Birding and flora volunteer projects cover a broad base - from rescuing and rehabilitating sea birds off the coast to helping conserve raptor populations. Many of the wildlife volunteer programmes also feature extensive biodiversity components, which include biome mapping, plant identification and alien plant control.

Did you know?

South Africa has recorded 850 bird species, 50 of which are endemic or near-endemic.

Birding and flora volunteer projects seldom exist in isolation, and are more often than not included in joint programmes or as part of general wildlife volunteer projects. Two projects with strong bird conservation volunteer programmes are the Great Kei Kubusi Wilderness Project, offered by Volunteer Africa, and the Tamboti Conservation Project, offered by Aviva.

The Great Kei Kubusi Wilderness Project on the Wild Coast, Eastern Cape, aims to restore and conserve the natural ecosystem of this sensitive area. The resident bird population includes a breeding colony of Cape griffon vultures, fish eagles; martial, crowned, long crested and black eagles as well as 220 other identified bird species.

As part of this programme volunteers track the breeding vultures by conducting adult and juvenile counts and monitoring the breeding pairs, using photographs to record the birds. In addition, ongoing data collection of the various eagle species is undertaken, including identifying individuals and observing nesting sites. Work in the local raptor rehabilitation centre is also included.

Similarly, Aviva's Tamboti Conservation Project sees volunteers doing bird counts, compiling species lists, and monitoring raptors and breeding pairs in the UNESCO Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, in Limpopo. The reserve protects more than 290 bird species, including several eagle species.

Both these projects include flora research volunteer programmes, with volunteers conducting erosion control; biome and geological mapping; alien plant control and tree identification at the Great Kei Kubusi Wilderness Project, and biodiversity surveys at the Tamboti Conservation Project.

If you're looking to just work with birds, no matter what kind, you'll be interested in Aviva's volunteer programme with SANCCOB, the national sea bird conservation outfit based in Cape Town. SANCCOB rehabilitates oiled, injured, ill and orphaned sea birds and is the major role player in rescuing sea birds after oil spills.

Duties are based on volunteers' experience and usually include cleaning pens, feeding and washing the birds, assisting in the intensive care unit, and boat-release programmes at Robben Island. Common species covered by SANCCOB's efforts include the African black oystercatcher, African penguin, Cape gannet, various cormorant and gull species, and the white pelican.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Tel: +27 (0)21 557 4312

How to get here

Many volunteer programmes will organise transfers from the closest airports.

What will it cost

Prices vary according to how many weeks you stay.

Length of stay

Ideally between two to six weeks.

What to pack

Sun hat, sunblock, insect repellent, a torch, sleeping bag, binoculars and walking boots for the wilderness programmes.

Where to stay

Most places provide accommodation, but in some instances you could opt for homestays with local families.