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Marine Conservation and Community Project

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

ORCA Foundation is where it all began for me

I first visited ORCA Foundation in July 2012 as a volunteer and it is definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made. My main purpose for doing this was to gain first-hand experience in whale and dolphin research and observation, so I spent a lot of time concentrated on doing my marine guide training with Ocean Blue Adventures (the local whale watching company, partnered with ORCA). This gave me some amazing practical experiences, as well as unexpectedly boosting my confidence in terms of public speaking and dealing with small (but potentially nerve-racking) everyday challenges. At present, I partake in various cetacean-related issues, collaborate with different conservation non-profits and am beginning to take groups on guided wildlife tours - my time at ORCA definitely gave me a head start! I also enjoyed participating in all the other available activities: trekking, helping feed the stranded sea turtles and cleaning their aquarium, visiting the local pre-school... to name just a few of the many things that made up our daily lives at the "ORCA house". It has now been over 4 years since then and I am pleased to say that I have been back on various occasions to visit everyone at ORCA and Ocean Blue. I am still in touch with Tracy, who was the programme manager in 2012, and who really helped me develop in my initial short 4-week stay. Jared and company, who have been there for the last few years, always make everyone feel at home, and the programme is running as strongly as ever under their management. It is always enriching and exciting to climb into the ORCA van, and I will hopefully be doing so again this 2017. Whatever your age, if you want to get outdoors and have some fun, are young and need extra motivation and experience to help further your ambitions... I sincerely recommend you stop by Plettenberg Bay and join up with the ORCA team.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    8

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    7

  • Community Impact

    9

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    9

My experience with ORCA Foundation 2015

It's been over a year since I left my time in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa with the Orca Foundation and the experience has enriched my life immeasurably. What first attracted me to the program were the whales. It was a lifelong dream of mine to see a whale, and ORCA lived up to the promise of experiencing whales. Not only did I see one- I saw them everyday... all different types of whales, and I even saw them breaching. The little girl inside of me was bursting with joy.

In addition to the whale surveying, the variety of marine mammals/animals that we experienced was very educational. We were immersed in weekly talks with scientists taking up their PhD's who enlightened us about marine conservation through their specific studies and research. I even got the chance to go on a boat and spend the day with Dr. Ale Vargas who was completing her study on dolphin population (if I remember correctly). That was a truly special day. We also visited numerous conservation institutions which really opened my eyes and gave me the chance to understand conservation much more. We even got down and dirty and cleaned a large penguin pool, which was a fun bonding experience with our ORCA group and group leader, Michael.

Another very special part of the program that I loved was the community development. Visiting Siyakhula was always such a treat- being welcomed by the beautiful children was such a loving and connecting experience. The weekly visits to the Sterreweg School for children with special needs by the Sabrina Love Foundation was also very heartwarming and educational for me. I feel blessed to have given the opportunity to meet and interact with the children in that school, and to learn more about the different disabilities and the therapies being used to treat them.

Fishing, hiking, kayaking, swimming, horseback riding and going on adventures through the forests was the norm at ORCA Foundation and I absolutely loved it! I also really enjoyed our visits to Mark, Polly and Kara the Donkey. By the end of my trip I even went skydiving which was absolutely fantastic.

On weekends, we had time for ourselves and I was able to go on Safari adventures with the friends I made at ORCA, and I even gathered the courage to explore Cape Town on my own for 4 nights. Which is another reason I loved this program- they are very flexible and understanding. ORCA is very accommodating of what each volunteer wants to get out of the program. Even if it's just to have fun!

The age group of the program was wide... from High School Students to Senior Citizens- very culturally dynamic, it was awesome. The people I made friends with at ORCA plus the ORCA staff- Michael, Jared and Kim, Charlie, Tily, Driver Ken are all such amazing spirits, and even though I was very far away from home, I felt safe and I knew I was in good hands.

I hope to visit Plett again one day. After my experience with ORCA, I came back to the Philippines wiser and my heart grew 1000x bigger. South Africa and the ORCA Foundation will always be a part of me.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Living Situation

    6

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    10

First time travelling

In all I spent about a month here during by travels in South Africa. This was my first project on my trip so was a little apprehensive as was travelling alone however these apprehensions quickly disappeared from the moment I was met at the airport.

All the other volunteers and project workers were really welcoming and showed you the ropes. Plettenberg bay is a great Base with lots of activities to take part in when you have free time e.g. snorkeling with seals, skydiving etc.

While on the project you get to go out on so many boat trips to try and find the dolphins and whales within the bay. I was lucky enough to see bottlenose and common dolphins along with a number of humpbacks.

My other favourite part of this project was helping out in the local schools. We got to deliver Christmas presents and also attempted to do some sing-a-longs followed by duck duck goose!

Could speak about how great this project is for ages! Jared, Michael and the rest of the crew made it so much fun while still experiencing and learning about coastal conservation.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Volunteering with ORCA

I cannot begin to express my gratitude to Ocean Blue and the ORCA Foundation for this amazing experience!!! Every single thought and expectation I had about this trip was surpassed immensely! There was never a point in time where I did not learn something new. From the boat trips, learning all about the local marine life to completing an otter dissection, there was a never a dull moment! I will never forget the hikes we did, most definitely the most beautiful yet scariest thing I have ever done! It wasn’t just the experiences that made this trip amazing but also the sense of community that the ORCA foundation extended and the friendships that were made. Leaving Plett, I truly felt a part of something bigger than myself. I was warmly welcomed into this brand new family, something most cannot say after leaving a volunteer experience. I not only grew educationally, but personally as well! I wouldn't trade any part of this trip for the world! Thank you ORCA foundation for showing me all of these opportunities that exist to not only help save animals, but also to improve the lives of others around me! It has been almost two years since my time with the ORCA Foundation and I miss it dearly! It helped me grow so much as a person and student and I will be forever grateful for that!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    7

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

A great programme by wonderful people

This was my first stop in a year round the word travel and what a great way to start! I loved everything about it and learnt so much! Jared is an amazing guy, truly passionate about the programme and the impact it has on the local life. The house was great and the people I met on the programme were amazing too, felt like a real family away from home! Truly recommend it and would love to go back.

  • ORCA Foundation responded to this review January 07, 2017 at 3:07 AM

    Thank you for this amazing review!! It was great having you with us and hopefully we will see you again..

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Great experience

The two weeks I spent with ORCA foundation were probably some of the bests of my life! I really enjoyed myself and I'm very glad I got this opportunity volunteering with the orca foundation. My personal highlights were whale watching and being surrounded by almost 100 common dolphins. I can highly recommend this project to anyone who loves being outside, on the water and is open minded to do all different kind of activities.
Besides the fantastic project all the people of ORCA foundation in Plett are just very lovely and caring! Thanks to everyone who made this possible and was part of my journey. I am sure I ll come back at some point! ;)

  • ORCA Foundation responded to this review January 07, 2017 at 3:09 AM

    Thank you for sharing your feedback with us... It always fabulous receiving positive feedback about our project!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • The Adventure

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Cultural Immersion

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Nothing ventured nothing gained....

4th November, 2016

Orca Foundation Plettenberg Bay South Africa

So back at home now (unfortunately) and have just been reflecting on my time with your foundation after looking at my photos , really just wanted to say thank s to you and your team of people for the amazing time that was had whilst I was on your program.
Firstly between yourself, Michael and Minke – anyone who comes to the program are made to feel so at home and certainly feels like a family which is something that matters when you have to meet a group of people for the first time. Thanks too must go to Telli for the food, especially the Lasagne - which rivals my own mother’s recipe – that says a lot and she always had a smile.
The most prominent thing I came across was the enthusiasm and passion for what all of you are trying to achieve. Minke was a great Co-ordinator and having never really had a massive interest in birds has since changed thanks to her, I loved that part of it. On each of the activities we did over the time, I found every one informative, fascinating and huge amounts of fun. This though again is a reflection of the people I encountered over my time.
The fellow volunteers at the house, (which can I say felt like a home and was so comfortable there), although changing over the time, were always like minded, co-operative and keen to have fun whatever we did. I met some people which I still keep in touch with and have friends for life. Being of an older age group, usually the more senior in the house didn’t seem to matter – everyone respected everyone and again the people just made the place.
Visits to the kids – WOW.... Massive smiles and a heap of love to those kids. This part of the program was another fave and absolute respect with what your doing for them and the community!
The placement of the program also allowed activities outside the volunteering work. The area is so central to so many activities and gave me the opportunities to cage dive with sharks, seal swim, bungy jump, tree canopy exploring and about 10 other activities – Plettenberg Bay is an awesome place to have it situated.
But of course my highlight was the opportunity to go out on the Whale watching boats. The crew were awesome and obviously know their trade but the stars were the Whales. I was lucky enough to have really good encounters with the Humpback’s and the Dolphins. Always such a beautiful thing when your able to get close enough to them.
So again Jared, please pass on a massive thanks to everyone, give the kids a squeeze and you have my details for Telli to possibly give me her recipe for the lasagne. One can only ask ;0)
Sincerest regards,
Stuart Cross
ORCA Foundation Volunteer

  • ORCA Foundation responded to this review January 07, 2017 at 3:35 AM

    Wow, this an amazing review and all the children at Siyakhula send their regards!!!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Best experience

I spent 12 weeks with ORCA Foundation and those were some of the best weeks of my life. I went to get more experience in marine conservation, but ended up learning so much more like bird ringing, alien species clearance and helping out at a local township school. Not only is plettenberg bay a beautiful place to stay, but it also has plenty around it to do and chances to meet local people. The people I spent my time with really made the experience that much more special for me, whether it was the staff at orca or the other volunteers. The people I met there will definitely be friends for life and I can't wait to go back and experience it all over again!

  • ORCA Foundation responded to this review January 07, 2017 at 3:13 AM

    Thank you for the email and we really do appreciate your positive feedback.

Overall Rating

7/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    7

  • Program Administration

    7

  • Living Situation

    7

  • Community Impact

    8

  • Health and Safety

    7

  • Social Life

    2

Good times

I had a great time while in Plett. I was there for four weeks and really enjoyed my time there. When I arrived there were three other volunteers, and when I left there were also three others with more arriving. We created a good bond between us and I still speak occasionally to them, even though it's been over two years. I would really recommend this experience!

Overall Rating

2/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    2

  • Program Administration

    3

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Impact

    2

  • Health and Safety

    8

  • Social Life

    8

Just to keep busy

I volunteered in South Africa for two years and the most disappointing program for me was ORCA foundation. When I booked, the website was extremely out of date and once I arrived, I found out that many of the activities weren't offered anymore. Fortunately, for future volunteers, the website finally got updated.
For the extremelly high fee, you could think you're going out on a boat very often, maybe everyday, but that's not what happens. ORCA doesn't own a boat. Volunteers can join Ocean Blue Adventures, a whale watching company, on their boat. But that depends on availability, as they prioritize their customers. Activities on board would be mainly caring for the well being of customers, including assistance for the sea sick ones. There's pratically zero marine research activities on boat. And I must say, Ocean Blue Adventures can be quite unethical during their boat trips, and their actions can upset more sensitive volunteers. They approach animals on a marine protected area, chase whales for too long, ride over dolphin pods, disturb mothers with babies. They clearly care more for the customer then the animals.
As a volunteer you will be performing, most of your time, land based activities. The most common ones are:
Cleaning a fish tank at Ocean Blue: literally going inside the tank and scrubbing the rocks and glass. We also have to get prawns in the estuary to givve a snack for the fishes and sea water in buckets for the back wash of the tank.
Beach walks looking for shark eggs: the most common activity, consisting in a long walk looking for egg casings on the sand. They are collected and later classified.
river quality research: ORCA keep rotating through some locations to do a water quality analysis. This is done by identifying macroinvertebrates, found in the stream, through an standard scoring system.
Assisting at bird ringing: one of the house managers is a bird ringer. This means she is qualified to capture birds and pug a ring on their legs. If you're long enough with orca, maybe you can get the chance to learn and perform a little bit of the process. But most volunteers just stick around to hold some birds and release them once they're ringed.
Trash collection and classification: volunteers hike to a distant beach and collect trash. Then they measure and weight the material (basically little fragments of plastic).
Assisting on township school: volunteers go to the school once a week and give a lesson about any subject that will be translated by the local teacher, read a story, play with the kids, serve lunch and wash the dishes.
Other activities: ORCA will try to fit some other varied activities on their schedule sometimes. That could be helping on rehab centres or a private reserve. The activity though doesn't involve animals, only cleaning or building of enclosures or cutting alien trees.
ORCA can be a good program if you want a one week or two around the bay with different activities to keep you busy. Long term volunteers might get bored. The house managers are really nice and caring people and you can learn a lot from them if you're willing to. But the activities offered are definitely not worth the high fee.