On the Expedition
Help protect biodiversity at a World Heritage Site hosting the second largest colony of African penguins on the planet.
Your team will participate in a variety of research activities to monitor the health of this unique island environment, working with several experienced researchers and staff members. You’ll conduct population surveys on penguins and other seabirds to determine their breeding success and survival and help with ongoing trials of a revolutionary new automatic system designed to detect and recognize individual penguins as they pass remote cameras.
Your research will bring you face-to-face with the daily rhythms of the island and the problems seabirds face, such as predation by seals and competition with fisheries. Besides raucous seabirds, Robben Island harbors several species of antelope, ostriches, ibises, and egrets. On your recreational days you can take the ferry to the mainland and enjoy some of Africa's premier tourist spots, including the Cape Town Waterfront and Table Mountain.
Meals and Accommodations
You’ll share rooms in a simple but comfortable island house, just a 15-minute walk from the edge of the penguin colony. The house has electricity, a flush toilet, and hot and cold running water. You’ll enjoy meals that use plenty of South Africa's famous fresh fruits and vegetables, and excellent meats. Team members will plan their own menus and rotate cooking and cleanup duties in the large and well-equipped kitchen.
About the Research Area
Robben Island is in Table Bay a few miles from Cape Town, South Africa. The climate is similar to Mediterranean areas, with warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters. The island is one of southern Africa’s premier breeding sites for seabirds, a high proportion of which are endemic to the region. Apart from African penguins, bank cormorants, swift terns, Hartlaub’s gulls, crowned cormorants (during many years Robben Island supports the world’s largest colonies), Cape cormorants and kelp gulls breed here. There are also significant colonies of sacred ibis, African black oystercatchers, cattle egrets and little egrets. A diversity of other wildlife thrives on the island, including four species of antelope (springbok, bontebok, eland and steenbok), one deer species, and various reptiles. There are also two male ostriches, but they seldom venture into the penguin colony area.
Cape Town is a cosmopolitan city with both natural beauty and cultural sites in abundance. Robben Island is at the heart of South Africa’s history, having once housed the infamous prison where many political activists were held during the Apartheid era, most notably Nelson Mandela. Volunteers will be given a tour of the prison site and will learn much about the history of South Africa, both from talking with the South African staff on the project and from personnel on the island.