Wildlife conservation and community volunteer projects and internships worldwide

Nature’s Valley Internship Programme, South Africa

8 to 12 weeks from

minimum age

  • Gain experience in a wide range of skills whilst getting an insight into life as a conservationist in Africa
  • Work alongside scientists and learn to ring birds
  • Take part in a grass roots project that brings real change to communities
  • Opportunities available for University students to carry out specific research projects

Volunteering with birds in South Africa

About the Nature’s Valley Project

Join this hands-on Internship Programme and help protect the environmental integrity of Nature’s Valley. Interns will gain experience in a wide range of skills whilst getting an insight into life as a conservationist in Africa alongside Nature’s Valley Trust (NVT).

What to Expect

A typical week will be structured to allow certain days to focus on certain activities. Weeks are broken down into:

  • A research day
  • A training day
  • A community service day
  • A project focus day
  • A fun day

On research days you will head out into the field with staff and work with them to collect valuable data in several ecosystems: coastal, estuarine, forest, fynbos, and urban.

Training days will involve a staff member taking a deep dive into their field of expertise. These days will be both theoretical and practical.

Community service day will take you out into the surrounding communities of Plettenberg Bay. Here you will be involved in clean-ups, the establishment of vegetable gardens and assisting with community needs. Project days will allow you to focus on a specific project that aligns with your educational needs. Under the mentorship of staff, you will take responsibility for this project from the development phase. There are a range of topics you can choose from that can be catered for your main interests.

Current Programmes to Experience

Pete ecology volunteer in South Africa

Tsitsikamma Fynbos Programme

Projects will include a wider range of ecological research studies covering pollination, seed dispersal, fire dynamics and more. These project results will inform the development of, freely available, environmental education and community awareness resources.

Rivers and Estuary programme – Groot River Estuary Project

The first component of this project is monthly water quality sampling; inspecting various water quality parameters to ensure a healthy system for all who depend on its functioning. Secondly, we conduct monthly CWACs (coordinated waterbird counts) for monitoring of waterbird utilisation of the estuary and River. The CWACs form part of a larger citizen science project monitoring the health of water bodies across the country, through avian activity.

Salt River Project is in the early phases of its development with endless opportunities to be immersed in thought-provoking ecological and social research. This project will feature an ecosystem-wide approach, monitoring the systems from source to sea, with emphasis on the biodiversity that inhabits it and the anthropogenic impact on the river and estuary. The Salt River is, interestingly, home to a unique assemblage of macro-invertebrates; a significant number new to science.

Forest programme

A newly launched programme is currently in its developmental stages. These initial projects will focus on keystone species monitoring, which includes the Bush Pig, various bird species and Cape Leopard (in partnership with the Cape Leopard Trust). We will also look at the impacts of tourists and hiking trails on bird activity. As the projects gain traction, the team wish to expand the programme to include an added variety of fascinating projects.

Intern looking out at Nature's valley beachCoastal Programme (#ShareTheShores)

The white-fronted plover (WFPL) breeding success project monitors the breeding success of the WFPL – a declining beach-breeding species. The project involves surveying four local beaches for WFPL activity and nests as well as newly hatched chicks; monitoring eggs, adults and chicks over time; banding individuals for ease of monitoring; and on our experimental beaches implementing simple interventions and creating public awareness. This project runs from August until the end of March with peak nesting activity from November to January.

Micro-plastics Project

This takes an in-depth look at the scale of the micro-plastics problem on Nature’s Valley beach, and ways to address it through education and awareness.

Adopt-a-Beach Education Programme

A flagship environmental education programme, that has been running for over a decade. This programme takes learners out of the classroom and onto the beach to learn about beach formation and the various aspects of beaches as a component of the coastal ecosystem. In partnership with The Two Ocean’s Aquarium, learners also do online learning, working towards accreditation in Marine biology.

Bird ringing on the beach in South AfricaBirding Connect Programme

This focuses on a small group of learners from participating schools who have a keen interest in birds. In partnerships with Birdlife Plettenberg Bay, NVT teaches learners to ID birds by sight and call, use binoculars and field guides, explore different bird habitats and about their role in the ecosystem as a whole. The programme also has a skill development component where we focus on communication skills, photography and the use of virtual technology.

WESSA Eco-schools Programme

The WESSA (Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa) initiative encourages schools to become sustainable and environmentally aware. NVT facilitates the enrolment of schools into this programme and assists with the development of their portfolios and achieving WESSA targets.

Community Engagement Programme

This programme aims to raise awareness around the importance of the environment, and how to use it sustainably. The programme has included events, such as community greening, clean-ups and recycling drive along with various workshops on a myriad of topics, from alien vegetation identification and control to sustainable fishing practices.

Free Time for Volunteers

Sugarbird in South AfricaOur conservation work generally runs in-week from Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm daily. By nature, some work involves getting up early or working late, occasionally we do work stuff on weekends – but this is all optional for interns.

We want you to enjoy your time with us and that’s why once a week will include something fun to do. We will take you out to visit our partnering organisations which will allow you to experience encounters with seals, birds of prey, snakes and so much more, up close and personal while learning at the same time.

Located in Plettenberg Bay and Nature’s Valley you will be truly spoilt for choice in your free time. Interns can spend their time lounging on stretches of pristine golden beach, exploring the lagoons, estuaries and forests or experiencing the abundant wildlife on safari at a nearby game reserve. Whale and dolphin watching and swimming with seals also promise a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For adrenaline junkies, there is plenty of excitement on offer. The Garden Route has become a  centre for adventure with shark cage diving, parasailing, the world’s highest bungee jump, mountain biking, abseiling and sky diving. There are discounts for interns on some of these activities, and transport to them over weekends can be provided at nominal rates.

“Our approach is to identify and reduce the impact people have on local biodiversity. We do this through a combination of high quality research-driven science that guides impactful, locally relevant conservation intervention and education programmes. Our interns get hands on, gaining the necessary people skills modern day conservationists need. For example, participants have actively enabled us to reduce fishing related litter on our beaches locally by 75%, and to enable beach breeding birds to increase their breeding success by 300% in some cases.”  – quote by Project Director

Nature’s Valley Internship Programme, South Africa

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