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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 of 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:
Daily work includes:
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.
Internet: WiFi is available throughout the accommodations. There is a shared computer and wireless network available at the volunteer houses.
Laundry: Laundry can be sent away twice weekly. It is a same-day service for a small fee (about US$1.50 per kg). Bed linens will be washed weekly.
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 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 minibus for the volunteers for all program activities. Each cottage is 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:
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:
Whale Conservation: Whale trips (June to November) and eco trips throughout the year are conducted by the partner company and 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:
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.
Scuba Certification: For an additional fee, volunteers who are staying a duration of at least 3-4 weeks can become NAUI SCUBA certified during their time on this volunteer project. (The recommended minimum duration is four weeks to allow for bad weather days.) This course is not always offered throughout the year, it depends on the season and availability. Volunteers will be required to provide proof of having completed a medical examination that certifies you fit to do a scuba course and dive up to 18m. Please remember to bring this certificate/letter with you!