Penguin and Seabird Project in South Africa

Protect penguins and seabirds in Cape Town

As you volunteer at the rescue centre for seabirds in South Africa, you work side by side with wildlife specialists. The help of volunteers is essential for the successful rescue, rehabilitation and release of seabird species. You support the capture, feeding and animal care as well as the maintenance of the enclosures.

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The Project

The Issue

Due to their population decreasing by 90% in the last 60 years, the African penguin is now one of the world’s endangered species. Commercial fishing is a major cause, due to the penguins being left with very little food to find, oil pollution is a contributor and lack of protected breeding grounds results in penguin parents struggling to protect their eggs and hatchlings from big cats, birds of prey and fur seals.

The Rehabilitation Centre

The penguin and seabird project in Cape Town is in a lagoon area, about 15 minutes from the city centre. The rehabilitation centre is an important sanctuary for various species of seabirds, including the extremely endangered African penguins, albatrosses, petrels and skuas. You’ll work closely with other volunteers from around the world, as well as local veterinarians and rehabilitation workers, to find animals, treat them and release them back into the wild. The centre is split into different areas, so you may find yourself working indoors helping the animals who are being treated, or you may be outside working along the seashore.

Your Tasks

Your program will start with an introduction day, and then you will get straight to work. You will be given a plan by your contact, and then you will be sent off to explore the site. In your first few days of service you will likely be working inside the centre, with the injured or sick animals. You may be preparing food, cleaning the animal housing, pools and other areas. After you have found your feet and completed your training you will start working on the sea, to help capture animals in need of care. You’ll also start adding beach and marine projects to your repertoire, such as securing penguin breeding grounds or releasing recovered animals into the wild.

The Hours

A normal working day starts around 8 am and ends at around 17:30 pm across five days, whether that is weekdays, weekends or public holidays. A lot of our volunteers find that renting a car together for the duration of their program is a good idea, as the commute via public transport can be long and complicated. You don’t want to eat into your free time sitting on the bus! Speaking of free time, you may wish to spend it relaxing on one of the many beaches in the area, exploring Table Mountain National Park, or shopping in Cape Town.

Meals Included
Full Country Orientation
6 Week Volunteer Placement
Airport Pickup
Assistance with Travel Preparation

From 18 years.


Interest in animal care and good physical health, resilience and fitness.


English of a good level, Afrikaans and Isixhosa.


Cape Town, South Africa.


From 6 weeks to 12 months.


Please see our 'What you get' section for more information. Your options are: Volunteer House, Host Family or Apartment (you are welcome to select your preferred choice of accommodation, subject to availability).


This will depend on the accommodation you choose.

Airport Transfer

Airport transfer to first nights accommodation.

Work Clothing

Latex work wear is provided (allergy sufferers should consult with the attending physician).


Most of the work takes place outside under the South African sun.

What You Get

For your volunteer work in South Africa, you will land directly in Cape Town. Here you will be welcomed at the airport by a member of our RGV team South Africa (you will recognise each other by your RGV T-shirts!). From here we drive you directly to the RGV office in Cape Town. The drive from the airport is already a first small highlight; through a beautiful backdrop, you get closer and closer to Table Mountain. The rest of the day is used to move into your accommodation and get to know your new surroundings.

To better understand your new environment, your stay begins with an orientation. As soon as you arrive, we will give you your South Africa starter package which includes a city map, SIM card, and other useful things to make your stay easier. During a workshop in the RGV office, you will learn more about your destination country and its inhabitants. Culture, country and people as well as current events and recent history of the country will be the subject of this discussion. Our team will introduce you to the Cape Town slang and give you valuable safety, transportation, money tips and so on. In addition, you will explore Cape Town on a guided city bus tour with other newly arrived participants.

A note about Housing & Accommodation...

If you choose one of our volunteer houses, it definitely won't be boring! As soon as you arrive, you will meet other RGV volunteers, trainees and like-minded people, with whom you can go on trips with and share your experiences. In our volunteer houses, you live together with up to 24 other RGV participants in shared rooms. In addition to our large volunteer house, we also have two smaller houses with up to 12 residents. Two of the houses are solely for female volunteers. You and your roommates have a fully equipped kitchen and a sufficient number of bathrooms. In addition, all volunteer homes have a living room or a lounge and a garden where you can relax. If you miss your loved ones at home, you can easily call home from here without incurring big costs as there is stable internet in every volunteer house. In all volunteer houses, the basic ingredients for breakfast are provided (cereals, toast, butter, jam, peanut butter, milk, tea and coffee). All of our volunteer homes are easily accessible by public transport and in most cases, you are not far from the RGV office, so you have your contacts nearby. The city centre is about 30 minutes away by public transport.

Our host families are very welcoming and open up their home for you to stay during your volunteer work. The homes are comfortable with electricity and running water of course. In addition, you get breakfast and a local dinner here every day! Also, you are not usually housed alone as a volunteer, but you share the accommodation with one to five other participants. Internet connection or Wi-Fi is only available in a few host families. If you need internet, you can get a prepaid SIM card with mobile data. The advantages of living with a host family is that you get a deeper insight into the culture and lifestyle of the local people. You are not in a large group of other participants, but you can collect very individual experiences with just a few others. Most host family houses are closer to the project because our team will place you near, when possible.

The team office, which is affiliated to one of our volunteer homes, is a central point of contact and meeting point for excursions and activities!

Tip: If you would like to live alone in a host family, you should make a note of this within your application form. Single housing is usually possible.

Attention: Most of our host families are religious, so unmarried couples in one room is not accepted.

In addition to our volunteer homes, we provide accommodation in apartments. If you like something a little quieter and do not want to live with a host family, this is the place for you. The fully equipped apartments accommodate up to four people sharing a kitchen, living room and bathroom. For an additional charge, we offer the possibility to book one of the apartments alone, or two or three people. When you register, you can tell us your desired accommodation. However, if this is already fully booked during your stay, we count on your flexibility and place you in alternative accommodation.

Volunteer House in Cape Town

RGV Host Families in Cape Town

RGV Apartment in Cape Town

What's Included
  • Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
  • Airport Pickup
  • Accommodation
  • Volunteer Placement
  • RGV Orientation
  • Personal Contact Person in RGV
  • 24Hr Emergency Number
  • Assistance with Travel Preparation
  • RGV Family T Shirt
  • Participation Certificate
  • Extensive RGV Travel Documentation
Additional fees
  • Flights (request a quote to include flights)
  • Visas & Vaccinations
  • Public Transport/Extra Transfers
  • Beverages
  • Tours/Accommodation Outside of Stay
  • Travel Insurance
  • Private Expenses


Total Cost: £1249 (6 weeks)

Additional Weeks Cost: £150 per week (up to 12 weeks)

Initial payment consists of a £200 deposit, with the remaining balance due 8 weeks before departure. There is also an option to pay the full amount up front at time of booking.

Additional weeks can be added on through the ‘profile’ area of each applicant, which is created upon initial booking.

Types of skills
  • Energetic
  • Friendly
  • Outgoing
  • Driven
  • Animal Lover
Types of Tasks
  • Feeding Penguins
  • Cleaning
  • Monitoring
  • Helping with the Habitat
  • Assisting Existing Team

Trust us - The Team

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Our RGV team in South Africa consists of team leader Jemaine, his siblings Cindy and Chad, and the two permanent employees Essie and Mina. Jemaine's wife Verena also supports the team and organises social events for our participants.

Jemaine's family comes from the townships of Cape Town. He has worked in the travel industry for many years. Verena knows RGV founder Steffen as they underwent teacher training together. During your stay, the RGV team will be your first point of contact for all questions and concerns, but our host families are also part of the extended RGV team!

Our lively South Africa team is looking forward to welcoming you to the Rainbow Family!


Don't Just Take Our Word For It...

Our programmes have been running for many years now, and we've had countless numbers of happy and inspired applicants join us in making an impact. The best way of understanding our projects are through the words of our previous volunteers, so check out a few of their experiences below!

"My Volunteering with Penguins Near Cape Town"

Annika S.
As Annika says, "penguins are, and always will be funny", but learning about animal behaviour was a key component of her stay in Cape Town. Read through her report and see what contributed to her having an amazing time.

"Report on My 5 Month Stay in Cape Town"

Elisa E.
Elisa "fell in love with Cape Town" because of the "way people live and the general atmopshere", so have a look at her own words to understand why.

"Helping with Rescued Penguins in Cape Town"

In his report, Lucas covers his daily routine whilst in South Africa, and why the project was a great move for him.


When should I register?

Ideally, you'll need to register at least 4-6 months before your desired departure date. Of course, short-term registrations of 1-2 months before departure are possible - but it may then be that your dream project is already full. In this case, we will try together to find a suitable alternative for you.


Lead time is especially important for the countries in which a visa has to be applied for in advance.

For medical projects as well as for internships, short term registrations are not possible.

What happens after I sign up?

Our UK team will send your registration through to the Germany headquarters as soon as possible, who will then confirm your booking as soon as possible, after liaising with the relevant in-country team. They will contact you to ensure you’re fully prepared for your stay abroad. Our headquarters in Germany has 20 years experience in organising successful stays in Africa and Asia and are more than happy to answer your questions.

What documents do I need to participate?

You'll need a few documents (which are listed below), but only once you've signed up. Our team will happily talk you through what is needed and when it is needed.

CV with photo, letter of motivation, copy of your passport (identity card is not enough), copy of your extended police certificate (no older than 3 months), simple proof of an existing health insurance abroad (name of insurance and insurance number are required), your signed code of conduct.

Is there an age limit?

You must be above 18 to make a booking through us, but there is no upper age limit set by RGV (however, you must check that you fit the required visa criteria for the country you wish to go to).

Who is my contact person at RGV?

Pre-booking, you have a customer service team in the UK. Once you have booked, you will have a dedicated contact within our RGV Head Office team in Munich.

Before you leave, you are in direct contact with one of our coordinators. You can find out about the program coordinators through our ‘The RGV Team’ page, and there is also a dedicated local team in each country.

Can I plan my volunteer work in a flexible way?

Our organisation works in the countries exclusively with our own RGV teams. That means maximum flexibility and planning freedom for you. You can choose a travel date to suit you, because we are not dependent on collection dates.

If you want to fly together with a further participant, you can inform us about this upon booking.

What is the minimum/maximum stay?

The minimum duration of volunteer work in Africa or Asia is 4 weeks for most projects (with a select few being 2 weeks) and can be extended weekly. This gives you the freedom to adjust your length of stay to what suits you.

Maximum duration of volunteer work is based on visa restrictions (Ghana: 12 months, South Africa: 6 months - up to 12 months through an extensive visa procedure, Thailand: 12 months).

Do I need a visa?

For all our destination countries, a visa is required. However, we distinguish between visas that must be issued before departure and visas that are issued automatically upon entry. Our Head Office team in Munich can guide you through every step of the way.

We have sorted our destination countries by visa type for you:

Apply for a visa before departure: • Ghana and South Africa (for over 90 days stay) • Thailand (for over 30 days stay)

Visa on entry: • South Africa (only up to 90 days) • Thailand (only up to 30 days)

What vaccinations do I need?

The required vaccinations vary widely from country to country. In the tropics, more vaccinations are needed than in the extra-tropical latitudes. In health care we recommend to use several information channels:

Consultation with the doctor, personal counseling of RGV (you benefit from our many years of practical experience in our target countries), forums and travel reports on the Internet

Attention: For the countries Ghana and Togo, you also need the yellow fever vaccination - this is obligatory upon arrival.

Do I need insurance?

The proof of a valid foreign insurance is a basic requirement for all volunteers and trainees abroad.

Can I choose my own project?

In volunteer work, you always have free choice and you can pick your dream project according to the job description - if there are still places available!

If you have signed up for a specific position and we can not offer you this position, then you can either take advantage of an alternative, or you can withdraw from your application absolutely free of charge.

Can I extend my stay when I'm there?

Yes you can, but there may be some additional costs that need to be covered. Our team in Germany can advise you of this in advance.

Can I choose my accommodation?

At locations where both options are available, you can choose whether you’d prefer to stay in a host family or in the shared volunteer house. For some places, however, only one or the other is appropriate due to the distance from the project. We will give you a recommendation as to what fits best in your case.

How are host families checked/selected?

The host families in our target countries are, in most cases, part of the family environment and circle of close friends of our local team leaders. Selection and review is regularly undertaken by our teams.

Can I share accommodation/project with a friend?

We are always happy to give our participants the opportunity to work together with friends in a project, and to also place them in the same shared accommodation. Shared occupancy requests for the project and accommodation must be indicated at the time of registration.

Since some of our countries are traditionally conservative, it is often not possible to accommodate male and female participants in the same room. However, this is country / site specific and our Head Office can talk you through the options.

When do I find out the exact project/accommodation I'm in?

No later than 4 weeks before departure, our Head Office will send you the specific location with description and associated accommodation, provided that we have your exact departure date and all necessary documents have been submitted by you in good time.

In exceptional cases, it may take a little longer to confirm your project and your accommodation - for example, if the internship placement is particularly complicated, for special project wishes or changed conditions on site. You can always ask us for the current status of your placement.

How will I prepare for my time abroad?

In addition to the extensive information material that you receive, our coordination team in Germany is always there to help you with advice and answers.

Do you have a packing list/info sheet?

You will receive a travel ABC (our complete travel guide) from us before your departure. It contains everything you need to know about your trip, specific to your destination country.

Why do I have to call RGV 3 days before departure?

This phone call is important to discuss last points and to coordinate the progress of your trip and arrival in your destination country. For example, it will explain where you will be picked up from your destination airport and brought into your project.

Will I meet other volunteers?

Yes you will! You will generally meet a range of volunteers who come from Europe at each project.

Can I travel on the weekends?

Almost all of our participants are very active in their free time and use the weekends to travel! Nobody should travel alone, there is no need, as at most locations there are always several participants on site, so you can go on tour together. Our local teams have plenty of insider tips for you and are happy to advise you on organisational issues, such as public transport.

Can I travel after my project?

Yes, you should always plan your travel for the time after your project work, so that you can concentrate fully on your work during the placement. You have to pay attention to the expiry date of your visa. This is the perfect time to enjoy breathtaking nature, diverse wildlife and unforgettable experiences.

Do I book additional activities in advance, or in country?

Most additional services can also be booked flexibly on site, as well as in advance.

Is there internet?

Often there is Wi-Fi in our accommodation, but might not be at the speeds you’re used to in western countries. If this is not available, the mobile network is developed enough in order to browse the internet. SIM cards can be bought very cheaply near all accommodations and come with some great data passes (your team leaders can give you tips here).

What happens if I have a problem when there?

In your destination country, our RGV teams will assist you with all your problems. If your problem can not be solved with the help of the team leaders on site, contact the RGV team in Munich.

How much money should I take?

We have already covered most of the costs with your contribution. Nevertheless, you should plan additional costs of an average of 75 to 125 pounds per week. The biggest additional costs usually arise from your own personal expenses, as well as your leisure time activities.

Here is a list of possible additional costs on site:

• Private expenses • Leisure activities • Use of public transport or rental vehicle (during the week to the project and back to the accommodation, or on weekends for travel) • Extension of your visa • Telephone costs (prepaid)

What rules are there?

With your RGV registration, you will receive important behavioral guidelines to follow. You should also adapt to country-specific practices so as not to appear rude. For example, in Africa and Asia, it is particularly important to treat older people with respect.

Will I receive a certificate of participation?

Yes, after your successful participation in an RGV project, you will receive a confirmation of participation.

Penguin and Seabird Project in South Africa
from £1,249 6 weeks

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