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The Great African Seaforest Marine Volunteer Programme, South Africa

1-12 Weeks from

18+ for individuals - for families 8+
minimum age

  • Get hands-on marine conservation research experience
  • Help to conserve and protect South Africa's beautiful False Bay
  • Work alongside a team of international marine biologists and conservationists
  • Explore an incredible and unique ecosystem; home to the Great African Seaforest

About the Great African Seaforest Programme

Sampling false bay

Volunteers will be involved in citizen science initiatives where you will join biologists on snorkel trips observing and monitoring endemic fish and shark species along the Cape Peninsula, and collecting data and taking Photo IDs of the small shy shark species. You will be given presentations on the various work involved; including biological talks such as shark biology and ecology, and explore the benefits of using citizen science as a scientific monitoring effort.

Volunteers will be involved in community outreach in local schools and community events to spread their passion and newly developed knowledge of the area’s marine life. Beach cleans in and around the harbour and sea wall cleans are organised to raise awareness of the pollution issues and make a positive difference to the local area. You can also assist with the local marine conservation exhibition at the museum, whereby you can actively contribute and be involved in the design process. There will also be the chance to head out on sunset paddleboard trips to monitor beach users, seal movement and carry out kelp distribution mapping.

Activities volunteers will be involved with:

  • Endemic fish and shark survey’s (snorkel)
  • Kelp forest density and distribution fieldwork
  • Microplastic sampling fieldwork
  • Public outreach: Conservation education initiatives in local schools and at public events.
  • Public events: beach cleans, public lectures, sea plastic cleaning events, kayak/paddleboard marine safaris
  • Investigating intertidal rock pools
  • Fish, Mollusc, shark, cetacean biology and ecology presentations
  • Shark egg collection and recording
  • Assist with local marine conservation and education museum curation
  • Introduction to freediving (learn the basics of this skill to develop your snorkel surveys)
  • Drop camera fish diversity fieldwork + video analysis

Scuba Diving Requirements and Additional Courses

Education and training False Bay

The volunteer programme does not include SCUBA diving, and all in-water activities will be with snorkels. However, if volunteers would like to get their PADI certifications, dive qualifications can be done with us during your time here. There will be an opportunity to further develop your SCUBA qualification and join SCUBA trips at an extra fee.

Marine Biology Field Course

We also offer the alternative opportunity of joining the Marine Biology Field Course for up to a four-week duration (recommended to do the duration to get the most out of the course, although 2-3 week options are available).

This is an exciting and unique opportunity for you to develop as a SCUBA diver (you must have PADI open water or equivalent to join this course), free diver, field biologist or conservationist and to broaden your horizons as a marine wildlife enthusiast.  The course introduces students to diving knowledge and techniques with broad applications but will focus on using scuba and free diving research techniques to better understand rocky reef and kelp forest communities along the coastal waters of the Cape Peninsula. Students will learn and apply several internationally recognised research methods in the field.

The Marine Biology field Course is designed for students and graduates with an interest in biology or conservation that are looking to gain extra knowledge, field experience, and build new skills in the field of marine science.Marine wildlife, False bay

The first week focuses on dive training and acclimatisation and a thorough introduction to the course and research. Lecture subjects include an introduction to the area, substrates, fish and invertebrate species, and the systems and processes that create the unique biodiversity found in the Cape Peninsula. The scientific method is introduced through various Citizen Science initiatives. Practical diving sessions in this week focus on developing buoyancy skills and familiarisation with sampling techniques and equipment with an introduction to a scientific diving workshop.

In week two your new skills developed during the first week are put into practice. Research projects are introduced with comprehensive lectures on project backgrounds and methods. Students begin survey dives and collect data for the various research projects utilising the observation techniques learned in week one. Workshops on additional skills like GIS, freediving, and R are also introduced this week.

Week three continues data collection for the projects introduced during week two and for new projects that will be introduced this week. You will discuss the concept of biodiversity and how this is measured from study design to statistics and inferences. Students will also begin to process data collected in the previous weeks.

False Bay StingrayThe fourth and final week wraps up the course with continued data collection and developing biological and analytical knowledge. Lecture topics cover a variety of subjects and can include shark physiology, white shark population dynamics and population modelling and others depending on the interests of students.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of the Marine Biology Field Course students will:

  • Gain fundamental knowledge developed skills, and understood the research methodology
    necessary to conduct underwater scientific investigations, particularly in temperate marine
  • Gain vast SCUBA and free dive experience in sometimes challenging conditions and be able to
    prepare a dive objectives and safety briefing.
  • Proficiency in underwater identification of Southern African fish, sharks, algae and major
    invertebrate groups.
  • Experience conducting globally and regionally used methodologies for the study of rocky reef and
    kelp forest ecosystems.
  • Be familiar with the use of underwater equipment and its effectiveness under various conditions.
The Great African Seaforest Marine Volunteer Programme, South Africa

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