from 2,438€

Outstanding 4.9rating (21)

Marine Diving Conservation Associate

2 - 12 weeks  ·  Age 18 - 50+

rating  Outstanding 4.9  · 
  Verified by Volunteer World
  Excellent response rate


  • Accredited diving qualifications – Receive full training enabling you to dive elsewhere throughout the world. Build experience, add hours to a diving logbook and develop a career in diving.
  • Coastal South Africa – Discover above and below the water! Golden beaches, coral reefs and species from tiny sea horses to majestic whale sharks… plus elephants, lions and more at nearby reserves!
  • Marine ecology – Understand marine ecology, the methodologies and principles that protect a world heritage marine ecosystem. Gain practical experience you can apply to your studies or professionally.
  • Nature’s seasonal events – Depending on when you join, be a part of turtle nesting or hatching, whale shark migration or the great sardine, the largest animal migration on the planet!
  • Confidence and growth – Build confidence in the water and yourself. Live and work in a new environment with people from all around the world. Grow as you encounter new perspectives and lifestyles.

Especially suitable

Age 18+

About the program

Get PADI/CMAS trained, live at a diving centre in coastal South Africa. Work on projects including reef surveying, turtle nesting, endangered species monitoring and more!

About the program

Focused on conservation, sustainable development and wildlife research.

This placement is focused on marine ecology and conservation in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa.

Receive diving training and qualifications to the internationally accredited PADI/CMAS standard. Gain experience ...

About the program

About the program

Focused on conservation, sustainable development and wildlife research.

This placement is focused on marine ecology and conservation in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa.

Receive diving training and qualifications to the internationally accredited PADI/CMAS standard. Gain experience and confidence with diving, work with the pioneering team who discovered the coelacanth off the coast of South Africa in 2000 along with other local scientists and dive masters.

Work on marine conservation projects such as coral reef surveying or turtle monitoring and nesting research to help protect these marine ecosystems.

Projects and work:
There are a variety of different marine research and conservation projects that you’ll support during your dives, gain skills in both marine ecology and diving itself.

PADI/CMAS diving accreditation
At the start of your placement, you’ll complete multi-day training involving classroom based theory and practical assessments. Train and qualify as a diver allowing you to work with us as well as at any internationally recognised PADI or CMAS diving centre.

Coral reef surveying and monitoring
Working as a team, you’ll grid and survey a variety of different coral systems at varying depths. Identify and record different species of coral and molluscs to gain data and insights on these ecosystems and help monitor their health over time.

Fish surveying
Reefs are rich in biodiversity and act as nurseries for young or migratory species. Help monitor the health of the reef, identify keystone species, record data to analyse trends in populations, record locations of any notable sites (cleaning stations or breeding locations).

Turtle monitoring and research
Loggerhead and leatherback are found along the coast of South Africa, help monitor their movements as you catch, tag and release to track these animals. Record valuable data such as sex, size and weight and help ecologists protect these species.

Turtle nest protection
From November to March, turtles use the beach to nest as they’ve done for millions of years. Help locate and protect these nests, monitor hatchlings and look for trends and patterns in changes of nesting and breeding behaviour.  

Marine videography and photography
An image says a thousand words and a video says more! Take part in videography, photography or other documentary processes to help capture often undocumented and recorded species of marine life to educate and raise awareness.

Endangered species identification and monitoring
As you dive at various locations, you’ll record any endangered or notable species of fish, rays and sharks. Some shark species even breed in the area, help record these animals in the understudied
iSimangaliso Wetland region.  

Safari drives and bush walks
For some of you joining us, it will be your first time in South Africa and we don’t want you to miss a thing. Included in your placement is a multi-day sleep-out on a wildlife reserve. Take part in Safari drives and bush walks to see iconic African animals like: elephants, big cats, giraffe and the rest!

For those with an existing background in marine ecology, we can work with you to help develop and implement your own projects.

Typical day

Typical day

Get to know the north east of South Africa in the Sodwana bay area. Part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage site and protected area. Dive on reefs home to species such as leatherback turtles, whale sharks, ragged-tooth sharks and move!

Schedule and work hours:
Day 1 – ...

Typical day

Typical day

Get to know the north east of South Africa in the Sodwana bay area. Part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage site and protected area. Dive on reefs home to species such as leatherback turtles, whale sharks, ragged-tooth sharks and move!

Schedule and work hours:
Day 1 – 4: You’ll complete your theoretical and practical training, studying and finally completing a course and assessment qualifying you as a PADI/CMAS diver. This accreditation allows you to dive worldwide at any PADI/CMAS recognised centre.

Day 5 and beyond: Once qualified, you’ll begin a series of dives on the various reefs of the coast of Sodwana bay. Most of these involve a short boat right to a selected diving site.

You’ll then complete your various dive as well as any conservation work, research or species monitoring and surveying. Some conservation projects such as turtle nesting will involve working on the shore and coast itself.

Typical work weeks are 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday, with a chance to do the many optional activities on offer in the area on the weekends.

Activities are led by divemasters or scientists who design the research and project goals.

Camp out on wildlife reserve:
During our July and August groups, we plan and include a multi-day (2 - 4 days), campout in a nearby wildlife reserve.

It's a chance for you and the other group members to see some of the terrestrial, land-based animals. We know most non-south Africans or first-time travellers to South Africa will want to take part in some traditional safari activities so we have to include it!

During this trip, you'll probably be up earlier in the day, around 6am or 7am to maximise your chance for wildlife sightings.

Depending on the group's attitude and energy levels, we'll probably have a rest day on the last day and a bit of a lie-in. Once it's finished it's back to the diving centre for your marine conservation projects as normal.

Free-time activities

During weekends or any off-time, as a group you'll be able to decide which of the nearby activities you'll like to take part in. From exploring national parks and the breathtaking landscapes that makeup South Africa to visiting near by animal or wildlife centers, rural communities or heading into ...

Free-time activities

During weekends or any off-time, as a group you'll be able to decide which of the nearby activities you'll like to take part in. From exploring national parks and the breathtaking landscapes that makeup South Africa to visiting near by animal or wildlife centers, rural communities or heading into town to do a bit of souvenir shopping.



Minimum Age: 18 years

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.

Language Skills

You need to speak English (intermediate level)

Nationality Restrictions

No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.

Other Skills

Speak, read and write English (intermediate level) Good level of maths Good level of physical fitness Able to pass relevant medical examination by doctor stating safe for diving

Time Commitment

Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 07:30 - 16:30

What's Included

What's Included

Services by Hamba Africa

We have taken care of all the details so you can focus on the adventure of a lifetime!

The placement includes:

  • Airport transfers to and from the centre
  • Accommodation during your stay
  • Camp out in wildlife reserve and safari activities (July and August only)
  • Diving courses and qualifications
  • Transportation and guides for all confirmed excursions and group activities
  • Food and drink (excluding any personal extras)
  • Entry for any visits to external sites
  • All itinerary/activity equipment is provided
  • Wi-fi access
  • Conservation projects and dives
  • Meet and greet event in the UK
  • Fellow volunteer contact list, to be sent out prior to departure
  • 24-hour emergency onsite support
  • 100% financial security with your booking

Airport Pickup at King Shaka International Airport

Starting point

King Shaka International Airport
We'll collect you from the airport. The drive to camp is approximately 3 - 4 hours, on the route you'll have a chance to pick up any last minute supplies or toiletries you need from the shop. Ahead of joining us, we'll arrange multiple calls with all volunteers to ensure they are confident with their travel plans and if you need any support making arrangements such as visa's or travel insurance.


Ending point
You'll be taken back to King Shaka International Airport. For anyone staying in South Africa, we're happy to help arrange custom transportation or an alternative drop of location.


The diving centre is fully equipped with class and lecture rooms for studying, workshops and equipment areas for training as well as communal, kitchen and BBQ areas for living day to day. A short 10 minute drive to the local boat launch point, from there you’ll head out at sea to the reefs!

Volunteers and students will mainly stay in shared, same-sex accommodation and rooms. If you’re a couple, want to stay long-term for research or just value your own space ensuite options are available but might involve an additional price.

Regardless of what, all accommodation is furnished with beds, storage space for clothing, fans during the summer and electrical sockets to charge phones, cameras, and laptops.

Food & Beverages

Breakfasts and lunches
Breakfasts are usually a quick and easy “grab and go” style ritual, think cereals, toasts, yoghurts and fruits. Something light ahead of a days worth of diving and other conservation activities.

Lunches are a free for all
You’ll be able to help yourself to what in the kitchen and cupboard, sometimes people like to cook or others its sandwiches and snacks for lunch. Its entirely up to you!

You and group members will be expected to cook as a team.

Group leaders will of course help support with this, please don’t worry to much if you aren’t a confident cook but the aim is to have something that helps keep you fed and full of nutrition that’s somewhat quick and easy to make.

Typically, this means crowd pleasers like pasta, burgers, curries and salads. With the rural setting BBQ's (Braais as they are locally known) are also a common activity and way to cook and make great fun, especially on weekends.

Weekend town trips to stock up
On the weekend we head into town to pick up shopping, you and the other group members will be able to plan and select what they want for the week and our group leaders will purchase this for you.

A budget will be given but you’ll have more than enough to ensure you are able to eat breakfasts, lunches and dinners generously.

Personal extras like snacks and alcoholic drinks are not included but you’ll have an opportunity to buy these as well.

Internet Access

Limited access at the project site

What's NOT included?

What's NOT included?

Flight Tickets

The nearest airport is King Shaka International Airport (DUR) in Durban. We assist you to find cheap flights to South Africa. FIND CHEAP FLIGHTS

Travel Insurance

Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for South Africa provides security and is a plus to have. GET A QUOTE


If you are intending to volunteer in South Africa you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for South Africa. VACCINE CHECKER

Details on arrival

Planned groups 2024 | July and August
For 2024 our main groups are in July and August and include all diving training, participation in conservation projects a camp out on wildlife reserve.

Outside of July and August
Although we do receive volunteers and divers outside of our main groups in July and August, outside of the July and August period we do less group-based conservation-focused marine work and focus more on professional diving training and accreditations, in addition, recreational diving with whale shark, sardines migrations and deep diving.

This is because the program is specialised in both diving training and marine conservation projects, we need specialist equipment and staff to support you and the projects themselves.

If you want to focus on marine conservation work outside of July and August, please message us. Typically we focus just on shark research outside of July and August rather than the broader, marine ecology work we do.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Program fees

2 weeks (min. stay) 2,438€
4 weeks 4,688€
12 weeks (max. stay) 9,000€
Average fees 984€/week

Program fees

984€ per week 2 - 12 weeks Age 18 - 50+

Payment methods

Visa Master Card Maestro American Express PayPal



2 - 12 weeks


The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.

Final Payment

Your final payment will be agreed with Hamba Africa during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Meet your organization

Hamba Africa

Outstanding 4.9 rating (21 reviews)

Agency - founded in 2019

Verified by Volunteer World

  Excellent response rate

Coordinated by


About the project

Hamba Africa provides conservation-focused programs and projects across South Africa. Each with unique goals allowing you to travel ethically while protecting nature!

Meet your organization

Hamba Africa is owned and run by safari guides and conservationists. We work with organisations across South Africa that share our commitment to real-world conservation, wildlife research and sustainable development.

We invest in you
We also work with universities based in the United Kingdom and the world to help structure and ensure our placements are an opportunity for those joining us to "gain while you give". Our work aligns with these educational institutions as well as internationally accredited professional bodies or best practices. We provide structured internships, courses, traineeship positions and accredited qualifications.

Meaning while you're giving back, getting hot and sweaty with our work, you're developing skills and tangible experience to act as a career-boosting opportunity.

Travel on the frontline of conservation
Our business owner has spent over a decade working in conservation internationally, from researching and living with elephants, cave diving in the Mediterranean, reintroduction projects in the UK or black mamba handling in Southern Africa... Rightly or wrongly, he thinks immersing yourself in wildlife as you protect it provides the most authentic and personable travel experience possible.

Who should join us?
Our only requirement is you are passionate about wildlife, conservation and community development!

We're happy to receive a lot of support from university students who join as part of a study abroad placement or as a way to support their academic studies and career employability, taking advantage of the skills and experience they gain from our projects.... Hamba Africa even works with some universities to allow their students to get their placements funded!

We also receive a lot of support from adventure travellers, those on a gap year or ethical individuals looking for a unique experience

We look forward to welcoming you!

21 reviews · rating4.9

The most impactful to me was being able to understand a wide diversity of species and improve camera work and other skills whilst volunteering. My highlight was taking selfies with animals! Also reading with the view of sunsets and elephants ...
Merel Floor van den Dool rating5

2023 at Endangered Species Conservation & Research

Waking up every day in the middle of a game reserve with wild animals all around the fences of the camp is just amazing! We went on a lot of game drives and witnessed epic animal behaviour like crocodile fights, lions cleaning each other and elephants taking a bath. In the afternoon we had time to ...
I spent 4 weeks in the Welgevonden Research Camp, and I loved it! I arrived at the end of Winter, so vegetation was low, and I had the opportunity to see and learn about more wildlife than I could have imagined. My guides were respectful, were happy to stop and answer my questions, and were thorough ...
I went for 5 weeks to do the long term volunteer wildlife program. When i arrived i had a tent for myself and the most beautiful view. Rhino’s passing by with their calfs, the zebras and the warthogs curiously looking at you. You get up early every day. Eat your breakfast and bring a lunchbox with ...
In August 2023, I had the opportunity to go out to South Africa, with Hamba Africa to spend time volunteering at the research camp in Welgevonden game reserve. During my 3 weeks with Hamba Africa, Harry, our knowledgeable guide, blended entertainment with education during each game drive, making ...
We had an absolutely wonderful week with Harry and Marge at the research camp. We've learned a lot about conservation in south africa and the specifities of keeping big 5 in a reserve. Passion and knowledge were seen every minute of our trip. We were able to participate in vet interventions ...


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Contact Harry
  Excellent response rate

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