Volunteer – Great White Shark Project

EKOSINI

WHAT WILL BE EXPECTED OF ME?

The volunteer programme is primarily focused on the project’s cage diving eco-tourism and volunteers will enjoy regular trips to sea to view / cage dive with the Great Whites.

The Great White Shark Project does its best to involve volunteers in all aspects of the project, including tasks such as preparing baits, packing the boat, washing the equipment, working with the eco-tourists, recording data on the sharks and even helping with the dishes. The expeditions encompass getting up early, working with great white sharks during long days at sea, and then relaxing with the crew or other volunteers at night!

The programme provides volunteers with hands-on, practical experience in working with Great White Sharks:

Cage Diving with Great White Sharks: Once anchored in the channel, the project makes use of a specially designed, secure, two man steel cage, which floats on the surface, with divers no more than 1m below the surface. Volunteers will be taught how to get in and out of the cage and how to remain secure and safe in the cage. Cage divers are responsible for recording observations on the Great Whites, including sex, size, markings and behaviour. Diving takes place on a rotational basis on good diving days. The duration of each dive depends on the diver, the number of eco-tourists and the activity of the sharks, but could be up to half an hour per dive.

White Shark Field Research Data Collection: Volunteers will be taught how to collect data in the field on free-swimming white sharks. At sea, you’ll be focused on working with the sharks from above and below the water, observing behaviour and the interactions of sharks around the boat. You will be educated in an informal environment, learning about the behaviour of the great whites, their history and the urgent need for research.

Basic Seamanship: Volunteers will also be taught basic seaman skills including boat handling, welding, trailer reversing, equipment maintenance and repairs.

In addition, talks and videos may be given in the evenings or off-sea days on Great White Shark biology, research, behaviour, conservation, changing attitudes, attacks, basic seamanship, underwater filming, still photography and tourism.

Upon completion of the program, the project provides volunteers with a certificate of accomplishment. The program is designed to train and educate volunteers to a level of competence of a field assistant.

Project Staff

Viewing the Great White Shark is a serious activity which should only be done with the right people, equipment and approach. The Great White Shark Project is one of the top shark organizations in the world and has the most experienced shark team in Africa. They have worked on and featured in over 30 white shark documentaries, including BBC, Discovery Channel and National Geographic; written articles for African Indigo, Outdoor Adventure, Dive Style, Peak Performances, Surf Magazine and Immersed; and lectured at institutions such as Cambridge University, the Royal Geographic Society, London University and the University of Stockholm. This background and knowledge, combined with an enthusiastic staff and excellent infrastructure, has resulted in an organization that produces high quality and successful Great White Shark expeditions.

HOW LONG CAN I VOLUNTEER FOR?

1 week and up. Most volunteers stay for 2-4 weeks, but longer is possible.

WHAT QUALIFICATIONS, IF ANY, DO I REQUIRE?

Training will be given in different aspects of marine conservation and shark research.  Students may be able to obtain university credit for their experience.

The Shark team accept volunteers of 16+ years of age.  Volunteers under 16 years old are only considered when accompanied by a parent/guardian.  There isn’t a maximum age limit, though a reasonable fitness level is necessary.

WHAT LANGUAGE WILL I NEED TO KNOW?

English

HOW DO I GET TO YOUR LOCATION?

The closest town to the Great White Shark Project is GANSBAAI – approximately 160kms from Cape Town.  Arrangements will be made to collect incoming volunteers from Cape Town.  We recommend that volunteers stay at The Backpack in Cape Town (www.backpackers.co.za) for inexpensive accommodation and “meet and greet” airport pickups.

The project prefers that volunteers start together on the 1st and 15th of every month. Volunteers just need to inform Enkosini Eco Experience of the date they are planning to arrive.  Volunteers 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.

ARE THERE ANY COSTS INVOLVED TO VOLUNTEER?

Click HERE to find out up to date costs and requirements for volunteering with GREAT WHITE SHARK PROJECT.

WHAT TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION, MEALS AND FACILITIES CAN I EXPECT TO BE AVAILABLE TO ME?

Volunteers stay in a delightful red brick house situated five minutes from the harbor, which bustles with action and boats as people head out to sea. Overlooking the Indian Ocean, the house is very comfortable with dorm rooms, five bathrooms, a nice kitchen, a dining area, a lounge with television and video/board games, and an outside patio for those hot evenings. There is a small supermarket nearby (volunteers usually buy provisions and prepare meals together, so you can purchase your own vegetarian/vegan foods as desired) and the house is located is a very safe and beautiful area, where you can freely walk around any time of day or night.

WHAT WILDLIFE SPECIES ARE THERE?

Great White Sharks! There may be an opportunity to catch a glimpse of penguins, dolphins as well as magnificent southern right whales coming up from Antarctica to breed from May to November.

WHAT ATTRACTIONS CAN I EXPERIENCE DURING FREE-TIME?

Will there be weekends off? No, but yes… The weather along the Western Cape of South Africa is not stable, and the sea does not allow field work every day. Nevertheless Kleinbaai is comparatively sheltered, allowing us to go out at sea very often. You will have days off whenever the weather and sea conditions do not allow for field work. Sometimes, we have long periods during which the weather is nice and after 4-5 days at sea, we will then take a couple of days break. Why? Well, being at sea is very tiring, constantly balancing yourself, baking in the hot sun and being blown by the winds, so after a few days at sea, your body will need a rest.

If you wish to have a day off or take some time off if you are with us for a long stay you just need to coordinate with your supervisor at the project.

IN CONCLUSION

South Africa has long been known for its abundance of Great White Sharks, making it a prime area to observe these magnificent creatures. The Great White Shark, which grows up to seven meters (23 feet) in length and 4 tons in weight, is now a protected species in South Africa. Owing to massive negative media publicity over the years, sharks have become one of the most maligned, misunderstood, even hated species on our fragile planet. They have been pursued, hunted and indiscriminately slaughtered, to the point where many species are endangered. Unsustainable fishing practices, dorsal fin poaching and environmental degradation compounded by a relatively slow Great White breeding cycle are all factors contributing to the potential demise of this amazing creature.

The Great White Shark Project is dedicated to the exploration and conservation of the world’s greatest predator, the Great White Shark, and its environment. The project works with students, eco-tourists, scientists, conservation organizations and marine resource users (subsistence fishermen, sport divers and dive operators) to gather data on Great White Sharks, correct negative misconceptions about sharks, and stop the needless slaughter of over 100 million sharks annually. Current programs involve eco-tourism, public education, environmental advocacy, visual tracking, and behavioural studies of sharks.

The Great White Shark Project runs out of Klein Bay, which is just outside of Gansbaai, South Africa – a seaside village located approximately two hours southeast of Cape Town on the Indian Ocean coast. The shark trips primarily take place off Dyer and Geyser Islands, about 6 nautical miles (11 km) or a 20 minute boat trip offshore. The boats anchor in the 6 meter deep channel (“Shark Alley”) between Dyer and Geyser Islands. Dyer Island (larger island) is a breeding ground of Jackass Penguins, Cape Cormorants and Gannets, while Geyser Rock (smaller island) is a breeding ground for approximately 60,000 Cape Fur Seals. Shark Alley is a magnet for Great White Sharks due to this breeding colony of seals, their favorite prey, and is a wonderful area for cage diving as there are reefs, islands and huge kelp beds which all provide protection from the open sea swell and wind.  Please note that the cage diving location is subject to change depending on the weather conditions and location of the sharks.

Finding the Great White Shark is a skill, involving years of practice – the water temperature, depth, visibility, swell height, current and wind direction are all major factors. Over the years, the project has successfully “tagged” over 400 sharks, allowing them to track and record shark activity. Great White Sharks are surface feeders, so volunteers will be spellbound when seeing the Great White lift its head right out of the water to take the bait, and sometimes breach completely. Divers will get to experience Great Whites from the safety of cages, while non-divers have a great opportunity to view the sharks from the safety of the boat, where exhilarating photographs and video footage may be captured at close range. In Shark Alley, you will likely also see seals, penguins and the occasional dolphins frolicking near the islands, as well as magnificent southern right whales coming up from Antarctica to breed from May to November. These expeditions are more than just thrill-seeking adventures, they are educational experiences.

For more information on ENKOSINI ECO EXPERIENCE, please visit www.enkosini.org

For important information on travelling overseas, please read ‘KNOW BEFORE YOU GO WILD!‘