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Great White Shark and Marine Conservation

Overview

The world’s shark population is increasingly under threat and you can play a pivotal role in helping to observe and conserve the most magnificent and misunderstood member of the family, the Great White. Putting on your bravest face, you’ll work hand in hand with marine biologists as they research these fascinating creatures, their behaviour and environment. You’ll share your newfound knowledge with visitors on shark cage diving cruises and may even have the unique opportunity to help with tagging and tracking sharks. Last but most definitely not least, you’ll go cage diving with the sharks for an unforgettable face to face experience of these incredible predators – and take your own photos as proof! In your free time you’ll be able to explore the beautiful coastline of the Western Cape and head further afield to experience the rest of incredible South Africa.

Trip Highlights:

A once in a lifetime experience getting close to Great White sharks and seeing these amazing predators in their natural habitat.

Getting into the water to cage dive with Great Whites.

Being part of research teams who are crucial to the conservation of this unique shark.

Learning all there is to know about them from the experts

At a Glance

Project duration: Min 2 weeks - max 4 weeks

Location of project: Kleinbaai, 180 kms south east of Cape Town

Arrival airport: Cape Town (airport code CPT) arrive by 4.15pm at the latest

Activities: Helping with daily shark cage diving operation and tourists; data collection and observations; recording and logging data; assisting crew with bait, dive gear, the cage, cleaning the boat and wetsuits; environment surveys and community projects.

Working hours: No fixed itinerary as the project is dependent on the weather. Days off will be scheduled accordingly.

Requirements: Minimum age 18

Accommodation: Shared room in a chalet sleeping between four and six people. Each chalet has a kitchen, lounge, bathroom and 2 bedrooms.

Food: Breakfast included (cereal, tea, coffee and sugar) and lunch if on the boat. All other meals are self-catering (budget approximately US$50 per week)

Airport pickup: Included on arrival date – please ask us for details if you’re arriving early. Transfer back to Cape Town or the airport at the end of the trip also included (book your flight after 8.30pm on the last day to be at the airport in time).

You need to organise: Flights, insurance, visas, food as detailed above

Your Role

This is an amazing opportunity to see sharks in their natural environment, either from a boat or a cage, and to learn about marine wildlife and ecosystems in the area. You'll be getting involved in the vital work which helps preserve this incredible species and their environment. 

On every trip a dedicated marine biologist from various worldwide academic institutions is there to guide volunteers, increasing their knowledge of the target species and ecology of the area in which they operate during the set trips. Conservation partner, DICT, is a leader in marine conservation with fulltime marine biologists studying great white sharks, African penguins and various other ecological phenomena. Volunteers will take part in the data capturing for these studies on board of a Shark diving vessel.

Your help in collecting data and helping with research is very important in the observation and protection of these sharks. Some activities you’ll be involved in are:

Shark cage diving expeditions: working with tourists and assisting the crew with baits, chum, cage, dive gear and cleaning. In the process you’ll have time to dive yourself, observing the sharks and taking photographs. You will help in research with the marine biologists on board and, funding- and weather- dependent, may have a chance to be involved in tagging and tracking the sharks.

Dorsal fin identification: Each shark’s fin is unique, and images of it can be matched to the Great White database. This information is important in shark monitoring on a local, national and global scale.

Predation studies: observing and monitoring predator-prey interactions (usually between sharks and seals)

Whale-watching expeditions: if you’re here from July to December, you can join one of the whale trips where you’ll help with data collection and observations, looking particularly for bite marks on seals, birds and dolphins, and entangled animals.

Environmental surveys: These walks are a great opportunity to learn and get hands-on experience. Conducted regularly, you’ll participate in beach walks, beach clean ups, hikes, shark egg case walks and rocky shore ecology.

Community projects: You can help the local community by teaching kids from the local schools about the Marine Big 5 (dolphins, whales, seals, sharks and penguins), cleaning up beaches, assisting in the making and deployment of penguin houses and fishing line bins.

You’ll become an expert on shark behaviour and biology, history of shark attacks, identifying sharks, how to photograph marine wildlife, ocean conservation at the tip of Africa and so much more.

You also have the opportunity to add your own education and training to the mix. Many of the crew come from underprivileged homes and have not travelled outside South Africa. They love to learn from and make friends with friendly volunteers.

There’s a huge variety of activities and tasks, you’ll never be bored! Be prepared for some early mornings – but these are often the most beautiful part of an African day.

Boat trips are weather-dependent so you’ll need to be flexible and go with the flow.

You’ll find most of what you need at the project. However, you may like to bring your own snorkel, mask and flippers or you can rent some from a shop in-country.

This program will suit anyone who loves the ocean, marine wildlife, shark fanatics, whale enthusiasts(seasonally) and people who want to learn more about how eco-tourism benefits conservation – especially those who are pursuing a career in Biology or Zoology (lengthy time spent as a volunteer can be used to gain university credits (subject to credit criteria of
individuals universities).

Itinerary

Day 1 (Monday) – hello and welcome!

Arrive at Cape Town International Airport (airport code CPT) before 4.15pm to be in time for orientation at 5pm. You’ll be met at the airport and taken to our volunteer house in Fish Hoek where you’ll spend the night. The journey takes about 45 minutes and you’ll see the magnificent Table Mountain on the way! Orientation will take you through what you can expect from your project, dos and don’ts and how to stay safe. It’s also a great opportunity to ask any burning questions you’ve got. After orientation you’ll have dinner and some time to relax and prepare for the exciting day tomorrow.

Note: If you aren’t able to arrange a flight to get you into Cape Town before 4.15pm then we recommend you fly in a day early. We can arrange an early airport pickup for you including one night’s accommodation. Please give us a call for more information.

Day 2 (Tuesday) – off to the shark spot!

The team will take you on the scenic 2.5 hour drive to Kleinbaai, 180kms southeast of Cape Town. You’ll be picked up at around 5am so get your coffee ready, it’s an early morning!

On arrival you’ll meet the crew and staff that you’ll be working with. If there’s time and decent weather you may even be able to go out on the boat to see your first sharks! When you get back you’ll watch the DVD of your boat trip and spend time with the onsite volunteer coordinators who will explain your duties and responsibilities for the program and give you run down on house rules, safety and so on. (This will either be on day 1 or 2). Next, they’ll take you grocery shopping and then to the volunteer lodge were you’ll be staying for the duration of your placement. Relax and settle in, then join your fellow volunteers for a traditional South African barbeque (braai) round the fire, a great way to get to know each other. The team will let you know what’s happening the next day and you can ask any questions.

Day 3 (Tuesday) – let’s get started!

Meet the crew an hour before launch for a briefing and then have the awesome opportunity to take the boat trip as a tourist, cage diving with the sharks and learning what it’s like from the guests’ point of view.

The team will work out a schedule for your coming weeks, with days off and land-based days included. However, it’s all weather and season permitting so nothing is set in stone - prepare to be flexible and change if necessary. Volunteers can take time off whenever they want but they need to inform the coordinator in advance.

Day 4 (Wednesday) and weeks to follow – keep it up!

You’ll spend your time on the project learning about the sharks and observing their behaviour. You’ll help with regular boat duties, assisting tourists and recording and logging data. If data is your particular interest, please let the crew and marine biologist know. On the whale boat (from July to December) you’ll help collect data and make observations such as bite marks on
seals, birds and dolphins.

On your off days, there’s so much to do in the area. And if you have two or more days in a row, feel free to venture further afield and enjoy the many exciting attractions that the Western Cape has to offer, from the highest bungee jump in the world to golden beaches and safaris.

Your last day – goodbye, we’ll miss you

It’s time to say goodbye and hamba kahle (go well in Zulu). You’ll be transferred back to Cape Town city centre or the airport, leaving in the afternoon and arriving in Cape Town at approximately 5pm. If you’re flying on this day, please book your flight for after 8.30pm. Alternatively, enjoy a special last night in beautiful Cape Town.

About the Project

Shark populations worldwide are increasingly threatened and it’s only by getting to know these mysterious species intimately that we can work to save them. Much research is still needed to get to know them. Kleinbaai, where the project is based, is known as the best place in the world to see (and research) Great White sharks in their natural habitat. The project you’ll work on is a boat-based, marine ecotourism company which gives tourists an unforgettable experience as they go out and see whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, sharks and many species of rare pelagic birds that live close to the shore. They are also deeply involved in research and conservation and provide volunteers with a holistic, fun and most unforgettable experience of Africa and its oceans.

While you're here

Accommodation

You’ll be staying in comfortable chalet accommodation which sleeps between four and six people. Each chalet has a kitchen, lounge, bathroom (with western toilets and hot running water) and two bedrooms. In the main house there is a fully equipped communal kitchen, lounge with TV and DVD player, pool table, table tennis table, lovely garden and outside swimming pool as well as a lecture room. 

Meals

Dinners are self-catering, breakfast is provided (cereal, tea, coffee, sugar) aswell as lunch. We recommend that you budget between £200 / USD$360 per month for groceries. The team takes you grocery shopping once a week in the local town and you can cook all your meals in the well equipped kitchen. Or you can take a quick stroll into town if you’d like to eat out or get takeaway.

Facilities and the area

There is a safe in each chalet for your valuables. Take care not to leave anything lying around.

There is internet and WiFi at the house and access to a mobile phone in case of emergencies.

Public phones are available in Kleinbaai, or bring your mobile phone with you. Check with your provider about international roaming and its costs, or simply purchase a local sim card.

A housekeeper cleans the accommodation once a week. Please keep the house clean in the meantime.

The house is within walking distance of the coast, town and the project so travel is not an issue and won’t cost you anything.

Kleinbaai and Gansbaai are the two local towns for your food supplies, restaurants and bars. Taxi to Gansbaai is approximately R10 and some local restaurants will pick up and drop off local volunteers in the evening.

 There’s a laundry in town, approximately R 15/kg.

Area attractions:

Betty's Bay penguin colony

Cape Aghulhas – most Southern tip of Africa 

Wine tasting in Hermanus

Horse riding

Quad biking

Kayaking

Skydiving 

Whale watching (in season)

Cape Town and all its amazing attractions.

What to bring:

Old clothing to wear at sea· 
Old shoes for use on the boat (water boots will be provided) and sneakers for hikes· 
Snorkel, mask and flippers (rental gear is available if you prefer, and a mask, wetsuit and diving gear is provided for shark cage diving) 
Rain jacket· 
Warm clothing for evenings and on the boat.· 
Polarized sunglasses 
Towel 
Pocket money 
Personal journal or notebook 
Camera 
Sun hat 
Sun cream 
Motion/sea sickness tablets· 
Please note that the weather can become quite cold during the months of May to September, please remember to bring some warm clothes with you.

Advice & Safety

Throughout your programmes you will have the support and guidance of the programme co-ordinator and team. You will be provided with competent assistance and help with any questions or advice you may need during your stay and someone will always be available in case of emergency.

What you get

Expert help-desk

We're always available to offer support and guidance before, during and after your trip.

Thorough project briefing materials

Once you’ve booked you'll receive a full pack of all the information you need for the project. It contains general information about volunteering, your specific project and South Africa as well as advice on safety, visas and inoculations.

Airport pickup

Don’t worry about arriving in a new country on your own. We’ll be there to welcome you and take you to your accommodation.

Arrival orientation

Soon after you arrive you’ll attend a thorough orientation with our team. It covers everything you need to know about your next few days, dos and don’ts and your safety. You can ask any questions and find out more about the fun stuff to do around Cape Town and South Africa.

Accommodation and meals

Accommodation is included with all projects and meals are included with some. We only use locally-owned and operated accommodation so that part of your placement fee is filtering back into the local economy. Most projects offer homestay, guesthouse or shared volunteer houses as standard accommodation, but some offer the chance to upgrade to a more comfortable living standard.

24/7 emergency support

We’re always on hand in case of an emergency.

After you've booked

  • You will receive a welcome email confirming your booking
  • You’ll receive a full project pack with all the info you need
  • You’ll be asked for any extra info if we need it – such as doctor’s notes for medical conditions, or maybe a CV on some projects
  • You’ll need to pay if you haven’t paid already (at least 90 days before travelling)

Then the fun starts!

Next you should:

  • Book your flights
  • Arrange suitable travel insurance
  • Get a visa for your trip if it's needed
  • Visit a nurse or travel clinic for advice on inoculations and malaria prevention
  • Start packing and come and join us!

*Remember to keep our contact details in a safe place in your hand luggage in case you need to contact us during your travels.

About South Africa

South Africans are patriotic and passionate about their country. And it’s not despite the country’s famously troubled history – it’s because of it! The people of this democratic country are so proud of how far they have come from the dark days of Apartheid and it makes us grateful for the diversity of cultures and languages that make up our amazing rainbow nation.

South Africa is a country of diversity in so many ways. It’s not a big country but travelling across the length and breadth of it, you’ll encounter an incredible range of climates and landscapes. There’s beautiful Cape Town, with its Mediterranean feel, pristine white beaches, sparkling oceans and magnificent Table Mountain providing the craggy backdrop for every setting. Travel east along the Garden Route with its picture-postcard coastal villages and you’ll eventually reach Durban and surrounds, a tropical area where the sun shines almost every day, the sea is warm and the surfing is fantastic! Then there’s the rugged Drakensberg mountain range, a place of rich Zulu heritage, spectacular views and jagged sweeps of peaks.  Further north you’ll hit South Africa’s famous ‘veld’ or bush where you’ll find Africa’s big five and many thousands of other species of animals, hiding out in landscapes that are lit at sunset by the most vivid orange, pinks and purples.

There are so many things to see and do here that you’ll need years. But if your time is limited, here’s our top five must-dos:

Game viewing

You can’t come to Africa and not experience the amazing animals, the wild and beautiful African bush and the chorus of an African dawn. Kruger National Park is the most popular choice but there are a host of other parks in the northern parts of South Africa and the Free State as well as KwaZulu-Natal, offering a range of options from the most luxurious accommodation with chefs at your service to DIY game viewing and camping.

Adrenalin adventures

Adventure is the name of the game in this crazy country and if it’s outdoors and adrenalin-inducing, you’ll find it here. From the highest bungee jump and highest commercial abseiling in the world to shark cage diving, downhill mountain biking, trail running, walking safaris, big wave surfing and multi-day hiking, there’s something for ever thrill seeker.

Beaches

South Africa has thousands of miles of glorious coastline, with Blue Flag beaches and hidden gems dotted along its length. There’s beaches for the glamorous, where you can go to see and be seen, beaches perfect for families, beaches for walking, beaches for swimming and beaches for watersports. There’s probably beaches which have never been trodden by a tourist before. Go on, we dare you to find it!

Nightlife, restaurants and entertainment

No holiday would be complete without a few good nights out and South Africa knows how to entertain. With so many cultures making up our population, there’s loads of delicious food on offer full of every fresh ingredient you could think of. There are pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes to suit every taste. South Africa is famous for its wonderful wines and there’s a craft beer revolution happening right here. Pack your dancing shoes!

A taste of township and culture

South Africa has a rich, tumultuous history dotted with dismal lows and incredible highs – and full of astounding stories from amazing people. It’s what makes South Africa the colourful place it is. Museums of every shape and size document the various aspects of our human and natural history, arts and culture – you’ll find them all over the country. Or why not take a township tour and experience the true heart of South African culture?  If you’re visiting Cape Town, come to Kommetjie and visit Masiphumelele with the Township Sisters, our special Volunteer and Explore partners, and help support the sustainable development of this vibrant township.

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