Dolphin & Whale Research & Coastal Conservation

Contribute to research on whale and dolphin populations along the magnificent Garden Route Coast and take part in meaningful marine conservation!

About the Program

You will have the unique experience of working alongside an Eco-tourism company in their efforts to research and conserve dolphin and whale populations. You will also have the chance to educate local children about marine life and the importance of conserving it, as well as providing them with the rare opportunity to experience first-hand the wonders of the ocean.

You will be working alongside the only Eco-Tourism Company licensed and permitted to do close encounter whale watching along the Knysna Coast in the beautiful Garden Route, South Africa. Assist with a variety of tasks, from coastal conservation and marine research; to crewing and guiding on the boats; and the important task of assisting with educating local children about the ocean and lagoon.

We are dedicated to making a positive difference to the marine ecology of this area; and you will be a part of this vision. Research material is collected by volunteers including daily sightings of the various species of whales and dolphins, any recurring visits and the migratory habits of the various whales and dolphins that visit this area.

Comfort level - Comfortable

You will have access to all amenities including running water, electricity. Most bankcards work at local banks (VISA, MasterCard, AMEX) and you will have access to the Internet. You will also find that you can purchase almost anything at local shops.

Recommended for those who enjoy having access to restaurants and shops as well as daily communication with friends and family at home.

  • We have some of the most picturesque beaches, lagoons and forests that South Africa has to offer 
  • You will be part of a very close-knit community that will welcome you to the growing volunteer family 
  • Our community is much safer than some of the larger townships in bigger cities, with many friendly locals who know and care about the EDGE of AFRICA volunteers 
  • Knysna town is full of restaurants and coffee shops, as well as a small waterfront with great shops 
  • The area offers every activity you can think of, from beautiful hikes, boat trips, animal experiences and for the more adventurous, is close to the highest bridge bungee jump in the world! 
  • Knysna is only a 4 hour’s drive to Addo National Park; home to the highest concentration of Wild Elephants in the world (we visit Addo approximately once a month and you can join us!) 
  • You can fly into Cape Town, and spend a few days exploring the city before hopping on the Bus and coming to Knysna, seeing more of the Western Cape on your way (this is FREE for all Knysna Volunteers!). 
  • You can combine any of our Knysna initiatives and have a full, unique volunteering experience

Suitable for


Typical day

This schedule may vary because of your time of arrival and time of year, but a typical week would look like this: 
  • Saturday Arrival & Orientation 
  • Sunday Time off to recover from jet lag and explore the area 
  • Monday Orientation & Training/Conservation Workshop 
  • Tuesday Elephant Sanctuary Wednesday Environmental Restoration /Recycling Swop Shop 
  • Thursday Elephant Sanctuary 
  • Friday Environmental Restoration 
  • Saturday Optional Excursion 

Program Requirements

Minimum Age
18 years
Language Skills
You need to speak English (basic level)
Health Declaration
Criminal Background Check
Other Skills
Specific qualifications are not required,
although this Initiative would definitely be of
interest to and benefit those studying or
working in the field of conservation.
Volunteers need to have a passion for
conservation and nature and a love for working
with the community. Volunteers need to be
hard working, mature, motivated and able to
show initiative. Good health and physical
fitness are also required. Volunteers also need
to be confident with speaking English.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 09:00 - 17:00

Do you have any questions concerning this volunteer opportunity in South Africa? Volunteer World directly connects you with EDGE of AFRICA

Dolphin & Whale Research & Coastal Conservation Volunteer Accomodation Research boat Humpback whale Marine volunteer Close-up dolphins Whale Tail

Free-time activities

When you arrive in Knysna, EDGE of AFRICA has some great opportunities lined up for your stay including: visits to various food and craft markets; Whale & Dolphin boat trips; shark cage diving; wildlife sanctuaries including getting close to various cat, elephant and monkey species; highest bungee jump in the world; canoeing, hiking and climbing; and visits to numerous breath-taking beaches and beautiful rivers.

As part of our Elephant Research and Community Conservation Initiative, we take a trip to Addo National Park approximately once a month with our volunteers. If there is a trip scheduled during your time with us, you have the option of joining this excursion (at an additional cost). This park offers some of the most spectacular elephant viewing in the world. Addo’s over 500 elephants will delight visitors with their antics. You have the chance of seeing the Big 5 on this trip too!

Water Sports


What's included?
All project operating costs, equipment, tools and resources - Return Bus Ticket from Cape Town to Knysna - Pick up & drop off from arrival points (George/ Knysna) - 24/7 emergency support - Orientation & Training - Accommodation in our Volunteer House - 3 Meals a day - Project Related Transport - Project T-shirts - Free, unlimited Wi-Fi and computer access in the volunteer house - An exclusive return volunteer discount
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.
Airport Pickup

Please arrange airport pickup upon arrival during your application process.

On departure, your project coordinator will transport you to the airport and/ or assist with any further travel arrangements. If you are travelling
further through Africa we are more than happy to provide any advice or support in planning your onward journey.


The Knysna volunteer house is basic but comfortable and cleaned daily by our hardworking House Manager. It is full of character and has spectacular views over the mountains. Facilities Include:Hot Water Showers & Electricity; Communal Kitchen; Communal Lounge Area with TV/DVD Player; Comfortable Dorm Style Sleeping Arrangements; Unlimited Wi-Fi and computer access; Outdoor braai (barbeque) area & Hammocks; and Private & Family Rooms Available on Request.

Food & Beverages

We provide 3 meals a day. Breakfasts include a choice of cereal, toast, and fruit; Lunches include sandwiches, soup or traditional cuisine; and Evening meals include pasta, curries, stews etc.

We are happy to cater for specific dietary requirements as best we can!

Internet Access
Good access at the project site
2 weeks (min. stay)
3 weeks
4 weeks
5 weeks
6 weeks
7 weeks
12 weeks (max. stay)

You can volunteer at the project site in Knysna/South Africa between 2 weeks and 12 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. EDGE of AFRICA will tell you your final price during your application process.
Average Fees
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 EDGE of AFRICA 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.
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?

The nearest airport is Plettenberg Bay (PBZ) in Plettenberg Bay. 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.
What can you do in leisure-time in South Africa while you are not working at your volunteer opportunity?
Packing List
Packing our bags is important to prepare your trip, but often turns into a last minute horror. Make sure you don't forget the essentials by creating a personalised packing list for your volunteer program in South Africa upfront.
Suite 88, Private Bag X31, 6570 Knysna, South Africa