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ORCA Foundation

Coastal Conservation, Research & Education Helper

Agency | ORCA Foundation
Voluntourism Round Trips

There are loads of activities we offer during your stay with us!

The Orca Foundation is part of a volunteer community dedicated to marine conservation in South Africa, and like many conservation projects depends on the willingness of others to contribute their time and dedication to furthering the volunteer and conservation ethics that go hand in hand for a better future.

The local interest and desire to help ORCA’s cause snow-balled into what is now the volunteer program, where people from all over the world come to dedicate their time and help progress ORCA’s education, research, and conservation initiatives.

About the Program

The ORCA Foundation volunteer program officially started in 2001, and is designed to increase awareness about conservation issues and initiatives, and to help create a conservation model for the Plettenberg Bay area. People of all ages and with different backgrounds come from all over the world to learn while helping us further our work in sustaining marine and coastal resources. 

Our programs are both sea and land based, and daily activities include whale and dolphin watching, elasmobranch egg case surveys (in collaboration with ELMO), fin profiling for animal movement studies, hikes and walks, marine debris clean-ups, planting indigenous trees and removing alien species, White Shark monitoring project (in collaboration with the Plett Hope Spot), river health assessments, and education of preschool children. 

Besides our education and research work, we are also involved with various other conservation activities. Such activities include maintenance of the Ocean Blue aquarium, which holds a collection of fish and represents the ecosystem of the surrounding bay. We collect food for the fish, clean the aquarium, facilitate water changes, and collect specimens for the aquarium, while at the same time learning about the rivers, estuaries, the sea, and the delicate balance between all of them. Your time with us can be as short as two weeks or can last as long as you want!

The number of volunteers can range anywhere from 1 to 12, depending on the season and number of bookings made, with no more than 4 people in one room.

If you have a passion for marine and coastal wildlife and ecosystems, a longing to learn, a desire to help the less fortunate, and a general love for work/adventure, ORCA Foundation is the answer for you!

Activities

Our program comprises 3 key elements:

  1. Conservation: Rescue of marine birds, assist with beach strandings, stabilization of turtles prior to them being moved onto specialized facilities, alien tree removal, beach clean-ups
  2. Education: Partaking in pre-school and primary school environmental education programs, educational entertainment through the media of dance and theatre, partnering with a local under-privileged preschool to teach English and assist where needed
  3. Research: Taking and processing fin profile photos of a number of whale and dolphin species seen on boat trips, analysing river health, bird ringing, elasmobranch surveys, contributing to a number of online databases mapping species distribution

ORCA Foundation combines conservation, education, research, community development, and tourism into its comprehensive volunteer program. It’s all hands-on! All activities depend on season, weather, and need, and as such may be subject to change throughout the year. As a result all placements are different, and you may or may not be involved with the above activities. Volunteers can also expect to contribute to Ocean Blue Adventures’ commercial operations. Bad weather days can delay conservation/research activities and may involve indoor activities and courses.

GPS monitoring on dolphin and whale watching trips

Besides giving the volunteers the opportunity to see these magnificent marine-creatures in their natural habitat, we use this chance to record details as to what, where and when. What did we see, where were they sighted, when did we see them? Photos are also taken for the purpose of fin-profiling.

Elasmobranch egg-case project

Elasmobranchs are a group comprising sharks, rays, and skates, and some of these lay eggs. Each beach is surveyed bimonthly and egg cases GPSed and collected. These egg cases are identified, analysed and measured after soaking in water for at least 12 hours.

Bird Ringing

Minke Witteveen is a licenced bird ringer which provides the ORCA Foundation with the opportunity to engage in the uncommon activity of capturing local birds in specialised nets. A metal ring with a unique alphanumeric code is placed on each birds leg, and a variety of morphometric measurements are taken. All these data are uploaded to a central data base managed by SAfring. This allows for data on movements, longevity, changes in timing of biological processes, and other data to be collected.

MiniSASS: River Health Assessement

Macroinvertebrates living in the river are collected by drawing a net through the water and surrounding vegetation. Individuals caught are identified, and based on the sensitivity score of the groups they belong to, the relative health of the river can be assessed. These results are uploaded to an online database monitoring river health throughout South Africa.

Siyakula Pre-School

Based in the Qolweni Township, Siyakula Pre-school educates over 100 children. Once a week the volunteers assist at Siyakula by giving a 45 minute lesson, which the volunteers themselves prepare and implement, and has included a variety of topics. Thereafter they read a story and play games with the children. They also help serve and clean-up after lunch. Volunteers are able to help a disadvantaged community, and are exposed to a different culture.

Our Location

The ORCA house will be your temporary home, and is located minutes away from the beach and steps away from the estuary. Transportation for ORCA-related activities will be provided by ORCA staff in our vehicle. Plettenberg Bay (fondly Plett) is located in the Western Cape in the heart of the Garden Route. We are 210km from Port Elizabeth and 600km from Cape Town, and just a short 84 km from George Airport.

Plett is a small town but experiences busy moments during the summer season, when a huge amount of tourists visit. Our days start around 8am and run to 4pm (depending on activities) from Monday to Friday; evenings and weekends are your personal time. 

During your stay in Plettenberg Bay you will be exposed to one of the most breathtaking and serene outdoor classrooms in southern Africa. You will regularly experience the power and grace of whales, the exuberance of dolphins, the playfulness of seals, and the magnificence of mountains and forests. 

Often, volunteers become a little ORCA family and join together for evening get-togethers that range from enjoying dinner prepared by our very own cook, Teliswa, or going out to a restaurant for a casual drink in town. Plettenberg Bay is full of wonderful nature and adventure based attractions, which volunteers often fill their weekend with. If you have a passion for marine and coastal wildlife and ecosystems, a longing to learn, a desire to help the less fortunate, and a general love for work/adventure, ORCA Foundation is the answer for you!

Suitable for

Singles
Couples
50+

Typical day

Be ready at 08h30, when we collect you for the day’s activities, which range from tank maintenance at Ocean Blue Adventures, to assisting research teams out on the ocean or the beach. Volunteer working week at ORCA Foundation is Monday to Friday, from 08h00 to 16h00. 

Evenings and weekends are your leisure times. The relaxed atmosphere of Plettenberg Bay and the ORCA Foundation will help you to settle in quickly. Some days involve more work and assistance, while others move at a leisurely pace. Daily activities can change on a moment’s notice, if something exciting comes along. Be prepared to go with the flow.

Sample Weekly Program at ORCA Foundation:

Monday:

  • 08h00 Ocean Blue day Bait collection Boat Aquarium maintenance 
  • 13H00 Lunch 
  • 14h00 Beach clean-up
Tuesday:
  • 09h00 Tree planting /  Robberg egg case survey
  • 13h00 Lunch 
  • 14h00 Alien tree removal / Data Capturing
Wednesday:
  • 05h00 Bird ringing 
  • 10h30 Snack 
  • 11h00 Keurboomstrand egg case survey 
  • 14h00 End early
Thursday:
  • 09h00 Siyakhula Preschool 
  • 14h00 Lunch 
  • 14h30 River assessment
Friday:
  • 08h00 Assist rehab centre / Robberg Hike
  • 13h00 Lunch 
  • 14h00 Data capturing / Fin profiling

Details on Arrival

ORCA research, community upliftment, and education programs continue throughout the year. The choice of when to join us, is mainly dependent on you and what kind of weather you prefer.

Summer: January to March tend to be our warmest months.

  • Sun cream and hats are strongly recommended.
  • Temperatures range from lows of 15oC to highs of 30oC (590 to 890 Fahrenheit).
  • Expect to see a variety of dolphin species and the occasional Bryde’s Whale on our whale watching tours at this time of year.

Autumn: April to June fall days are still warm, but the evenings cool off nicely.

  • Temperatures range from 8oC overnight to 25oC at midday (460 to 770 Fahrenheit).
  • Humpback whales, on migration north at this time of year, join dolphin species.

Winter: July to September are our winter months, but the start of whale-watching season.

  • Days start off cool and warm up to about 20oC (680 F), but the nights are a chillier 5oC (410 F).
  • Warm clothes are recommended for this time of year. We don’t use central heating in South Africa, so pack a jersey, jacket and gloves for the colder nights.
  • Southern Right Whales are a common sight in Plettenberg Bay.

Spring: October to December weather conditions are similar to autumn.

  • Animal sightings are mostly Humpback Whales and dolphins. The water warms up considerably, so diving and snorkelling can be done comfortably.  

Program Requirements

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).
Language Skills
You need to speak English (basic level)
Health Declaration
required
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
Volunteers need to have social skills and to join our program with an open mind
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 08:00 - 15:30

Any questions? Just ask. We at ORCA Foundation are happy to help you.

Contact Project Coordinator

Free-time activities

  • Horse Back Safaris
  • Buffalo Hills game drive
  • Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve
  • Bridge Walking
  • Bungee Jumping
  • Sky Diving
  • Tree Top Canopy Tours
  • Monkey land
  • Birds of Eden
  • Lawnwood snake park
  • Tenikwa Wildlife Centre
  • Adventure land water park
  • 3D Walking Maze
  • Dive Courses
  • Surfing Lessons/per lesson
  • Deep Sea Fishing
  • Seal swim/dive

Water Sports
Swimming
Diving/Snorkling
Climbing
Safari/Zoo
Hiking
Sports
Riding
Yoga/Meditation
Contact & Reservation
$356
/week
$356
/week
2 - 12
weeks
2 - 12
weeks
18+
age
18+
age
Airport Pickup
Housing
Food
Internet
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Included Services

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Refund Guarantee
We refund your fees if ORCA Foundation cancels your trip
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Services by ORCA Foundation

All fees include:

  • 3 meals a day and 1 cooked meal in the evenings between a Monday and a Friday
  • Transport to all Orca activities
  • Uncapped Internet
  • Accommodation
  • Laundry is done for you.
  • Whale watching trips

Airport Pickup at George Airport

We can provide transfers from the Airports - George Airport is approximately $64 one way or $130 from Port Elizabeth airport.

Accommodation

The ORCA house will be your temporary home, and is located minutes away from the beach and steps away from the estuary. The relaxed atmosphere of the ORCA house offers an amazing South African experience, while still feeling very much like a home with tons of friendly faces. 

The number of volunteers can range anywhere from 1 to 12, depending on the season and number of bookings made, with no more than 4 people in one room.

Laundry facilities are available and ‘house mom’ Teliswa (Tilly) does communal washing several times a week to conserve energy and water.

The ORCA house is close to a shopping centre, which includes a variety of shops and restaurants.

Rental cars and taxis are available for evening and weekend activities, ranging from economy to premium class.

Dorm Room
Food & Beverages

Yes, we do provide food and cool drinks but luxuries are to the volunteers cost.

Basic food for meals is provided for you at the house. You may be required to pack a lunch for some activities, but you will be informed of our schedule ahead of time.  Evening meals are prepared for you 5 nights per week. We do cater for a variety of diets including vegetarian. 

You are also welcome to eat out but this is at your own expense. The ORCA house is located near a variety of restaurants and fast food restaurants, both local and international.

Internet Access
Good access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.

No worries, Volunteer World supports you in raising funds, checking your visa regulations and travel insurance. We also assist you in finding the cheapest flights for your journey.
Costs (Prices in USD)
2 weeks (min. stay)
$525.00
3 weeks
$1,575.00
4 weeks
$2,100.00
5 weeks
$2,500.00
6 weeks
$3,000.00
7 weeks
$3,500.00
12 weeks (max. stay)
$5,400.00
Average fees
$356.00/week

You can volunteer at the project site in Plettenberg Bay/South Africa between 2 weeks and 12 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. ORCA Foundation 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 ORCA Foundation during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Get ready to volunteer in South Africa

Check out first

Visa Regulations
Depending on your nationality, you have to arrange your visa for South Africa. Please check the visa regulations for South Africa.
Travel Seasons
Find out the best time to volunteer in South Africa and receive information on weather and climatic conditions.
Living Costs
Living costs vary with each destination. We give an overview of what you should plan as an estimated budget to volunteer in South Africa.
Budgeting
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in South Africa.

What's next?

Airport
The nearest airport is George Airport (GRJ) in George. 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.
Vaccine Checker
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.
Free-time
What can you do in leisure-time in South Africa while you are not working at your volunteer opportunity?
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