Bay, South Africa)
The Ultimate Whale & Dolphin Experience
The O.R.C.A. Marine Foundation is located in Plettenberg Bay on the world famous
Garden Route of South Africa. “Plett” (as it's lovingly referred to by
locals) is home to some of the world's most
fascinating marine species and one of the best places in South Africa to
view them. This includes Southern Right Whales, Humpback
Whales, Bryde’s Whales, Bottlenose Dolphins, Humpback Dolphins, Common Dolphins,
Orca or Killer Whales,
and Great White Sharks. A volunteer placement at O.R.C.A. gives a unique,
once in life time opportunity to observe these magnificent marine species
while participating in exciting marine conservation, community-based and
educational volunteer work.
trips to sea (in boats and sea kayaks) to view many magnificent
animals. The town of Plettenberg Bay, which is
dependent on eco-tourism, has benefited significantly from the O.R.C.A.'s
programs through community upliftment, information gathered from O.R.C.A. researchers on
various aspects of the Bay, and promotion of marine eco-tourism.
Recently O.R.C.A. was honoured as the
Runner-up for the Indaba/Fair Trade "Excellence in Environmental Stewarship"
award. O.R.C.A.'s mission is to facilitate the implementation of a
‘Best Practise’ model for the management of the Bay and to change community
consciousness relating to environmental issues to achieve intelligent
co-existence in Plettenberg Bay.
O.R.C.A. (Ocean Research Conservation Africa)
works in partnership with both the Centre for Dolphin Studies and Ocean Blue
Adventures. If you are passionate about the conservation and
sustainability of marine coastal systems, then O.R.C.A. is the ideal project
During your stay in Plettenberg Bay (one
of the most breathtaking and serene outdoor classrooms in Southern
Africa), you will be lucky enough to witness the power and grace of
whales, the exuberance of dolphins, the playfulness of
seals, and the majestic beauty of mountain, forest and coastal
ecosystems. Above all, being an O.R.C.A. volunteer will allow you to actively
participate in conserving our marine life for future
generations. Through our O.R.C.A. marine conservation projects, you will
help the team manage this marine and coastal zone in a sustainable
manner and in the process experience the community, culture and
environment in a more intimate way than most visitors.
The experienced O.R.C.A. team will help
settle you into the program and provide ongoing guidance and mentorship
during your stay. You will have the opportunity to take on individual projects, if desired, or integrate with the team. From
assisting the research teams to helping with the community outreach programme, you will find your own way to contribute.
activities support the conservation and social objectives of the O.R.C.A
Marine Foundation. Volunteers will get involved with many of the following
(as many activities are weather or seasonally dependent):
• Participating in community development and
education programmes in local disadvantaged communities (e.g. Qolweni
• Organizing and presenting at provincial/national marine and
coastal awareness campaigns (such as National Environment Week, National
Marine Week, and Youth Day) when they occur.
• Experiencing and assisting in amazing
marine eco-tourism with Ocean Blue Adventures (whale and dolphin watching).
• Monitoring and cleaning campaigns on
beaches and coastal regions.
• Maintaining, cleaning and collecting food
for O.R.C.A.’s aquarium species, which are used for education and
• Sampling, tagging, and monitoring of local
• Fin profiling and spatial distribution
• Assisting with O.R.C.A.’s carbon reduction
program and removal of alien plant species.
• Enjoying educational presentations on
conservation and ecological topics.
Volunteer placements are always changing and
varied, and particularly dependent on weather conditions. Bad weather
may delay conservation/research activities and result in some indoor
activities and courses. Of course, we do our best to get the boats
into the ocean as much as possible, although safety comes first.
Volunteers staying for 4 weeks or longer
have the opportunity to partake in the Marine Guiding Course to qualify as
a local marine guide as
well as the Competent Crew Course where volunteers learn basic boat
skills, radio work, safety at sea etc.
Marine Strandings Course
All interested volunteers can participate
in the marine strandings course. This is an introduction to first aid
for marine animals who strand on our beaches.
The atmosphere is one of ‘mixing it with the locals’ and O.R.C.A.
volunteers are welcomed into local programs and enjoy all kinds of fun extra
activities. Rental cars and taxis are available to hire for after hours and
Leisure activities in Plett include horseback
riding, golf, angling, sailing, scuba diving and surfing, as well as hiking
and bird-watching in nearby Robberg, Keurbooms River and Tsitsikamma Nature
Reserves. Other highly recommended activities include treetop canopy tours
or bungee jumps off the 216m Bloukrans River Bridge (the highest bridge jump
in the world)!
Plettenberg Bay is a beach-lover’s
paradise. Plett is characterised by sweeping, unspoilt golden
beaches, a dramatic rocky peninsula, intriguing estuaries,
towering indigenous forests and breathtaking rivers and sea. With its
exceptional climate and beautiful viewsover the Indian Ocean,
Plettenberg Bay is an idyllic location for a volunteer holiday.
The O.R.C.A. volunteer house is very cute. It is located near the beach,
within close proximity to a shopping centre with shops,
cinemas, restaurants and bars, and approximately one mile from the O.R.C.A.
office in Plettenberg Bay.
The house is self-catering, with shared bedroom and bathroom facilities.
Basic food for meals is provided at the house. Evening meals are prepared
for volunteers six nights per week, though volunteers are also welcome to eat
out. Volunteers may need to pack a lunch for certain activities, but
will be informed of this ahead of time when such situations arise.
Laundry facilities are available for
volunteers, and Teliswa does communal washing weekly.
A communal telephone line is available at the
volunteer house. The phone can receive incoming calls and make outgoing
calls on a world calling card (available at nearby shops). There is ADSL
access to the internet at the volunteer house. Skype is available to those
who have access as well as satellite television.
The program is limited to 12 volunteers to
provide a more intimate and personal experience. Training will be given in various aspects of marine conservation.
No experience is necessary to join.
O.R.C.A. accepts volunteers of 16+ years of
age. Volunteers under 16 years old are only considered when
accompanied by a parent/guardian. There isn't a maximum age limit,
though a reasonable fitness level is necessary.
1 week: GB£595 / US$995
GB£895 / US$1495
GB£1195 / US$1995
4 weeks: GB£1495 / US$2495
Extra weeks: GB£295
/ US$495 per week
Volunteers receive a $100 discount when joining multiple Enkosini
uses USD rates as standard due to currency fluctuations. GBP rates
are indications of approx recent values. Currency convertor at
Volunteer contributions cover meals,
accommodation, activities, transfers from Plettenberg Bay to O.R.C.A., and project
donation. Flights and travel/medical insurance are NOT included. The only
additional spending money required will be for personal purchases, social
excursions away from O.R.C.A., and pre/post project travel. We do not have discounted rates for partial
Please bear in mind that the sooner you
apply, the better your chances of securing your placement!
The O.R.C.A. program doesn't have set
dates, though we do try to coordinate arrivals/departures on Sundays
whenever possible so that volunteers begin the program together on
The project is based in the beautiful
coastal town of PLETTENBERG BAY - approximately 600kms
from Cape Town.
Flights are available from Cape Town or Johannesburg to
George. Buses are available from Cape Town or Port Elizabeth to Plettenberg Bay. Arrangements will be made to collect incoming volunteers
from either the George Airport, the BazBus drop-off points, or the Plettenberg Bay Bus Station. There
is no charge for Plettenberg Bay transfers, but George transfers cost
approximately 500 ZAR (private taxi service, +/- 45 minutes).
By Bus - Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay
By Plane – Jo'burg/Cape Town to George
By Rental Car – Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay
If you have a driver's license, renting a
car for a day (or a few days) and driving from Cape Town to Plettenberg
Bay is an enjoyable
way to reach O.R.C.A. along the beautiful Garden Route. Keep in mind
that it is a long tiring drive after an overnight flight.
See FAQs for any additional questions!
"My first experience with the Ocean Research
Conservation Africa (O.R.C.A.) Foundation was in May of 2010. I chose to
volunteer with O.R.C.A., a marine conservation organization, because I was
unsure about the ethics or purpose of community volunteering in developing
countries. Though I had originally booked my stay with O.R.C.A. for four
weeks, I loved it so much that I ended up staying an additional month (this
month just so happened to be during the World Cup – woohoo!). I departed on
the 6th of July, 2010, knowing I’d be back for more. Sure enough, I returned
in April, 2011, this time for four months. However, my purpose this time was
no longer to provide assistance in O.R.C.A.’s research and conservation
initiatives. O.R.C.A. has brought me back to milk my development background
by helping a nearby community (Qolweni) to create and sustain a township
O.R.C.A. Foundation is an
organization located in Plettenberg Bay that encourages the sustainable
usage of “marine and coastal resources through improved management, research
and education”. Their mission is to raise awareness for and interest in
marine conservation issues, and they do this by regularly keeping up to date
with research projects that support conservation and environmental
rehabilitation in both the Bitou River and Plettenberg Bay areas.
The O.R.C.A. Foundation
volunteer program was officially created in 2001, and was designed to help
create a conservation model for Plettenberg Bay. People of all ages and
backgrounds come from all corners of the world to volunteer with the
organization. Their projects are both sea and land based, and volunteer
activities include whale watching, fish tagging, fin profiling, beach
clean ups, alien tree species removal, tree planting and educating youngsters on conservation
chairman is Tony Lubner, a Plettenberg Bay local and ocean
enthusiast. Its manager is Tracy Meintjes, a Canadian-born skipper (National
Diploma in Nature Conservation) and environmentalist. Luigi Lottino (BTech
Nature Conservation) runs the
O.R.C.A. house and participates in many of O.R.C.A.’s projects and
initiatives. Caroline Lottino also had her diploma in Nature Conservation
and runs most of the volunteer activities. Teliswa (whom I call “Tilly” or “Mom”) is the house keeper,
chef, and Xhosa teacher.
There are many more amazing people who I’ve
had the opportunity to work with here at O.R.C.A., but I have neither the
time nor space to list them all. Each one has offered me a new perspective
on life, and for that I am ever thankful. To all the O.R.C.A. volunteers
past, present, and future, I salute you!"
-Cassandra Cardiff, Canada
you are into marine wildlife and helping the humanitarian cause,
then the O.R.C.A. project is outstanding! Not only did I get
ample whale and dolphin watching opportunities, but we also got to truly
get our hands dirty and assist at the local township school by building a
green house and spending time with the children. This placement was
also great because of all the other activities available in Plettenberg
Bay. If you want to go surfing, scuba diving, kayaking or even
skydiving (which I highly recommend), you can do them all with
the help of the staff. Plettenberg Bay is a great
town, full of night spots where you and your fellow volunteers can
unwind and have a great time."
Glenn Hines, Canada