Penguin Rescue and Rehabilitation Assistant

founded in 2005
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Coordinator | Igna
Coordinator | Igna
Book with Flex Option! Choose new departure dates or change to a different volunteer program at no extra costs.


Work hands-on with sick or injured African Penguins!
Observe how they will re-learn how to catch fish independently with a definite advantage, being made fit and fat by volunteers.
Be part in the conservation of our penguins and help us to preserve our treasure!
Explore the local South Africa with fellow volunteers!
Meet like-minded volunteers from all over the world!
Calling all animal lovers - endangered African Penguins are supported by the rehabilitation and conservation centre in Port Elizabeth! This volunteer program is especially suitable for:
Age 18+

About the Program

The South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre (SANCCOB), a non-profit organization in Port Elizabeth, South Africa; is focused on the care of sick or injured African Penguins (also known as Jackass Penguins) as well as other marine birds such as gannets, cormorants and seagulls. The work of SANCCOB is vital for the safety of the largest breeding colony of African Penguins in the world which is situated on St Croix Island right off the shore of Port Elizabeth in the Indian Ocean.

This is the only centre in Port Elizabeth that has the capacity to collect washed-up penguins who are sick, hurt or exhausted; and to treat any diseases they may have, give them a vitamin boost, fatten them up and release them into the bay again.

They will re-learn how to catch fish independently with a definite advantage, being made fit and fat by volunteers.

There are currently only 25 000 breeding pairs of African Penguins left in the world, and 21000 of those are mostly right here on our doorstep in Algoa Bay.

The centre’s purpose isn´t just to rescue and rehabilitate, but also to inform and educate the general public through their different programs. The extensive displays at the centre give tourists, school groups and other visitors the opportunity to learn about these endangered birds but also a wider variety of marine life in the beautiful and incredibly diverse Algoa Bay.

Volunteers are needed for the diversity of tasks that come with caring for the penguins and other rescued birds, as well as the educational purpose of the centre. Volunteers will feed and clean the penguins, maintain their enclosures, welcome visitors and guide them through the educational centre, go out on occasional rescues and assist with releases. 

Typical day

As a volunteer you will generally work closely with the people who work at the rehabilitation centre from 8.30AM until 5PM including the following tasks.

  • Hands-on work with penguins and other marine birds
  • Assistance on educational visitor tours
  • Cleaning and feeding of the penguins
  • Helping to release rehabilitated birds
  • General, centre-related tasks
  • Welcoming visitors 
  • Answering the phone and office duties (filing, taking, and delivering phone messages, printing, copy work, receiving deliveries, data capturing, stocktake, postage, communication with suppliers etc.)
  • Attending to “Bird Calls” (phone calls relating to birds in need of rescue) 
  • Assisting with emails  Guiding visitors and school groups through the center 
  • Helping at the coffee shop when needed 
  • Centre maintenance duties 
  • Capture visitor’s data into database 
  • Filing 
  • Thank you letters to donors 
  • Tracking donations from donors 
  • Assisting in creating Penguin adoption packs 
  • Assist with tin collection program
Sea school 
  • Teaching the visiting children about the center 
  • Helping with rock pool and shipwreck lessons 
  • Looking after displays and educational material 
Bird hospital 
  • Maintaining a high standard of hygiene and cleanliness in the rehabilitation centre. 
  • Scrubbing and cleaning the bird hospital facilities 
  • Washing and drying of laundry 
  • Cleaning equipment used in food preparation and feeding 
  • Defrosting and preparing fish for a variety of seabird species. 
  • Preparing and administering medication to different bird species.
  • Feeding the penguins and other birds (force feeding and free feeding) 
  • Hydrating (tubing) different bird species. 
  • Assisting in maintaining the permanent bird exhibit (scrubbing rocks, raking sand and food preparation) 
  • Cleaning and caring for the birds that are brought in 
  • Catching and handling of different bird species. 
  • Assisting with bird release preparation 
  • Joining the staff (when possible) at rescues in the Port Elizabeth area

Volunteers work 5 days per week from Monday to Sunday from about 8h00-17h00 with a lunch break 13h00-14h00 and short tea breaks during the morning and afternoon. This means that you will be asked to work on weekends but then you will have two days off during the week. Some days might start earlier or later and in summertime, due to the heat, hours can change.

Free-time activities

The Eastern Cape and the surroundings of Port Elizabeth show a large variety of natural beauty and make PE a great central place to visit the variety of South Africa. To the East you will find the Wild coast (former Transkei and Ciskei) which is mostly rural and undeveloped, but closer you will find Addo Elephant Part and great coastal villages such as Port Alfred. To the North you will find the great Karoo; a semi desert area with wide open spaces, large nature areas and long open roads with historical places such as Graaff Reinet, the Baviaanskloof Wilderness and much more. To the East towards Cape Town, you will be amazed by the Tsitsikamma National Park, holiday villages such as Plettenberg Bay, Knysna and natures Valley or the surf mecca of Jeffrey’s Bay. This gives you plenty to see and visit while you are here.
In Port Elizabeth there are a lot of things to do as well. You can go sandboarding on the Sunday river, to Sardinia bay for a day on the beach or visit one of the museums from Nelson Mandela.

Water Sports


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 (basic level)
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
Be calm, collected and ready to get your hands dirty!
It is important that volunteers:

-Are physically fit and able to stand for a full shift, comfortable with getting dirty, willing to work in all weather conditions, often outside, reliable and accountable, compassionate and caring nature with a love for seabirds and up to date with their tetanus vaccination.
-Can work in a team as well as independently, follow Standard Operating Procedures, and work well under pressure.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 08:30 - 17:00

What's Included

Services by Khaya Volunteer Projects

Included in your fees:

  • Information and assistance before departure
  • Pick up upon arrival and drop off at the end of your stay during week days
  • Welcome pack 
  • City Tour and Introduction Program
  • Accommodation 
  • 3 basic meals a day
  • Direct donation to the project’s needs
  • Daily transport to-and-from the project
  • Volunteer T-Shirt from Sanccob with a name badge
  • Weekly free social activities

Airport Pickup at Port Elizabeth International Airport

Your airport pickup is included in your fee when arriving on Monday or any other day of the week. If you choose to arrive on a weekend, we will gladly organize a cab to pick you up (or you can take an Uber) to any accommodation of your choice. We will collect you there on Monday morning at 9AM to start your stay with us.

If you prefer to come to us directly over the weekend, as well as when you depart again, we will charge an extra Weekend Fee of R200 (15 EUR) for your pick up or drop off. An additional R250 (20 EUR) per night for any extra nights outside of your booking dates. Please discuss your personal preference with us to make sure all is prepared for you.


The volunteer house is located in the popular beach front area of Humewood, and is only a 5 minute walk away from the beach. Shops, beachfront cafés, restaurants and access to other facilities are all within easy reach. It’s the perfect location to enjoy the beach after work or during weekends. The volunteer house offers spacious living conditions and is shared with other volunteers. It is fully furnished and has all the facilities needed and more.

The Lodge is made up of various spaces, living areas, bathrooms and 3 bedrooms with other rooms optional for couples and older volunteers. The house has a nice entertainment area with barbecue (braai) facilities, a comfortable lounge with fireplace and a sparkling pool that you can happily dive into on a hot day. A great area to socialize with your fellow volunteers from all over the world. The in

Dorm Room
Food & Beverages

Our full time cook will provide all meals at the volunteer house on a daily basis. This means you will be able to enjoy great South African home cooked meals, learn how to cook some of these specialties and have a House Mother to comfort you when needed. Our cook is a lady with a warm heart and even bigger embrace for those that need it and she will look after the house and the meals to provide the best possible.

We believe in participation, so volunteers will not be sitting back and get served, they still need to help her cook at times, chop vegetables, clean dishes and warm up the food for dinner themselves.

Our cook will create weekly menus offering breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as alternate meals like stews, curries, stir-fry, soups, pastas and other wholesome options. Meals will be prepared and cooked from Monday to Friday, where on weekends volunteers will only have to heat up a meal or make their own similar meals.

There is free coffee, tea and cordial juice available at any time. For breakfast you will have toast, fruit, yogurt, cereal and/or eggs. For lunch you can have sandwiches with cheese, marmalade, cold meats or other spreads. Dinners are a variety of hearty healthy meals such as soups, stews, pies, oven dishes and other options. Please tell our coordinators about any wishes, vegetarian wishes and allergies concerning food.

Internet Access
Limited access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Port Elizabeth International Airport (PLZ) in Port Elizabeth. We assist you to find cheap flights to South Africa.
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.
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.

Dates & Fees


Details on arrival

Starting your volunteer work is on Mondays only.

You will either be picked up at the airport or any accommodation in Port Elizabeth on Monday. You will then have time to settle in and explore the area. Tuesday will be your introduction day at the project.

If you arrive before Monday, we can assist with accommodation at a backpacker’s hostel or guesthouse for you.

Participation is in full weeks only (7 nights per week) and the project will be closed for approximately 2-3 weeks over Christmas and New Years’ time every year.

This project has a minimum duration of 6 weeks.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
6 - 12 weeks

Program fees

Costs: Prices in USD
6 weeks (min. stay)
7 weeks
12 weeks (max. stay)
Average fees
$264 /week

Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated. Khaya Volunteer Projects will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Deposit (15%)
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 (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with Khaya Volunteer Projects during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Why book with Volunteer World

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All program fees are charged directly by Khaya Volunteer Projects.

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Penguin Rescue and Rehabilitation Assistant

Calling all animal lovers - endangered African Penguins are supported by the rehabilitation and conservation centre in Port Elizabeth!


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