Plettenburg Bay, South Africa


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.

Volunteers enjoy 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 for you.

Volunteer Activities

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.

All volunteer 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 Pre-School).

• 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 conservation purposes.  

• Sampling, tagging, and monitoring of local fish species.

• Fin profiling and spatial distribution programs.

• 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.

Marine Guiding Course

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.

Other Activities

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 weekend activities.

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)!

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Field Conditions

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.

Training / Qualifications

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.

Age Requirement

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.  Families are welcome!

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Volunteer Contribution:

1 week: GB£595 / US$795

2 weeks: GB£975 / US$1295

3 weeks: GB£1275 / US$1695

4 weeks: GB£1495 / US$1995

Extra weeks: GB£375 / US$495 per week

Please Note:

Volunteers get discounted rates when joining 2 or more Enkosini programs!

Enkosini uses USD rates as standard due to currency fluctuations. GBP rates are indications of approx recent values. Currency convertor atwww.xe.com.

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 weeks.

Please bear in mind that the sooner you apply, the better your chances of securing your placement!

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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 Mondays.

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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

Reservations: www.intercape.co.za or www.greyhound.co.za

By Plane – Jo'burg/Cape Town to George

Reservations: www.kulula.com or www.flysaa.com

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!

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 “Ever since she was tiny our daughter Aurora has loved animals so her trip with Enkosini was especially important to her. From a parent's point of view it is hard to hand your child over to the care of someone else, Aurora was 17 when she did her project. But we found that the team were excellent at delivering what they had promised. She was cared for well, each stage of the trip was well managed, we felt she was in safe hands and got the experiences she wanted.

Aurora came home a more mature young woman with a wealth of adventures to talk about. I would wholeheartedly recommend Enkosini to others.” - Triona Palmer, Whitsable, Kent

 “If 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.” - Greg Hines, Canada

 “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 conservancy.

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 principles.

O.R.C.A. Foundation’s 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!” - Casandra Cardiff, Canada

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