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 shark cage diving with great white sharks so they can enjoy the excitement and feel the power of these animals for themselves while being educated by the marine biologist on board. This project also has a whale eco-tourism business and a penguin and seabird sanctuary, both of which you can be involved in. 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.
It is important to remember that we are working with wildlife and nature, both of which are unpredictable. We cannot guarantee sightings of any specific species. For this reason and in case of bad weather days, when we can’t go to sea, we recommend a 2-4 week mimimum stay. If you join us for a one-week stay, you might be very disappointed if you miss several days on the sea due to the weather conditions.
What's not Included
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 one of the last remaining colonies of endangered African 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 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.
As a volunteer on this project you will be completely involved in 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, Humpback 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. Volunteers can also sign up to support the activities at the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary or join a whale watching trip as part of their daily tasks (pending availability).
Time at Sea:
- Shark Cage diving
- Tourism education and helping tourists on board
- Population assessments of great white sharks through photographing fin ID’s, assisting with environmental data using a YSI, seabird data and other observational tasks as required
- Tagging and tracking white sharks happens depending on research schedule and volunteers are accommodated on these trips
- Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) studies take place quartlerly off the research boat
- Some research observation on whales, dolphins, penguins, seals, or seabirds (seasonal)
Daily work includes:
- 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-ups as needed
- Data input as needed
- Cleaning boats and preparing wetsuits
- Photo identification of species
- Helping out at the seabird rehabilitation center
- Supporting various conservation projects
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, or simply free time to explore the area.
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.
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/ Volunteers should be physically fit
- Minimum age of 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 (Included):
African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary: Volunteers 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
- Assisting and educating ecotourists
- Data Capturing
- Boat preparation and cleaning