Volunteering overseas is the perfect way for any international getaway to have a more positive impact. In Cape Town, volunteer programs will have you on your feet and contributing to exciting fields, like tracking endangered African penguins or coaching a youth rugby team.

As a destination, this South African city provides the perfect backdrop for a global volunteer experience. On days off, you’ll wander the cobblestone streets of the city’s brightly styled Bo-Kaap neighborhood or hike rewarding trails in Table Mountain National Park. Nearby, the coastal landscape of Cape Peninsula offers the perfect day trip.

Though these are all highlights of any Cape Town adventure, it’s the experiences you’ll have as a volunteer that are bound to be the most impactful. By traveling with purpose, you’ll return with a fresh perspective on the world.

Cape Town’s usual volunteer programs have some pretty unusual assignments. Explore unique projects for conservation, education, and more fields in this top South African city.

Animal Care

Cape Town may be an urban area, but it’s a popular base for volunteering with animals. Popular placements have volunteers working in sanctuaries for all types of rescued critters, like leopards, elephants, and dogs.

If you don’t have much experience working with animals, your tasks will likely entail basic upkeep and maintenance, like tidying up enclosures when the residents go out to play. Alternatively, volunteers with a background in veterinary science may get the chance to provide care to injured animals.

Marine Conservation

If you have a keen interest in the marine area of conservation, then Cape Town is a wonderful gateway to a variety of oceanic volunteer projects. Help preserve natural habitats by cleaning up beaches or delve into hands-on research assignments.

Volunteers can take part in more adventurous projects like tracking great white sharks and observing their behavior from a secure underwater cage. If cage diving wasn’t on your bucket list, then you’ll be relieved to hear you can also volunteer onshore with endangered sea turtles.

Education

For aspiring teachers and experienced educators alike, an abundance of volunteer opportunities exist in Cape Town. From assisting in a classroom to running after-school programs, there’s a variety of ways that overseas volunteers can connect with Cape Town’s youth.

Popular programs include teaching English, tutoring in a specific subject area, working with preschoolers, or coaching a sports team. Placements aren’t only in local schools -- volunteers may also play supporting roles in community organizations.

You probably have a few questions about the logistics of volunteering overseas in Cape Town. From where you’ll stay to what’s in your suitcase, this section will cover the bulk of your concerns.

Housing & Accommodation

Volunteer housing options in Cape Town ensure that you get the chance to connect with your fellow participants and experience South African culture. Living in dorm-style accommodations, you’ll bunk with other volunteers, preparing meals and cleaning shared spaces as a team. Staying with a host family is another option, allowing you to have an inside look at local Cape Town life.

Language Requirements & Tips

In Cape Town, English and Afrikaans are the two predominant languages. As a volunteer, you’ll be able to get by speaking English, but some knowledge of Afrikaans will help you communicate with locals and enjoy a more immersive cultural experience. As such, it may be helpful to bring along a phrase book or participate in some language courses before you leave, especially if you’ll be staying with a host family,

Packing Tips

Residing in the southern hemisphere, Cape Town’s summers take place from December through February, with winter weather moving in from June through August. As such, what you pack will depend largely on when you’re volunteering and what kinds of tasks you’ll be performing.

Volunteer duties that take you outside, like conservation work, will require gear like sunscreen, a small first aid kit, and seasonal outdoor attire. If you’ll be volunteering in a formal setting, like a classroom, pack a few professional clothing items. Everyone will benefit from a raincoat and practical footwear to make the most of their days off.

Additional Tips

Most travelers don’t need a visa to volunteer in South Africa. If you’re a U.S. citizen staying less than 90 days, a tourist visa will suffice.

Once you’ve settled in Cape Town, you’ll probably want some mobile data to connect with folks back home. Vodacom SIM cards, a popular choice for visitors, are available at the airport and Cape Town shops.

Overall, the cost of living in South Africa is lower than in the U.S. Even in metropolitan areas like Cape Town, groceries and other essentials won’t drain your wallet. South African Rand, or ZAR, is the local currency, and it will be helpful to have some cash converted before you arrive to help you get started.

To complete a successful global volunteer experience, you need to be aware of its corresponding health and safety risks. Here are some that volunteers may face while traveling in Cape Town.

Health

As a volunteer, you should be provided with basic health care coverage through your organization. If not, you can always purchase a plan separately through companies like World Nomads. Having some type of coverage is crucial -- you never know what can happen on the road, and some volunteer projects might pose more risks to your well-being than others.

Malaria medication and hepatitis B immunizations are sometimes advised for trips to South Africa. If you’ll be helping out with wildlife, a rabies shot comes highly recommended by the CDC. Additionally, bring a record of yellow fever vaccination if you’ll be arriving from a country carrying the disease.

Safety

In any city, theft and violent crime rates tend to run higher than in suburban or rural areas, and Cape Town is no different. The Department of State cautions that mugging and armed robbery are a few risks that travelers will need to look out for in Cape Town. Taking care to walk in groups should dissuade any would-be thieves.

As a volunteer, your project may have unique safety concerns to keep in mind. By relying on the direction of your supervisor, you’ll avoid any injury or illness. In other words, when the marine biologist tells you not to stick your arm out of the shark cage, you should probably listen.

Volunteer Programs in Cape Town

Displaying 1 - 15 of 68 programs
International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ
Most Affordable & Trusted Volunteer Programs in South Africa with IVHQ
South Africa
59 reviews7 interviews

Trusted by 110,000+ volunteers, IVHQ offers the most popular volunteer...

GVI
GVI: Volunteer in South Africa
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39 reviews7 interviews

South Africa is often referred to as the Rainbow Nation, for...

Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad Volunteer Programs in South Africa
South Africa
19 reviews4 interviews

Become a valued volunteer in South Africa with Projects Abroad! Every...

Volunteering Solutions
Volunteer in South Africa | Most Affordable Projects From $350
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17 reviews4 interviews

If you're looking for an adventure where you can make a difference at...

GoEco
Top Volunteer Projects in South Africa
South Africa
22 reviews3 interviews

GoEco was created by experienced volunteers for people who are eager...

SAVE Volunteering
SAVE Volunteering Humanitarian Projects
South Africa
105 reviews7 interviews

SAVE Volunteering is a Non-Profit Organisation. We are NOT a booking...

Plan My Gap Year
Plan My Gap Year - Volunteer in South Africa from $435
South Africa
5 reviews

PMGY offers 1-week to 6-month volunteering opportunities in the...

Love Volunteers
Make a REAL difference in South Africa - From just $449!
South Africa
5 reviews

Love Volunteers brings passionate volunteers of all ages and...

South African Students Travel Service (SASTS)
Volunteer in South Africa with SASTS
South Africa
16 reviews6 interviews

SASTS believes that international voluntary services help empower...

UBELONG
Volunteer in South Africa: Most Affordable & Real Impact!
South Africa
5 reviews2 interviews

UBELONG offers 1-week to 6-month volunteering opportunities in Cape...

Iko Poran Volunteer Abroad - IKPVA
Highly affordable programs in South Africa from $400 for 2 weeks!
South Africa
10 reviews

Enjoy the time of your life in South Africa by volunteering for a safe...

All Out Africa
Teaching & Youth Development in South Africa
South Africa
6 reviews1 interview

Education is one of the key needs of children and is their doorway to...

African Impact
Animal Care and Veterinary Volunteering with African Impact
South Africa
3 reviews

Southern Africa is a fantastic destination of choice for anyone with a...

Volunteer Abroad GT
Affordable Volunteer Abroad in Healthcare & Medical Programs from $159 per week
Multiple Countries
7 reviews

VAGT provides the most affordable medical & healthcare volunteer...

Pod Volunteer
Pod Volunteer | Wildlife Volunteering in South Africa
South Africa
3 reviews2 interviews

We are looking for volunteers to join our award winning projects in...

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What People Are Saying

My morning class

The Surf and Adventure program consists of spending mornings at a township, spending the most amazing time helping the teachers run their little schools, helping shape the kids education and making...

play time in school

Taking part in the SAVE project is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Everyone at SAVE were very kind and welcoming. I took part in the surf and adventure program in Cape Town and it was so...

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I was in the Surf Adventure program where we volunteered in the schools of the townships in the morning, and then in the afternoon with older kids in sporting activities, including swim, surf, dance...

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