Hello, my name is Stephanie, I’m 21 and I joined the Coastal Conservation Experience for a month on their mission to make the world a little bit better.
It all started with the idea of getting out of my daily routine and after having spent a few vacations in South Africa, I wanted to return, so I started to search for volunteer projects. I compared different sites and finally decided to join the African Conservation Experience. I read through their different projects and stumbled over the marine project. I knew immediately that I would love to be part of that project.
Getting in contact and arranging the bookings was fairly easy and I thank African Conservation Experience for that. At first I was really afraid to travel alone for the first time in my life to a country that far away, but the fact of getting a personal contact in Johannesburg made the journey so much easier. Thanks for your support Martin.
It was a long journey and at the end I just wanted to arrive at my destination. I’ll admit that I was slightly afraid that I wouldn’t fit in with the other volunteers or what would actually await me, but I must say that all fears were irrational and that I had the most amazing time in Plettenberg Bay. Everybody I met over there was friendly, helpful and towards the end of the month I realised that we had in fact become like a little family to me.
In Plettenberg Bay, we lived in a house almost like a commune. Every week we had a chart board, with the written activities for each day of the week and who would join them. The activities included:
- Opportunistic marine animal data collection onboard a commercial whale and dolphin watching boat trips (which by the way are having amazing boat trips to go see the marine life)
- Cliff-top monitoring of fur seals, cetaceans and sharks in Robberg MPA (which is also an amazing hiking tour)
- Marine mammal stranding response and necropsies
- Intertidal baboon scat surveys
- Beach clean-ups
- River health assessments following mini-SASS protocol
- Data capture
- Bait collection and maintenance of an aquarium
- Alien vegetation clearing
- General assistance at SANCCOB Seabird Rehabilitation centre
- General assistance at a community crèche
- General assisting at the Knysna Animal Welfare Society
- Making Ecobricks
I could probably say something about every activity I just listed up, but I’ll stick for the points I enjoyed most, for the rest I guess you just got to find out for yourselves.
The boat trips were my absolute favourite, just getting out on the ocean, getting the opportunity to see and experience something different every time, the boat trips used to collect data can show how changeable our nature and its inhabitants can be. And yes on my first day on the boat I got as wet as a rat but I wasn’t bothered, I saw it as a welcoming to Plettenberg Bay.
The cliff-monitoring on Robberg, sitting at the same spot for two hours and staring at the ocean seemed slightly boring to me at first, but it was exactly there where I learned to appreciate the nature without the hectics of our daily lives. I was able to observe how marine animals, birds and other animals behaved without our interventions, but just observing them quietly and just enjoying the calm.
The first time we went to clean up the beaches I was shocked and appalled by what humans are doing not only to the ocean but to our whole eco system.
While I stayed there I had to realise that not everything is the way it’s presented on tv, for example as a volunteer you might get the chance to be able to clean the seabirds of oil but chances are high that you will get stuck with poop clean duty. And that’s ok because it’s also a part of making sure the birds will be feeling well and can rehabilitate faster. I’m convinced that to be able to help the animals and the environment, everybody should become part of a volunteer project.
Visiting the community crèche was a nice change to the oceanic data collection, the kids were full of energy and it really warmed my heart to see them so eager to learn.
Ultimately I got to say that I did experience a lot of different and amazing things, experienced unforgettable moments and encountered people that I will carry in my heart for the rest of my life. At last I can only recommend this project to everyone who wants to help to change our understanding of the oceanic environment.