Projects South Africa

 Whale and Dolphin Research <strong>Province</strong>: Western Cape <br />

Whale and Dolphin Research

Town: Plettenberg Bay
Province: Western Cape

.: The project offers the unique opportunity for volunteers working as Dolphin and Whale research volunteers. The project is an internationally recognized marine mammal research institute. Established in 1989, the project aims to promote the research and conservation of Southern African marine mammals. The launch of this research institute involved from the need to know more about the Western Indian Ocean, and particularly Southern African whales, dolphins, seals and other marine animals. Of course, increasing coastal degradation placed added emphasis on this need for more information.

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Program: Whale and dolphin research is the most exciting part of the program, but the volunteers will be involved in a wide variety of activities. The volunteers will be hiking, bird watching, whale/dolphin watching, beach clean ups, fish counts, river health analysis, fishing, aquarium maintenance, bait collection, pre-school and primary school conservation education, seahorse husbandry, just to name a few.

You will work with Tracy Meintjes, the foundation manager on a day to day basis. Luigi Lottino is the house coordinator and Teliswa is the housekeeper/chef.

Tracy has spent most of her life involved in boating and diving activities. Having driven boats for 26 years (16 of those commercially) and diving for 21 years (teaching for 19), her love and knowledge for the outdoors is easily apparent. She is a SA Tour qualified adventure guide including whale and dolphin watching and diving. She is also a ski boat skipper instructor, SCUBA diving Master Instructor, has her diploma in Environmental Management and presently working on a NDIP Nature Conservation.

With the program you will be working with Dr Vic Cockcroft. He is an internationally recognized researcher on dolphins and whales and has written many books and thesis on the subject. Many of our whale and dolphin regulations for whale watching boat have been due to his research. He has assisted 15 Master students and 18 PhD students in their projects.

Your Training While On The Project.
You will gain experience collecting data, samples and photographs for the various research projects. The details will be explained with each project you are involved in on site and each project is dependent on the time of year that you participate in the program. You may not be involved is all the research as some projects are only conducted 3-4 times per year. Your training will give you a basic education on the projects that we are involved with and will educate you to the level of a field assistant.

There are three other training opportunities for volunteers. Our marine guiding program has been completely revamped and upgraded to comply with the national standards. Because of these changes, we have recently been granted permission from COMETCORP.COM, which is the national training agency for the South African Boat Based Whale Watching Association, to conduct their practical evaluations for their training programs. Our program is the entry level theoretical course and their theoretical course can be completed on line at the volunteer’s leisure for approx R360.00. The marine guiding course requires a bit of time and is best done during a 4 week stay.

Our second course is the competent crew course which is an entry level course for boating and can be completed during a four week stay. This is geared towards those who do not wish to complete the guiding course, but would like to learn something new. For the guides, it is strongly recommended to complete this course at the same time as you will be guiding on boats and this information could prove to be extremely useful.

The third program is a dolphin and whale course which can likely be completed in the minimum 8 week stay. This course is quite intense and involves a lot of the aspects of whale and dolphin research and study.

Diving courses can be organized for volunteers at an additional fee and they are referred to the local dive school. Some of the research related specialty courses can be completed with the foundation at a nominal fee.

Inform the foundation staff as soon as possible if you are interested in completing any of the courses.

Program may include: Our schedules will be combined to offer volunteers the best of both dolphin/whale research as well as marine conservation/education and community upliftment.

There will be two programs available for the volunteers.
 Short term volunteers (up to 8 weeks) – the volunteers will be on the mixed program where they will be experiencing all the better of the two different programs. This is aimed at volunteers who wish to just gain experience or decide which career path to go down or for a purposeful career break. Volunteers will be involved with research on both the whale/dolphin watching and marine conservation sides of the program. They will also be involved in our education and community upliftment programs to give the volunteers a well rounded experience.
 Long term volunteers (8 weeks or more- minimum 2 months maximum 10 months) – the volunteers will be here to complete a project whether marine or cetacean based. These volunteers will be working closely with the internationally recognized Marine Biologist, Dr Vic Cockcroft, and will complete a designated project by the end of their stay. Each volunteer will have a specifically designed project and associated fee structure to suit their desires and input required. These volunteers would be expected to share their knowledge and experiences with the short term volunteers.
Animals: Dolphins, whales and Cape fur seals
Location: The project is based in Plettenberg Bay on the southern coast of South Africa, a small town near Knysna and George and about 500 km east of Cape Town. There is easy access to many of the country's most beautiful beaches and nature parks. Plettenberg Bay is world famous for its scenic beauty, pristine beaches and diverse marine mammal fauna. Bottlenose dolphins can be seen almost every day (group sizes average about 60-100 animals). Humpback dolphins, although not seen as often, also reside in the bay. Other marine mammals seen often, if irregularly, in the bay include common dolphins, killer whales and Bryde's whales. In 'official' whale season, between July and November, you can see southern right whales every day. During this time boats also often see humpback whales, especially in May and June and between November and January. There is a large Cape fur seal colony in the bay, where numbers of animals can reach about 3000.

Getting to Project: Your best bet would be to fly into the country at either Capetown or Johannesburg. From there you would take a domestic flight to George where we can organize a transfer for you directly to the project. The cost for the transfer will be approx R950.00 depending on the company that is available to collect you. It is approx 1hour 25 minute drive from the George Airport to Plettenberg Bay.

A bus transfer can also be done from Capetown or Port Elizabeth. The price is between R100 and R300 depending on the location you are traveling from and the bus company you are traveling with. From the bus depot we will collect you and transfer you to the volunteer house.
Accommodation: Your accommodation for the duration of your stay will be in the volunteer house situated in Plettenberg Bay. The house is managed by your house coordinator Luigi. The accommodation is self catering with shared bedroom and bathroom facilities. The number of volunteers that can be on the program ranges from 1-12.

Laundry facilities are available for volunteers and the laundry is washed daily by Teliswa.

The house is within close proximity to a shopping centre which has various shops, cinemas, and restaurants. Rental cars are available for hire for weekend activities.

All meals are provided for you at the house. Packed lunch may be required for some activities but you will be informed of that ahead of time. Evening meals are prepared for you 6 nights per week, but volunteers are also welcome to eat out. The house is located near a variety of restaurants and take-away restaurants.

Our house is non-smoking and there is a zero-tolerance policy regarding use of illegal substances, excessive alcohol use or inappropriate behaviour/language while on the project.
Applicants: To become a volunteer, previous knowledge or experience is not required. The vision behind the volunteer placements is for those with a passion of conservation and to work in the outdoors. It also gives you the opportunity to have a life changing experience, all the while providing the reserve with invaluable conservation assistance.

If you require to complete a project for your studies, special arrangements can be made to ensure that your research will be completed and you will be working directly under the supervision of Dr Vic Cockcroft.

Minimum age of 18 years.

Includes: Your fees includes 3 meals per day, all activities on project, transfers on project (not to the project from the airport), room and board, a t-shirt, training manual and a cap. If you stay 4 weeks or longer then you will get the choice of a rucksack or a polar fleece, marine guide program and or the competent crew program.
Excludes: The cost of the program does not include any insurance, out of project activities, equipment hire for diving, car hire, and taxis, airport transfers, out of house meals, snacks, cigarettes, alcohol, etc.
Hours: The general hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., although these are flexible from Monday to Friday, most volunteers visit the Volunteer lodge in Jeffreys Bay J Bay Lodge.

Freetime: There is a great range of activities that can be done outside of the project on your off time including skydiving, scuba diving, game drives, horseback riding, bungee jumping and canopy tours to name a few. These activities can be organized by the house coordinator and volunteers receive a discount on most of these activities.

Volunteers Feedback: "It is hard to get bored while spending your time at the Centre for Dolphin studies. This is an opportunity you won't get very often. To be so close to whales, dolphins and other marine mammals, and to actually study them, is an amazing experience. In the end of your stay, it is sure that you are going to miss seeing the ocean, whales and dolphins every day..." -Michiel Van Harten

"Since the day I arrived, I've learned something new every day and with the wide variety of activities I am constantly occupied with research and projects. The Centre for Dolphin Studies directors, Vic and Debbie Cockcroft, throw volunteers right into the projects. In my first week I was taking part in a dolphin dissection, which is one of the most amazing experiences I have seen since joining the project. Not only is the course exciting, but our base in Plettenburg Bay is one of the most remarkable places I have ever visited. We are surrounded by mountains and golden beaches, and everywhere you look is a picturesque view. It's the perfect place to visit!" -Natalie Bell

"The house is in a very beautiful setting with an elephant park at the end of the garden. Volunteers become very close as we spend a lot of time together. My experience wouldn't have been the same without the friends I have made." -Celine Haines

Rate in ZAR: 8300

Rate For: 1 Week

Duration: A minimum of two weeks is requested with a stay as long as 12 weeks or more is accepted. Depending on the duration of stay will depend on the type of program you will be involved with.

Dates: The time of the year to join the project is mainly dependent on what kind of weather you prefer as the research, community upliftment and education programs varies a little throughout the year.
Jan to March-tends to be our warmest months. Lots of sun cream and hats are strongly recommended. Temperatures range from lows of 10oC to 30oC. We tend to see a lot of various species of dolphins and the occasional Bryde’s whale on our whale watching tours at this time of year. We are involved in community upliftment and education right from the beginning of the year. Our research projects get underway again and the projects range from beach cleanups to water sampling, fishing and diving.
April to June-the days are still warm but the evenings cool off nicely. This is the best time for diving and snorkeling activities. Temperatures range from 8oC to 25oC. We see various species of dolphins and the occasional humpback whale on its migration north at this time of year.
July to September-these are the winter months. The days start off cool and warm up to about 20oC, but the nights can get quite chilly down to around 5oC. Warm clothes are recommended for this time of year. This is the beginning of our whale watching season and we have southern right whales in the bay on a regular basis. Remember that we don’t have central heating in South Africa.
October to December-weather conditions is similar to April thru June. Our animal sightings are now mostly humpback whales and dolphins. The water warms up considerably and the diving and snorkeling is much more comfortable again.


Apply here today for your Volunteer Experience




Rates Valid till Oct this year, All Rates subject to change

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Created on 2009/21/05 Updated on 2016/01/07

Whale and Dolphin Research Plettenberg Bay Western Cape

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