, dos and don’ts and your safety. You can ask any questions and find out more about the fun stuff to do around Cape Town and South Africa.
Accommodation and meals
Accommodation is included with all projects and meals are included with some. We only use locally-owned and operated accommodation so that part of your placement fee is filtering back into the local economy. Most projects offer homestay, guesthouse or shared volunteer houses as standard accommodation, but some offer the chance to upgrade to a more comfortable living standard.
24/7 emergency support
We’re always on hand in case of an emergency.
After you've booked
- You will receive a welcome email confirming your booking
- You’ll receive a full project pack with all the info you need
- You’ll be asked for any extra info if we need it – such as doctor’s notes for medical conditions, or maybe a CV on some projects
- You’ll need to pay if you haven’t paid already (at least 90 days before travelling)
Then the fun starts!
Next you should:
- Book your flights
- Arrange suitable travel insurance
- Get a visa for your trip if it's needed
- Visit a nurse or travel clinic for advice on inoculations and malaria prevention
- Start packing and come and join us!
*Remember to keep our contact details in a safe place in your hand luggage in case you need to contact us during your travels.
About South Africa
South Africans are patriotic and passionate about their country. And it’s not despite the country’s famously troubled history – it’s because of it! The people of this democratic country are so proud of how far they have come from the dark days of Apartheid and it makes us grateful for the diversity of cultures and languages that make up our amazing rainbow nation.
South Africa is a country of diversity in so many ways. It’s not a big country but travelling across the length and breadth of it, you’ll encounter an incredible range of climates and landscapes. There’s beautiful Cape Town, with its Mediterranean feel, pristine white beaches, sparkling oceans and magnificent Table Mountain providing the craggy backdrop for every setting. Travel east along the Garden Route with its picture-postcard coastal villages and you’ll eventually reach Durban and surrounds, a tropical area where the sun shines almost every day, the sea is warm and the surfing is fantastic! Then there’s the rugged Drakensberg mountain range, a place of rich Zulu heritage, spectacular views and jagged sweeps of peaks. Further north you’ll hit South Africa’s famous ‘veld’ or bush where you’ll find Africa’s big five and many thousands of other species of animals, hiding out in landscapes that are lit at sunset by the most vivid orange, pinks and purples.
There are so many things to see and do here that you’ll need years. But if your time is limited, here’s our top five must-dos:
You can’t come to Africa and not experience the amazing animals, the wild and beautiful African bush and the chorus of an African dawn. Kruger National Park is the most popular choice but there are a host of other parks in the northern parts of South Africa and the Free State as well as KwaZulu-Natal, offering a range of options from the most luxurious accommodation with chefs at your service to DIY game viewing and camping.
Adventure is the name of the game in this crazy country and if it’s outdoors and adrenalin-inducing, you’ll find it here. From the highest bungee jump and highest commercial abseiling in the world to shark cage diving, downhill mountain biking, trail running, walking safaris, big wave surfing and multi-day hiking, there’s something for ever thrill seeker.
South Africa has thousands of miles of glorious coastline, with Blue Flag beaches and hidden gems dotted along its length. There’s beaches for the glamorous, where you can go to see and be seen, beaches perfect for families, beaches for walking, beaches for swimming and beaches for watersports. There’s probably beaches which have never been trodden by a tourist before. Go on, we dare you to find it!
Nightlife, restaurants and entertainment
No holiday would be complete without a few good nights out and South Africa knows how to entertain. With so many cultures making up our population, there’s loads of delicious food on offer full of every fresh ingredient you could think of. There are pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes to suit every taste. South Africa is famous for its wonderful wines and there’s a craft beer revolution happening right here. Pack your dancing shoes!
A taste of township and culture
South Africa has a rich, tumultuous history dotted with dismal lows and incredible highs – and full of astounding stories from amazing people. It’s what makes South Africa the colourful place it is. Museums of every shape and size document the various aspects of our human and natural history, arts and culture – you’ll find them all over the country. Or why not take a township tour and experience the true heart of South African culture? If you’re visiting Cape Town, come to Kommetjie and visit Masiphumelele with the Township Sisters, our special Volunteer and Explore partners, and help support the sustainable development of this vibrant township.