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South Africa

Scuba + Marine Conservation + Adventure

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Itinerary Options

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Looking for something more flexible? Get in touch and we'll chat through options more suited to you.

Discover South Africa

One big playground.

Leap to the tip of the world’s most epic continent and experience first-hand the thrill of encountering Africa’s wildlife both on land and in the ocean. From the rhino to the bottlenose dolphin - it's here to be devoured but not where you expect...

Look beyond Cape Town and the Kruger National Park towards the east coast where you will find one of South Africa’s gems tucked away in the KwaZulu Natal area. Here, nestled amongst the sand dunes is the small town of Sodwana Bay, and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Running along the coast is a marine National Park which runs parallel to the coastline and stretches up towards Mozambique. The mix of hard and soft corals create a reef of great diversity and colour, with an incredible 1200 fish species, resident dolphins, loggerhead turtles and seasonal visitors such as the humpback whales, manta rays and leatherback turtles - so pack your go-pro.

Venture to Sodwana Bay, where you will learn to scuba dive so you can contribute to their marine conservation projects aimed to protect this stunning marine reserve. Interwoven into the itinerary will be elements of the 'Big 5' and community to make the most of your environment.


Program Itinerary

This specialised program is all about scuba training and marine conservation in one of the world's best locations. You will be diving 4 days per week and on your "dry days" you will help in the local community centre and will be taken inland to see Africa's wildlife for an ultimate beach and bush experience.

The following is a sample itinerary.

Overview

Sodwana Bay

Welcome to Sodwana

Tucked away on the east coast of South Africa, in one of the most unique and unspoiled parts of the world. The KwaZulu-Natal province is home to the Zulu people who have inhabited the area, in harmony with the land, for several centuries.

Sodwana is a great little town, lying within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the Maputaland Marine Reserve, where efforts are being made to protect its integrity from environmental degradation.

The area has been a Marine Protected Area since the 1960’s. Two of the marine 'Big 5', bottlenose dolphin and loggerhead turtles, live here all year round and they get masses of seasonal visitors like the humpback whales, manta rays, leatherback turtles and the ragged tooth sharks. For underwater exploration this is one of the best.

Accommodation

Your home will be at the Coral Divers Resort. The accommodation is surrounded by pure dune forest and within 2km of the beach. You’ll stay in wooden cabins with a shared shower/toilet block nearby.

Expect flush toilets and hot showers… luxury. There is a main safari style building where all the action happens from meetings to meals, evening relaxing and games.

Food

3 meals a day.

Expect lots of rice, potato, meat and vegetables.

Wks 1 - 3

Scuba Training Open Water + Advanced + Reef

Getting You Ready

To participate in the marine conservation you will need to complete both the Padi Open Water and Advanced scuba courses. Obviously if you arrive with any of these courses under your belt - you will be given a refresher course and taken out on fun dives to keep you busy until the others have caught up.

After this you will learn about reef life and the projects involved, hone your diving techniques and data collection methods, directed by our resident marine biologist who will make sure you know your way around the underwater world.

This training is in place for your safety, the integrity of the data collected and for the protection of the endangered reefs and corals.

Week 4 - 6

Marine Conservation Surveys + Clean Ups

Reef Conservation

In conjunction with KZN Wildlife, who oversee the marine reserve, you will be collecting baseline data of benthic (bottom-dwelling) and fish communities, with the aim to monitor any changes to the ecosystem. Your tasks will include:

Benthic Community Surveys
Good species diversity is a key indicator of reef health. Using underwater photography equipment, you will conduct photographic surveys of benthic communities at several dive sites in the marine reserve.

Fish Surveys
The Sodwana Marine Reserve is home to at least 1200 species of fish, as well as some endemic species not found anywhere else, protected by strict fishing laws. Here you will conduct visual surveys to collect data on current fish populations and diversity.

Reef/Beach Clean Ups
Clean reefs & beaches help save the lives of marine animals. Here you will collect any litter found underwater, with periodic beach clean-ups.

Week 7 - 10

Training + Conservation EFR and Rescue Diver

Further Scuba Training

If you are doing the 10 week program you will have the opportunity to do the EFR (Emergency First Responder) and PADI Rescue Diver courses (cost included) once the 6-weekers have left.

These courses are essential if you are considering completing your dive master.

Adventure

Bush Safari Wildlife + Camping

Safari and Adventure Intertwined

On your diving ‘dry days’ you will get the opportunity to head out into the African wilderness for camping and adventure trips to experience the diverse environments of KwaZulu Natal, home to amazing flora and fauna from game parks to huge estuaries. Adventures will be interwoven into your weeks and will include:

Mkuze Game Reserve
Further inland this area used to be a royal hunting ground for Zulu King Shaka. With that practice given up long ago it is now a reserve for some of Africa’s unique wildlife. You’ll go on game drives and camp in the reserve.

Kosi Bay
A beautiful lake system just south of the Mozambique border that is home to many traditional fisherman. Here you’ll camp next to the lake, take boat trips out to explore and guided walks to view the traditional fishing methods, enjoying a braai and campfire in the evening.

Lake Mgoboseleni and Lake Sibaya
You’ll take day trips out to both lakes to enjoy a braai on the shores of the lake and relax in the beautiful scenery surrounded by the African bush.

Community

iZandla ze Africa Pre-School Games

Pre-School Fun

iZandla ze Africa is a local NGO that works to meet the needs of the local Zulu community. It recently opened the 'New Beginnings Creche', where you will help out with any finishing touches required to the project build and by playing with the pre-school kids.

If you have extra room in your luggage, donations of toys, art supplies, pens and books etc., are always appreciated.

Program Details & Costs

We have four departures for South Africa throughout the year: January, April, July and September where you can go for either 6 or 10 weeks depending on how many scuba courses you want to complete. The most popular is the all singing and dancing 10 week option where you can “do it all” but of course you can go for less time to accommodate your needs and budget. Have a look at the most popular options listed below and get in contact if you need more flexibility.

Depart Jan, Apr & Sep

2018: 3 Sep

2019: 3 Jan, 4 Apr, 5 Sep

Costs

10 weeks
Open Water + Advanced + EFR + Rescue Diver + Conservation
2018: £46802019: £4680

6 Weeks
Open Water + Advanced + Conservation
2018: £32602019: £3260

Depart July

2018: 2 Jul

2019: 2 Jul

Costs

6 Weeks
Open Water + Advanced + Conservation
2018: £32602019: £3260

Dates Don't Suit?

Don't worry - we can work around this, just get in touch and we'll chat through options more suited to you.

Social Life

Guaranteed. Coral Divers Resort receives divers from all over the world, so it's busy and fun.

Fixed Base

Apart from the safari adventures you will be based at the resort - so you have that home from home feeling.

Beach + Bush

Best of two environments in one program. You will be taken on safari to see the best of Africa's wildlife.

Coral Reefs

Access to exceptional and healthy coral reefs. One of the best reefs worldwide.

Monday to Friday

Expect to busy with your project work 5 days per week for around 5 hours each day. The working day starts very early, about 7.00am-ish to take advantage of the cooler mornings.

Weekends

During your weekends you'll participate in the adventure mentioned in the itinerary. You can also enjoy some of the local backpacker favourites that include:

  • Relax, swim and snorkel on Sodwana beach.
  • Beach volleyball and touch rugby.
  • Whale watching tours (August to October).
  • Turtle nesting and hatching (November to March).

Coral Divers and Ezemvelo Wildlife

Many reef systems around the world are suffering due to climate change and/or human impact, even the Great Barrier Reef is suffering from major coral bleaching which is causing concern to scientists all over the world. Marine National Parks have never been so important to preserve and provide worldwide locations where the causes of destruction and outcomes can be studied and data collected.

Sodwana Bay is one of these Marine National Parks - it is home to a healthy coral reef where the annual migration of marine life is active and abundant. Coral Divers is a highly regarded dive centre based here who provide both scuba training and the man power/dive resources required for marine conservation spearheaded through a local NGO called Ezemvelo Wildlife. Our divers become part of this resource studying, observing and collecting data on the reef community, it's structure and the key organisms that serve as indicators of a healthy reef, providing insights into changes over time.

Invaluable data collected for worldwide marine conservation policy and predictions.

Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our current volunteers are doing from around the world to give you a flavour of Leap life...

Namibia week 1: camera traps, hiking and tree babies Millie Edwards

Waking up to such an incredible view on day 2 and being briefed about the month ahead by our pretty cool hosts – Andrea and Red, definitely made the journey worthwhile and made us excited for the days to come. After a relaxing morning getting used to camp life, we headed off to set up some camera traps, to hopefully catch some leopard action with the help of none other than Chanel No.5. Finishing the day with sunset beers on ‘the saddle’ was the perfect ending to our introduction of the trip.

Day 3. What felt like a very early start we began our first game drive. The afternoon was a mystery with Red telling us we were receiving our ‘babies’, these were our very own trees which we will care for and attempt to grow during the next month. Imi G and Emily have called theirs Patrick and have treated him like one of the family.

On day 4 the manual labour kicked in. We made a new track by clearing rocks so the car can reach a new destination, which was oddly satisfying. George and Magnus got straight on it, heading up the demolition team.

Day 5 & 6. The two day canyon hike was upon us. After a few shade breaks, food stops and the birth of ‘Lucifer’ (George’s staff), we eventually came across our camp site for the night by the Orange River and without wasting any time we jumped straight into the river to cool down and cover ourselves in mud.

Today we began Permaculture across the camp and visited the local community in the afternoon. Football, Rugby, Netball and a lot of singing and dancing was involved and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. The kids could run laps around all of us and most definitely dance better than our whole group put together.

With love,

Millie & the team

Settling into Madagascar Life Ellie Harland

Tomorrow is Wednesday which means it will shortly have been a week since many of us met for the first time either in Heathrow or Paris Airport. It’s quite a bizarre phenomenon to put faces to the names of relative strangers whom you have only met previously through a phone or computer screen – of course this was a little daunting for us all.

Then ensued the multi-flight to Madagascar where we found ourselves plunged into humidity and heat of 30 degrees when we touched down in our final destination.

We clambered into 2 mini buses while our drivers did a fantastic job of hoisting our bags onto the roof, some of which were particularly heavy. The bus ride was a sweaty one although we were preoccupied with taking in the surroundings of what would be our home for the next 10 weeks or so.

Thick forests lined the narrow, sometimes bumpy road from the airport to the port, young Malagasy children walked barefoot on the verge carrying school bags and battered vehicles beeped to indicate they were overtaking. We reached the port after stopping at an ATM in what I later learned was the town of Hell-Ville on Nosy Be, pronounced ‘Nosy Bay’.

We climbed aboard two boats and began a 45 minute journey to our new home, Camp on Nosy Komba. Our little island is 25km squared, covered in thick forest and is home to the residents of Angpangorina (Angpang) which we would visit on Friday for pizza, drinks and music.

Camp is fronted by Main House, an open common area with a thatched roof and wood and stone structures, it is furnished with hammocks, tables, benches and bean bags (which are my favourite) and is graced with a fantastic view of the sea and the land across from us.

I’m currently on Marine with Alex, Sophie, Ben, Hettie, Harry and Cressie with Arthur and Brinley ahead of us in our training while the rest of us establish the basic principles of diving. It has been an exciting first week settling in and breaking misconceptions of one another and I am intrigued to see what we will experience next.

Getting to the heart of the Rural Community in Mentu Ellie Walton

So it’s the first week of our south eastern adventure. First port of call: Kuching. After a long commute to the island from different parts of the world, we all came together in the city where we were able to get to know one another from the leap group.

On our way we stopped off at semengoh wildlife centre, where came face to face with Borneo’s most endangered yet treasured species: the orangutan.

Two hours and one extremely bumpy road later, we arrived at our home for the next ten days. We received nothing less than the warmest of welcomes from “Aunty” and her family. Malaysian culture treats every visitor as a guest by which they care for like they would a relative or close friend. From start to finish, we’ve felt right at home, despite the contrast in cultural context. Before we started the working week, Seth took us down to a local river which was also a destination of leisure and relaxation for locals.

The community project for the leapers this time around was to complete a concrete path to enable villagers to walk with ease and safety over the water drainage systems which we also helped to finish. Not bad for first timers!

To finish off a hard working week, we had a fulfilled weekend. We trekked to a local waterfall in the nearby jungle, had tucked into several BBQs. A personal highlight was the traditional dancing and music with some of the local villagers. Despite the struggle of keeping up with the villagers, it was really insightful and enjoyable to see more of Malaysian culture from a local perspective. This was invaluable, I can speak for all of us when I say it is something that we wouldn’t have been able to do had we not stayed with a local family right in the centre of such a rural community.

That’s it for now from your April 2018 Leapers

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