Volunteer at a Penguin Rescue Center in South Africa

Port Elizabeth, South Africa Wildlife & Environmental Conservation



The South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre (SANCCOB), a non-profit organization, formed in 2000 after the oil-spill disaster following the sinking of the ship "Treasure" close to Cape Town, which threatened the lives of 20,000 penguins. In 2009, SANCCOB moved into new premises in the Cape Recife Nature Reserve, which is specifically designed for sick African Penguins and other marine birds.

There are currently only 25, 000 breeding pairs of African Penguins left in the world and 21,000 are in the Algoa Bay near Port Elizabeth. The focus of SANCCOB is to care for sick or injured African Penguins, as well as other marine birds such as gannets, cormorants and seagulls. SANCCOB is the only center in Port Elizabeth that has the capacity to treat penguins that are washed up, sick, hurt or exhausted and to treat any diseases they may have, give them a vitamin boost, fatten them up and release them into the bay again. They will be fit and fat they have a proper chance to survive.


Volunteers are needed to care for the penguins and other rescued birds, and to participate in the educational purpose of the center. Volunteers will feed and clean the penguins, maintain their enclosures, welcome visitors and guide them through the educational center, and also rescue and assist with releases.

The center’s purpose is twofold: it rescues and rehabilitates, and it informs and educates the general public through extensive displays and educational programs. Tourists, school groups and other visitors learn about endangered birds and other marine life in nearby Algoa Bay.

Field conditions

Volunteers will be assisting in a variety of tasks and activities such as:

– Welcoming visitors

– Answering the phone and office duties

– Guiding visitors and school groups through the center

– Helping at the coffee shop when needed

– Teaching the visiting children about the center

– Helping with rock pool and ship wreck lessons

– Looking after displays and educational material

– Scrubbing and cleaning the bird hospital facilities

– Preparing food and medication

– Feeding the penguins and other birds

– Cleaning and caring for the birds that are brought in

– Joining the staff (when possible) at rescues in the Port Elizabeth area

Working days are generally from 8.00 until 16.00 on all weekdays and weekends are off!

Arrival and orientation

You will fly into Port Elizabeth International Airport, with pickup arranged by Khaya Volunteer Projects. All drivers have professional drivers’ licenses. You arrive at the accommodation on Monday, get settled in, and meet with your volunteer coordinators. On Tuesday, you will be transported to your chosen project for your work to begin.

Your stay


  • HousingVolunteer house

  • Provided mealsBreakfast, dinner

Accommodation description

Volunteers are housed in large, comfortable home close to beach in Port Elizabeth. The house features nine shared bedrooms (shared by gender), five bathrooms, and a fully equipped kitchen. Located less than 200 meters from the beach and a 10-minute drive to Walmer Township, the house is easy to reach and well-organized. Shops, beachfront cafés, restaurants and access to other facilities are all within easy reach. It’s the perfect location to enjoy the beach after work or during weekends. The house is shared with other volunteers who work at Door of Hope and Missionvale Care Centre, and offers the following facilities:

Large swimming pool; Large living room and dining room; Free WIFI internet access; Garden with braai (BBQ) facilities; Two washing machines; Cleaning lady for 4 days a week; On site coordinators who do the shopping, take you to the project every day and organize fun activities.


Volunteers will be staying on a volunteer house.


from $346 USDper week

from $346 USDper week


What’s included

  • Transfers to and from the project

  • Direct donation to project's needs

  • 3 meals/day

  • On-site volunteer coordinator available 24/7

  • Accommodation in volunteer house near beach

  • Free-sim card, maps, etc upon arrival

  • Welcome pack with information guide

  • Pick up upon arrival and drop off at end of stay

  • Information/assistance before departure

What’s not included

  • Weekend drop off/pick up at airport

  • Insurance

  • Costs for weekend outings

  • Private luxuries

  • Airfare

Start dates

You can arrive on the Monday morning when the program starts, or you could come a couple of days earlier to settle in before starting your volunteering. Volunteering will then start on the Tuesday. Participation is per full weeks only and the project will be closed for about three weeks over Christmas and the New Year period.

Established in 2005, Khaya Volunteer Projects offers unique and affordable volunteer and gap year projects in South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zanzibar. Khaya projects run the gamut of volunteer interests with project areas including Children; Communities; Sports Development; Healthcare; Wildlife and Conservation; and Education projects. A common thread running through all Khaya projects is a commitment to ethical volunteering. They work to ensure that your volunteering efforts and your financial contributions are used in the best way possible. In alignment with that goal, Khaya, with its base and several offices in Africa, can and does assist its local partners and projects in Southern and Eastern Africa with keeping the focus on responsible and ethical volunteering.

Their mission is simple but resonant:

“...we provide volunteering opportunities for international travellers that are both unique and as affordable as possible with high standards of service and facilities. Needless to say, we also prioritise our selected volunteer projects’ needs in ways that benefit both project and you, the volunteer.”

Honest pricing, crystal clear information, timely communication, and great service are all hallmarks of how they run a successful organization. True to the meaning of “Khaya” in several African languages, Khaya Volunteers makes sure its volunteers feel secure, well informed, and that they belong to the project to which they commit. Khaya believes that if you join on of their volunteering projects, you’ll have an African experience you’ll never forget.

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