South Africa

GREAT WHITE SHARK VOLUNTEER PROGRAM

MARINE CONSERVATION VOLUNTEER

Your passion for the ocean and love of the Great White Shark make you the ideal candidate for participation in our Great White Shark Volunteer Program. If you are keen on joining a marine conservation volunteer programme, this would be a good fit for you. More than just a good cause, this Program is aimed at enriching the lives of those that participate in it, as well as to raise awareness and education regarding the fierce and terrifying reputation of this majestic specimen of evolution. Making a real and tangible difference, while raising awareness and inspiring future Shark Ambassadors and Ocean Defenders, is something that money just can’t buy.

The mere mention of the Great White shark is enough to send people screeching, yet these powerful and grandiose creatures of the sea are gentle enough to be worked with on a daily basis, up close and personal. As South African’s we are exceptionally privileged to have our shoreline graced by these beauties, choosing to make their homes in the colder Atlantic Ocean coastal waters of this awe-inspiring country.
  • Age: min. 18
  • Location: Kleinbaai/Gansbaai, Western Cape
  • Requirements: 18 years, good physical fitness, flexible
  • Group size: max 15 participants
  • Project duration: 1 week - 8 weeks
  • Laundry: Approx. R70 per load
  • WIFI: The house has free wireless internet access and a good cell phone reception in the area
  • Linen/towels:Linen provided. There is a selection of towels but it is recommended you bring one of your own as well.
Location
The project is located in Gansbaai, about a 2 hour drive from Cape Town.

Requirements
The minimum age is 18 years old. There is no restriction in terms of max. age. Being fit and able to work are the main requirements due to the nature of the programme.

Training/qualifications
Training will be given on the Great White Shark and on how to work on the shark cage diving vessel. Students may be able to obtain university credit for their experience, depending on your university.

Tasks
The boat trips are launched from the small ocean town of Kleinbaai, just outside of the world famous Gansbaai, which is located approximately a 2-hour drive from Cape Town. Dedicated to the conservation and exploration of the Great White shark, tours cater predominantly for eco-tourists, volunteers and local enthusiasts, and run during the South African winter months of April through August. The trips take place 6 Nautical Miles (11km) off the coast, at either Dyer, or Geyser Island, trips usually taking around 20-minutes to reach the island of the day.

Dedicated, hard-working and passionate volunteers will be taught absolutely everything that they need to know. Primarily focused on creating awareness about the specie and their need for protection, the volunteer program focuses mainly on the eco-tourism cage diving, where volunteers will get to enjoy regular sea trips and stunning South African coastline views.

You will be prompted to get involved in as many activities as you can. These tasks include:
  • Boat check before trips
  • Ensure cleanliness of boat
  • Make sure equipment for diving, chumming, bait, food etc. are on boat
  • Assist with anchoring
  • Assist with securing the cage
  • Education of clients and general interaction with them
  • Assist clients as needed
  • Preparing and distributing wet-suits for clients
  • Chumming
  • Data recording
  • Data capturing
  • Writing for our blog
  • Constant and vigilant shark spotting
  • Point out sharks to crew, clients and fellow volunteers
  • Clean boat post-trip
  • Clean and put wet-suits away
  • Tuesdays assist at our recycle Swop Shop

Expeditions require an early start and a long day at sea. You will however get night times to relax with you fellow volunteers. Here are some of the practical aspects of the volunteer program that will be teaching you hands-on about the lives of Great White sharks, and what is needed for their protection and the conservation of the world’s oceans.

Cage Diving With Great White Sharks
As a volunteer you will be taught how to safely enter and exit the specifically designed and secure, 6-man steel cage which floats 1 meter below the waters’ surface. Additionally you will be taught how to remain safe and secure whilst inside the cage. Diving is done on a rotational basis, and each dive length is determined by the diver, the number of eco-tourists, as well as the activity of the sharks on that day. Cage divers will carry the additional responsibility of observing and recording the sharks sex, size, behaviour and specific markings. Each dive could potentially last up to half an hour.

White Shark Data Collection
While focusing on working both from above and below, volunteers will be taught how to identify shark and collect data from free-swimming sharks, paying close attention to their behaviour around the boat and the interactions that they share amongst each other. Education will take place in an informal environment, as volunteers learn about the history and behavioural patterns of the Great White shark, as well as the dire need for greater, more in-depth shark research. Volunteers will also be taught how to properly and correctly input data into our database.

Basic Seamanship
While out at sea it is absolutely essential that one knows some basic seaman skills, which of course volunteers will be taught. These skills include: wet suit and cage preparation, chumming, cage and anchor set-up, and of course, client well-being. On days not spent at sea, volunteers will be learning about shark biology, the Southern Right Whale, conservation efforts, the Cape Fur Seal and additional research and shark behaviour information.

Upon arrival
On arrival on the 1st /15th of every month you will receive a full induction into the program and meet the team you will be working with on land and out at sea. You will need to arrive the day before in Cape Town (30 / 31st or 14th) as collection will take place early on the 1st /15th to begin your program. Trips out to sea on the commercial shark vessel, is weather dependent. The aim for a minimum of 15 trips out to sea if you are on the 4 week program. One of these trips will be an exclusive – just yourselves and the crew out on the boat.

  • Lectures: Basic white shark biology, white shark behaviour, shark bite incidents (shark attacks), research and conservation, evolution, whales, seals, Gansbaai and a lecture on data capturing from the vessel. A trip to SASC (the South African Shark Conservancy), a nonprofit organisation they support through monthly donations (coming from your volunteer costs), and any upcoming research projects they need support with. This trip includes a talk given by the founder Meaghan McCord and if available a small species shark dissection. Their shark lab is based in Hermanus, around a 40 minute drive from where you will be staying.
  • Guest speaker talks : Katja Vinding Petersen a Danish whale expert in the area. Possible other talks depending on who is in the area at the time of your stay and available.
Accommodation & meals
You will be staying in a cosy brick house situated five minutes from the harbour, which bustles with action and boats as people head out to sea. The house is very comfortable with dorm rooms, a nice open plan kitchen dining area, a lounge with DSTV television and DVD player, board games, and an outside braai area for those hot evenings. There is a small supermarket nearby (volunteers usually buy provisions and prepare meals together) and the house is located in a very safe and beautiful area, where you can freely walk around during the day. You will be taken into town on allocated shopping days. Couples, friends or families volunteering together who wish private accommodation may reserve a double room for an additional cost per month.

The volunteer house has dormitory style accommodation and can sleep up to 9 people. Sometimes the rooms are mixed depending on the size of the group. In the peak volunteer season (July, August and September) sometimes another house is occupied if necessary and can take up to 15 volunteers.

Dates
The program starts every month on the 1st, and the 15th. You must arrive in Cape Town the day before as pick up times can be very early in the morning. Please bear in mind that the sooner you apply, the better your chances of securing your placement! You are required to sign an indemnity form acknowledging and accepting the consequences of working in close contact with wildlife. Applicants must be over 18 years old.

The program closes between 15 December to 15 January as this is the peak tourist season. Peak shark season is in winter time, May through August.

Rates

Duration Fees
2 weeks 15500 ZAR
3 weeks 20000 ZAR
4 weeks 24500 ZAR
Rates includes
  • Pre-departure information/advice on flights, visa, vaccinations, travel insurance by Intern Africa
  • Shared accommodation
  • Breakfast
  • Cage diving
  • Lectures
  • Transfer from and to Cape Town International airport – backpackers
  • First night at backpackers hostel
  • Return transfer to Gansbaai
Rates excludes
  • Flights/transfers to Cape Town
  • Visa fees (if required)
  • Travel Insurance
  • Lunch and dinner
  • Beverages
Click here to sign up.