Whale and Dolphin Monitoring in South Africa

Overall rating: 0 based on 0 reviews

Program Description

You'll start the day at 9.00 am and finish at 16.00 with an hour break for lunch. Work takes place 5 days a week and may include weekends, depending on the weather and the season.

This Marine Research programme will expose you to all aspects of this exciting industry, from conservation and research to all other aspects of the day-to-day running, including marketing, liaising with clients, crewing and guiding on the boats, doing land to sea observations and whale spotting, assisting with community projects and educating the local children about the sea and lagoon. Much of your role will be involved in monitoring and data collection, but you'll also have the opportunity to assist in and learn about the tourism side of the exciting activities involved in watching dolphins and whales in their natural habitat.

You'll collect research material, including daily sightings of the various species of whales and dolphins, recurring visits and the migratory habits of the various whales and dolphins in the area. Work with a close encounter whale-watching organisation in Knysna.

Your Responsibilities will include some or all of the following:

* You'll also help with daily updates of records, blogs and social media. These are done from the main office, which is found where the whale watching boats are docked.
* Other marine animals and life found along the trips also need to be monitored. All this data will then need to be captured onto spreadsheets and photographic software.
* Daily observations need to be made of the marine life encountered and the records are sent to DAFF. For this, you'll need to photograph dorsal fins for identification, observe behavior and photograph and plot GPS coordinates. Occasionally research trips are also done with post grad students from local universities who will capture the data and study it themselves.
* You'll occasionally go on one of the 3 daily trips with the skipper and sometimes-another crew member.
* The boats need to be cleaned, covered, fuelled and life jackets got ready and you'll also assist guests with boarding and checking onto the boat and safety procedures.
* Your duties will include being a spotter, which would entail sitting on one of the Knysna Headlands and using binoculars and then directing the skippers.
* You'll initially job shadow one of the skippers and work in the office to gain a basic understanding of the business and of the marine life that is encountered out to sea.
* On arrival, you'll be trained firstly in the area of boat safety, maintaining equipment and basic skippering.


You'll be given a food budget which will cover your basic essentials (but not extras like alcohol, snacks and eating out). The kitchen has all the cooking amenities that you might need to take advantage of preparing meals with some of the great seafood, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables South Africa has to offer.

There are supermarkets and local shops where you'll do your food shopping.

There are plenty of excellent restaurants within walking distance that offer the most incredible local and international cuisine which our volunteers rave about. Knysna is also famous for its oysters and even has an annual Oyster Festival where everyone eats and drinks far too much!

The waterfront and marine is beautiful and full of restaurants and cafes with cuisine that ranges from breakfast, coffees, cakes and snacks, through to sumptuous meals and various different nationality menus.

The volunteer house in Knysna is within walking distance of the town, yet set against a natural green belt. The bird life is prolific and often the local Vervet monkey troop comes to visit to entertain the volunteers with their antics. The sunset views from the top balcony of the volunteer house of the Knysna lagoon are beautiful and great way to relax after a day working at your placement or to catch up on your tan in the summer. See photo on right-hand side.

The house is large and spacious and also has a self-contained flat downstairs for couples and families. The bedding in the two same sex dorms and the towels in their en suite bathrooms are changed regularly every Friday by our much loved cleaner, Pretty, and there is plenty of cupboard space to store your clothing.

Facilities include a kitchen kitted out for cooking, dining area, a few bathrooms, TV, DVD player, free Wi-Fi, garden and several wooden verandahs.

There is an outside courtyard and garden in the secure grounds where you can have a typical South African barbeque known there as a ‘braai’. Make sure you try the local spicy sausage known as ‘boerewors’ and the Karoo lamb chops are to die for on a ‘braai’, but if fish is more to your taste then a fish ‘braai’ with South African ‘snoek’ is a must.


You'll need to be hard working, have a love of marine life, boating, being outdoors and at sea. You don't need prior knowledge or experience, although this would be advantageous, as would experience at sea or on eco boat safaris and research. Minimum age 16.

Volunteer Types

What`s Included

►Arranging your Programme
►Full pre-departure support and assistance
►Payment Protection Insurance
►Meeting you at the nearest Airport
►Transfer to your accommodation
►Transport to and from your project
►Local in-country team support and backup
►24-hr emergency support.

What's not included: Flights, Insurance, Cost of Visas (if a visa is required), Return transfer to airport.

Program Locations

Knysna, South Africa

Overall rating 
Program Administration
Living Conditions
Cultural Immersion
Social Life
Health and Safety
Review This Program

Program Details

Budget Volunteering (BVOL)
  • South Africa: Knysna
Throughout the year
Program Duration:
1-2 weeks, 1-3 months, 2-4 weeks, 3-6 months
American, Asian, Australian, Canadian, European, Kiwi, South African, Worldwide
£595 for 1 week, then £150 for each additional week. Includes Accommodation and Food.
  • Dear applicants, we encourage you to leave a personal review if you have ever taken part in this program. Leaving a review will help fellow travelers to decide where to go and which program to go with as they plan their trip abroad.
    Review this program

About HelpGoAbroad

We showcase the best programs, countries and institutions in the world, so whether you are interested in interning abroad, studying abroad, working abroad or simply traveling or living abroad, we have your back.

More about us »

Subscribe to the Newsletter