Cape Town, South Africa


The Penguin Conservation Centre (PCC) was founded in November 1968 to care for ill, injured and oiled seabirds. In its long history, PCC has handled an overwhelming influx of birds into the Centre and responded to every major oil spill along the South African coast.  To date, PCC has treated over 83,000 seabirds.

The Penguin Conservation Centre is best known for its success in rehabilitating oiled African Penguins. Due to the exploitation of guano and penguin eggs and the depletion of fish resources, their numbers have dropped by a frightening 90% in the past century. In recent years, oil spills have threatened to decimate the relatively few survivors that remain. Since African penguins are flightless and live in close-knit colonies, a single oil spill can be devastating.

The Penguin Conservation Centre has pioneered and refined many oiled seabird rehabilitation procedures and is now a world leader in this field, achieving survival rates that are exceptional by international standards. Recent research by scientists at the University of Cape Town’s Avian Demography Unit (ADU) indicates that the African Penguin population is 19% higher today than what it would have been in the absence of PCC’s efforts.

Despite their highly dedicated, professional team of 10 permanent staff, the Centre is barely able to handle the large numbers of birds which arrive everyday. PCC treated 817 penguins in 2001, 977 penguins in 2002, 1,052 penguins in 2003, 655 penguins in 2004, 951 penguins in 2005, 1,301 penguins in 2006 and 896 penguins in 2007.  Their conservation efforts continue 365 days each year due to the fact that increasing numbers of our vulnerable seabird species require rehabilitation year round.

Volunteer Activities

With opportunities to take part in regular boat release programmes at Robben Island and exposure to a variety of local seabirds, the Penguin Conservation Centre is an immensely enjoyable and rewarding environment for nature lovers.

As well as learning about the life-cycle and conservation of the African penguin, which is still an endangered species, volunteers are also very “hands-on,” being taught how to catch, hold, feed and tube feed these wonderful birds - each with their own individual characters. You will care for the weak, the strong, the cheeky and the just plain daft, and when the sun is high you will probably find yourself longing to join them in the pool too! Volunteers are also involved in a variety of  daily tasks, including the preparation of fish, cleaning the pens, pools and mats, sterilizing syringes and more. Be warned, as cute as they are, penguins will bite given the opportunity. The training you will receive, together with the protective clothing provided by PCC, will allow you to handle these birds safely.

The Penguin Conservation Centre prides itself on its very positive working environment and strives for everyone, permanent and voluntary, to feel like a part of the family. PCC offers 7 volunteer training modules, which cover all aspects of the Centre’s activities including handling, washing and hand-raising seabirds. Volunteers will work up to five days a week (8am – 5pm) with some weekends. PCC’s volunteer co-ordinator will arrange your schedule in advance.

Other Activities

The Centre is located on the banks of Flamingo Vlei in Cape Town with wonderful views of Table Mountain. Recently ranked 5th on a list of ‘must see’ places in the world, Cape Town is definitely South Africa’s most beautiful and popular city. In your spare time from PCC, you can enjoy an amazing variety of Cape Town activities, including:

• Visiting nearby popular beaches such as Blouberg and Big Bay 

• Hiking or taking the cable car up Table Mountain

• Touring the Cape Winelands, Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope

• Boating to Robben Island, and taking a tour of the island, prison and cell that was home to Nelson Mandela for nearly two decades 

• Taking a tour to a local township

• Watching rugby/cricket at Sahara Park Newlands Stadium

•Testing your adrenalin with sky diving, paragliding and abseiling from Table Mountain

Age Requirement

PCC 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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Field Conditions

Volunteers have a choice of accommodation in Table View - you can either stay at the Elements Guesthouse or in the family home of Cheryl Campbell who runs the Penguin Chick Satellite Station.


The total cost for OPTION 1 is GB£595 / US$995 for 6 weeks, including shared accommodation and donation to the project

You will be accommodated at a guesthouse within a short walk to Blouberg Beach. The accommodation is very well equipped with a large TV lounge, satellite TV, entertainment and braai area (bbq!), large pool and full kitchen facilities. You will also be close to the Bayside shopping mall, which is located mid-way between the guesthouse and the Centre.  The mall has internet cafes, 6-screen cinema, post office, foreign exchange, banks, cafes, supermarkets, department stores, etc.

No meals are provided so you will need to budget for this - the volunteers either buy groceries together and cook in the guesthouse kitchen or eat out/take away from one of the nearby restaurants or bars.  This accommodation will suit more independent volunteers who like social environments and close beach access for off-days.  The Centre is only a 20-minute walk from the guesthouse.

If you are traveling as a couple, or would prefer a double room rather than dorm style accommodation, please let us know and we will be very happy to advise you on availability and additional cost.


The total cost for OPTION 2 is GB£745 / US$1195  for 6 weeks, including donation to the project, meals, accommodation, laundry and daily transport to the Centre.  

You will be accommodated in a family home in Table View close to PCC. The home also serves as an emergency animal rescue centre, for up to 100 cats.  If you have allergies or don't like cats, then you'll prefer the guesthouse option.

There are two rooms, each sleeping up to 3 volunteers in comfortable beds.  You will have use of the facilities at the home including the TV, video player, kitchen and bathroom  and there will be lifts available to places of interest including Century City, Blouberg Beach and Internet cafes.  All diets can be catered for, so please let us know in advance if you will require vegetarian or other options for your meals.

Training / Qualifications

You do not need any special skills to join this project, as all the necessary training will be given. If you have specialist veterinary skills or are studying for this line of work, there may be opportunities for you to spend time assisting the PCC vets during your stay.

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Volunteer Contribution:

Please see the choices available in the Field Conditions section. This is one of the only volunteer projects at which volunteers will be living on the economy in the Cape Town vicinity.

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

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

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There are no set arrival/departure dates for this project. Volunteers just need to inform Enkosini Eco Experience of the date they are planning to arrive. The Penguin Conservation Centre requires that volunteers commit to a minimum stay of 6 weeks. Volunteers are required to sign an indemnity form acknowledging and accepting the consequences of working in close contact with wild animals.  Applicants must be over 16 years old. 

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

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Upon arrival at the Cape Town International Airport, volunteers must catch a taxi to Table View to relax and unwind before commencing work at the Penguin Conservation Centre.  If you provide us with your flight details, we can also organize a shuttle to pick you up at the airport.

At Table View, you will have access to regular bus services for exploring the local area. The Penguin Conservation Centre is also within walking distance of the Bayside Shopping Centre in Table View with a wide variety of shops, restaurants, internet cafes and a cinema.


PCC is based in a malaria-free area and there are no formal vaccination requirements for entering South Africa, however it is incumbent upon each person to get their own medical advice on vaccinations and on whether or not to follow a malaria prophylactic programme (if you are planning onward travels into malarial zones).  See FAQs for complete packing list.

Your oilskins, boots and gloves will be provided by the Penguin Conservation Centre. If you are squeamish when it comes to fish and guano, you might want to bring a peg for your nose!  

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 “I made it home safe and well last Sunday.  I knew I would miss my daft little penguins but I didn't know just how much!  Was dreaming about them the other night!  Keep thinking it's feeding time or 2 hourly fluids... I've just done an interview with a local newspaper about my African adventure.  I had an amazing time with you - thank you so much for letting me stay.  Keep doing the good things you do.” - Dawn Johnston, England

 “When I arrived, there were 100 penguins at the Centre and most of them were getting released in the first two weeks.  The work was initially a little scary in that you had to learn very quickly how to catch, hold, insert a stomach tube and medicate the birds.  The Centre tries to rehabilitate and release them as quickly as possible.  By the end of my first week, I was catching, holding, feeding and beginning to do tubing and medications.  During my third week, the Centre received 600 orphaned chicks to house and care for - they each needed fluids 3x per day and fish 2x per day.  This created 12 hour days for us but by the time that I left, I was great at tubing and feeding and was even given pens to supervise on certain days.  It was a great experience and all the nips on my hands and legs have almost healed!” - Jane Stanfield, United States

 “In March 2003 I went to Cape Town, South Africa to do a three-month voluntary placement with the Penguin Conservation Centre, a rehabilitation centre for penguins and other coastal birds. However, instead of staying for only 3 months, I extended my stay by another 6 weeks as I fell in love with the country, made lots of friends and an opportunity for traveling arose.

The Penguin Conservation Centre devotes its time primarily to rescuing and rehabilitating oiled and injured penguins. However, within my 3 months of working there, the project also admitted a few albatrosses, pelicans and giant southern petrels (which are very rare to see in the wild, therefore a huge privilege to actually handle). A volunteer's daily chores involve preparing fish for feeding the birds, feeding and tubing the birds, cleaning the pens, crates and pools, and when necessary (during periods of oil slicks) washing the birds. At times, particularly when large numbers of oiled birds, sometimes hundreds, are admitted at the same time it does become very intense and tiring. I remember going home for the weekend on a Friday leaving 6 penguins behind, to then arrive on Monday morning to find 150! However, the work is very rewarding. As the Penguin Conservation Centre tries to rehabilitate the birds as quickly as possible, preferably within 2 weeks, you are able to see the progress of the sick birds, and at least once during your stay you'll be able to release the birds off a boat back into the wild.” - Vicki Fox, England

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