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This project places volunteers with a Fair Trade Tourism and Blue Flag certified research and eco-tourism organization devoted to promoting marine conservation and education within the community and to tourists. The two cornerstones of this project are marine conservation and research and taking tourists out to go cage diving with sharks so they can enjoy the excitement and feel the power of these animals for themselves. In addition, the project works on community development projects and education projects in the community so locals can understand the need to protect the biodiversity in the area.

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Location of the Project:  Gansbaai, South Africa
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Project length:  Min 1 week - Max 12 weeks (4 weeks is the recommended stay)
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Arrival Airport:  Cape Town International Airport (CPT)
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Volunteer Work:  Cage diving with Great White sharks, marine conservation
Age:  18-80
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Number of Volunteers:  12 - 20 international volunteers
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Important Note:  Diving equipment, jacket, and boots are provided. Guided tour of Gansbaai and the surrounding areas included.

What's Included

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Accommodations:  Shared mini cottages for up to 4 - 6 people each
Food:  Breakfast
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Airport Transfers:  Pick up from Cape Town City Center (Note - not from the airport)
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Insurance:  Comprehensive travel health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage
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Support:  Local in-country team and 24-hr emergency support

What's not Included

Flights, telephone use, dinner (~$90/week), personal expenses, visa *Depending on arrival date and time - volunteers may have to organize accommodation for one night in Cape Town City Center

Gansbaai (Gans Bay; Bay of Geese), South Africa is known as the Great White Shark capital of the world. Just a two hour drive from Cape Town, this beautiful coastal city is home to an abundance of both land and marine wildlife. Its coastal islands are home to huge populations of seals and penguins while the channel in between them is called "Shark Alley," due to the densest population of Great White sharks in the world. The Bay is also a vitally important breeding area for endangered Southern Right whales, which migrate from their feeding grounds in Antarctica to mate and breed here from July-December. Surrounding the bay is a pristine yet rugged landscape with rich floral biodiversity and ancient Milkwood forests.

You will be completely involved in the eco-tourism (cage diving) and conservation work throughout your stay. While working alongside marine biologists, you will learn about  the behaviors of the marine species in the area including Southern Right whales, Humpack whales, Bryde's whales and a variety dolphins. You can learn about how researchers track marine life and what data needs to be recorded. You will also assist on the tourist boat by helping cage divers and educating visitors, plus you will have the opportunity to go cage diving yourself  to get up-close and personal with Great White sharks.

Time at Sea:

  • Tracking sharks (dependent on weather and not guaranteed)
  • Cage diving
  • Tourism education and helping tourists on board
  • 'Chum' trips - bringing sharks close to the boat to assess populations (also dependent on weather and not guaranteed)
  • Some research observation on whales, dolphins, penguins, seals, or sea birds (seasonal)
Daily work includes:
  • Photo identification of species
  • Assisting in the daily diving operations (including taking part in the dives)
  • Assisting the skipper and crew in various duties
  • Laying and retrieving of anchors
  • Assisting with clients
  • Working with local children in education and beach clean-up
  • Data input
  • Cleaning boats and preparing wetsuits
A typical day: You may find yourself educating cage divers about sharks and ongoing conservation methods before they cage dive or spend the morning on the research boat. In the afternoon, you could be cleaning the boat and wetsuits or working with local children to clean up the beach. You will work every day, weather permitting, for about 5-8 hours per day. During inclement weather, there will be organized excursions, educational lectures, or simply free time to explore the area.

Please note that volunteer activities can change at any time due to the needs of the project.

Internet
Internet:  WiFi is available throughout the accommodations. There is a shared computer and wireless network available at the volunteer houses.
Laundry
Laundry:  Laundry can be sent out on Monday mornings and returned on Tuesday for a small fee (about US$1.50 per kg). Bed linens will be washed weekly.
Accommodations
Accommodations:  You will be staying in 1 of 4 shared cottages within the project's facilities. Each cottage will house 4 to 6 volunteers and includes bed linens, a bathroom, mini kitchen, and living space with heating. The complex also has a main house where the volunteer coordinators and full-time janitor are housed. The main hall has a large communal living space, fully equipped kitchen, pool table, satellite TV, and a DVD player. There is a communal swimming pool, bicycles, and large garden area on the grounds for volunteers to use as well. The complex is about a 10 to 15 minute walk from the project offices and there is a bus for the volunteers to use for transportation as they wish. The project offices are equipped with a safe to lock up valuables if needed.
Food:  Light breakfast including coffee, tea and cereal is provided. Lunch is provided and eaten aboard the boats. You are responsible for dinner, snacks, and any other personal expenses. The typical food budget for volunteers is about $90/week. The water at the accommodations is safe to drink.

Please take note of the project's minimum requirements:

  • Love for marine animals
  • Willingness to get hands dirty
  • Work well in a team and take directions from the skipper and crew
  • Ability to swim
  • Min age 18
  • Immunizations (consult your doctor)
  • It is highly recommended to bring seasickness tablets, as there is a lot of work to be done at sea.

Volunteer Add-ons (Not Included):
African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary: Volunteers staying 4 or more weeks at the Great White Shark Conservation Project have the option to assist at the sanctuary as well (dependent on availability, number of birds at the sanctuary at any given time, and volunteer skills and experience). Those who choose this add-on may expect to be involved in the following tasks:

  • Assisting visitors
  • Handling administrative tasks at the reception desk
  • General cleaning
  • Preparing food for the sanctuary's inhabitants
  • Data capturing
  • Shadowing the staff  
Whale Conservation: Volunteers will have the option to assist at a local whale tourism and conservation organization, which conducts studies on the biology and behaviors of marine species, with a strong focus on eco-tourism, conservation efforts and education. Please note this project only operates from June-November. Those who choose this add-on may expect to be involved in the following tasks:
  • Assisting clients with life jackets on the eco-trip vessel
  • Data Capturing
  • Boat preparation and cleaning
Please notify us prior to registering if you would like to assist at the sanctuary and/or the Whale Conservation Project. 

Please note: This project is completely weather dependent and there will be days when the weather is too bad to go to sea. On these days, volunteers will have excursions or lectures arranged for them by the volunteer coordinators. 

Volunteer Experiences
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