Volunteers for Raggy Charters
We have volunteers from all over the world who come and assist us on our cruises and research projects. This volunteer project is perfect for individuals who want to do some whale watching in South Africa, whilst assisting in research and conservation. Our volunteers can stay with us for one month or several and many of them have gone on to join our regular staff. Accommodation, meals and transportation are provided and we try our best to give you an amazing & unique experience. If you want to learn about different aspects of the marine environment and the animals we encounter, if you want to get up close and personal with whales, dolphins, penguins and other marine life, and if you want to gain some valuable hands on experience in this industry then contact Raggy Charters to apply.
Volunteering with the Baywatch Project
Unlike many other marine operations, ours is owner-run and managed. We are a compact, yet vibrant company driven by our passion to ensure the safety and preservation of our marine heritage. We generally run only one marine tour per day, the morning session, putting as much personalized attention and detail into it as possible. Besides, the afternoons are usually not conducive to charters and we feel that we cannot give our best trying to cram more than one cruise into a day. We would hate having to cut an interesting excursion short because there was an afternoon group waiting to be taken out at a specific time.
During the cruises we collect information on the cetaceans we encounter, using photo identification (which is where we need your help), which gets added to the national database. This important information can then be used by researchers, who are still learning about their habits, numbers and migration patterns. This vital data collection is needed to conserve our marine animals in the long term.
During your stay with us you will also learn about various aspects of the marine environment, which you can then pass onto others and help to educate them about the importance of conserving both our coasts and oceans. The content of our many whale lectures is not only gleaned from other people's research but also from our own extensive observations made during cruises.
We are also the first organization to produce a marine photographic and textual guide to the marine animals of Algoa Bay. This is a 'first-of-its-kind' publication in South Africa, dealing with a specific bay along our coast. The book "Scenes From Algoa Bay" is available to order online by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The course program intensifies during the months of July through to November, during our peak 'whale season', when migratory Southern right whales visit our region. This allows volunteers as much exposure to whales and dolphins as possible.
Volunteer Accommodation at the Baywatch Project
Volunteers are accommodated in a well appointed house, overlooking the Indian ocean- a stone's throw from the sea. Whales and dolphins are seen regularly, often breaching clear of the water right in front of the house. Cape clawless otters breed in the fresh water system which enters the sea nearby. The house is located in the coastal village of Seaview, some 25km outside the coastal city of Port Elizabeth. Seaview village has a small shopping centre with supermarket, laundry, ATM and take-away.Volunteers will be provided with their own vehicle for getting around.
The house comprises three double bedrooms, two bathrooms, two kitchens, and two entertainment areas, which are also used as lecture facilities. There is also a spacious deck that overlooks the sea. The garden is totally indigenous, with over 100 species of trees. This is a wider variety of trees than found in the whole of Europe.
Besides a beautiful snorkelling area directly in front of the house, there are many other leisure and pleasure facilities located nearby. There are numerous game reserves located nearby which are worth a visit! There is a 25km stretch of sandy beach further up the coast, which is ideal for sand-boarding, and the study of sandy beaches. There are three Alexandria type indigenous forests within easy access, all of which can be reached by numerous trails.
Serviced communal accommodation and occasional meals are included in the course fee. The volunteers themselves must carry their food, laundry and medical costs. They will also be expected to assist with the meal preparations (when meals are provided), and keeping the premises neat and tidy.
South African's eat a lot of meat! Therefore, if you have any special dietary requirements, please tell us in advance and bring some of your favourite recipes with you.
In addition to what the guest lecturers will cover, the following topics will also be presented:
- The Physical Marine Environment: introduction, waves, major South African currents, rip currents, upwelling, sediment transport, tides, and changes in sea level.
- Rocky Shores: the marine environment, geographic distribution of animals along our coastline, wave action and intertidal communities, effects of tides, biological interactions, food and space, zonation, and exploitation by man and pollution.
- The Ecology of Sandy Beaches: introduction, physical conditions, the interstitial system, macro fauna, phytoplankton, zooplankton, and food webs.
- Estuarine Ecology: evolution of estuaries, physical processes in estuaries, biological processes in estuaries, and ecology of selected species.
- Coastal Conservation: the philosophy of coastal conservation, reserves, the management of exploited species, and the management of recreational activities.
- Cetaceans: evolution of different species, anatomy, behaviour, identifying individuals, the different species found throughout the world's oceans, their migration routes and why they do it, feeding strategies, reproduction, cow-calf relationships, strandings, hunting, how to approach them while at sea, and marine regulations.
- General Marine Life: sponges, cnidarians, worms, crustaceans, bryozoans, molluscs, echinoderms, ascidians, sharks and rays, bony fish, reptiles, coastal birds, and seaweeds.
Volunteers will eventually all be expected to participate in the various briefings and talks to tourists on the boat. They will also be taught the basics of boat handling and be expected to drive the boat on occasion. They will also be expected to undertake some pro-active marketing and make constructive suggestions to improving our marketing strategy.
When we arrived on a windy and rainy week in early November to volunteer with Raggy Charters at Port Elizabeth, we didn´t know what to expect. Our reasons to come herewere mainly because of Raggy Charters´s reputation in the conservationist field, his partnership with World Cetacean Alliance and its connection with local community. We stayed there for more than 6 weeks and learnt about their conservation programme and their involvement with environmental education focused on marine wildlife. But to be honest, we also went there to enjoy nice weather and see tons of animals, and we did!
In our frequent trips to St. Croix and Bird Island, we have seen many humpback whales(Megaptera novaeangliae) in their migration route to Antarctica, where they spend the australsummer feeding, which means lots of mother-calf couples leaping, breaching, lob-tailing anddisplaying all kind of imaginable tricks (a pleasure for any wildlife passionate). Apart fromthem, more cetaceans have been around us, such as mega-pods of common dolphins(Delphinus capensis), bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus), Sei (Balaenoptera borealis -arare encounter next to the port), Bryde’s (Balaenoptera brydei) and Minke whales(Balaenoptera acutorostrata).
Thanks to these trips that Raggy Charters is performing as the only whale watchingoperator in Algoa Bay to fund their conservation projects, we were lucky not only to have veryclose encounters with cetaceans but also to see the world biggest colony of clumsy AfricanPenguins (Spheniscus demersus) on St. Croix -you can have fun seeing these little ones trying toreach the island from the water; and next to Bird Island a colony of Cape Fur Seals(Arctocephalus pusillus)– cute and comical animals but cattle-smelly- like when you get closerto them! Beside penguins, birdlife has also made a huge impression on us: Cape Gannets(Morus capensis), seagulls, terns, petrels, cormorants and a very polite heron which would say“good morning” to you every single day in the harbour.
Apart from that, we were involved in few research projects such as fish and sea bird surveys which can last forever (data compilation in science may be tiring but rewarding so you can spend many hours at sea and get tune!), beach surveys in which we got permission to drive into the protected beaches of Alexandria Dune Fields and Maitland in order to collect data from dead animals like seabirds or stranded cetaceans and save a dying turtle! Thanks to this collaboration between Raggy Charters, University and Port Elizabeth Museum, we have assisted to few necropsies of cape fur seals, sub-antartic seals (Arctophoca tropicalis) and elephant seal (Mirounga leonina -sounds amazing and we learnt a lot, but the smellwas….irresistible xD).
But not everything was going to be about “working”. We have been discovering thisincredible land, visiting game reserves, national parks (giraffes, zebras, elephants, rhinos, lions,cheetahs or ostriches among many others animals have crossed our path), being amused bythe huge biodiversity in this corner of the planet and tasting a bit south African culture, withspecial reference to “Braais” (these people have made a whole culture around BBQ, which is agreat experience itself).
To sum up, it has been an incredible experience thanks to people like James, Jake,Kerry, Greg or Lloyd, and we have enjoyed a lot. Now, we have a lot of anecdotes to tell and anice skin colour to make our friends jealous back in cold Europe. See you soon!
A glimpse of us
Rodrigo is a Spanish environmentalist with a Master in Ecosystem Restoration, passionate about wildlife, photography and especially about environmental education. Now working as a naturalist in a whale watching company in Iceland, he is always looking forward to improve his knowledge and learn from nature.
Ewa is Animal Science engineer from Poland with passion for all kinds of animals and nature. Believing that everything is connected, from leafs on the trees, through feathers on birds wings to fish in the depth oceans, all the time trying to learn more about environment and spreading this knowledge, working as naturalist and guide on whale watching tours.
Applying for the Baywatch Project
3) You will receive confirmation of your registration via email and will be asked to transfer your £200 non-refundable deposit into the Baywatch Project bank account.
4) Once your payment details have been verified, we will email you a Baywatch Project cover note. Along with your passport and proof of a return flight this will allow you to volunteer in South Africa for 90 days (which can be extended). Alternatively a volunteer visa can be applied for, allowing you three years.
5) At this stage you should start booking your flights, arranging your travel insurance, and get any up to date vaccinations you may require.
6) We will keep in touch through email. This way we will stay up to date regarding you flight details and other information and you can ask any further questions you might have.
7) Upon your arrival into Port Elizabeth we will meet you and transport you to the volunteer house.
8) We will help arrange a South African sim card for you to keep in contact with us whilst in South Africa.
9) We will do everything we can to make your experience in South Africa unforgettable.