Volunteer to protect penguins on Robben Island, South Africa.


South African Penguin Project


Who: Earthwatch

Where: Robben Island, Cape Town, South Africa

Focus: Protecting the habit and remaining population of penguins on Robben Island. Plus, understanding the reasons behind their rapid decline in order to develop well-informed solutions to increase their chance of survival.

When: March to August (set expedition dates)

Duration: 12 days

Suitability: Over 18s. (Volunteers aged 15-17 welcome if accompanied by parent or guardian)

Cost: Available here.

As a volunteer, you will:

  • Live, work and explore Robben island, a place where few people are allowed to go.
  • Hands-on experience helping protect a penguin colony which has decreased by 90% in the past 100 years.
  • Monitor penguin nests.Volunteers on March and April teams will be present for the beginning of the penguin breeding season; they’ll help record where penguins are nesting and select the penguin pairs to be studied throughout the season. Groups that follow will continue to monitor nests.
  • Photograph penguins. Volunteers will take digital photographs of penguins to record the unique spot patterns on their chests. They will help researchers further develop their system of band-less recognition of individual penguins in the colony.
  • Help injured birds.The majority of this work happens in July and August, when penguins finish breeding and abandon their nests. The research team sees the most injured and oiled penguins during this period, and you’ll get hands on with these birds to help them heal.
  • Explore one of Southern Africa’s premier breeding sites for seabirds. In addition to African penguins, volunteers can see breeding populations of bank, crowned, and Cape cormorants; cattle and little egrets; Hartlaub’s and kelp gulls; swift terns; sacred ibis; and African black oystercatchers.
  • Learn about the problems seabirds face today, such as predation by seals and competition with fisheries.

The Base

A comfortable house on Robben Island which is a 15-minute walk away from the penguin colony. The house has electricity, a flush toilet, and hot and cold running water.

  • Sleeping: Shared, single-gender rooms with bunk beds.
  • Food: 3 meals a day. Staff and volunteers cook and clean on a rotational basis.

The next step

Visit Earthwatch for more info and to book. Please say that you heard about this project from Sea Fans.


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