Volunteer with sharks in South Africa
Become part of a leading research expedition to discover more about the great white shark, the world’s favourite misunderstood creature. Spend your days out on the water – or even in the water, with some fantastic cage diving opportunities. You’ll be observing shark behaviour and contributing to forward thinking education and eco-tourism programmes
Dive with Great Whites – and help save them from extinction
Get to know, understand and protect members of the marine Big 5, spending each day out at sea contributing to an essential education and research mission. Based in what is known as the “great white capital of the world”, you will discover the complexities of marine conservation and develop an important understanding of these mighty creatures.
Volunteering along a beautiful stretch of South Africa’s rich coastline, you will work alongside the marine Big 5, comprising whales, great white sharks, cape fur seals, dolphins and the African penguin. You’ll become part of a passionate scientific research team, helping to monitor and observe the sharks in their natural habitat. Despite the fact that so many sharks are seen in this area of the world, very little is actually known about them.
In return for your hard work, you get unparalled access to sharks, using shark cages to see them from underwater as well as from the vantage points on the boat. You will gain new insights into conservation issues for sharks, as well as the local penguin colonies, and enjoy the amazing attractions on this rugged stretch of South African coastline.
What will I be doing?
Out on the eco-tourism and education boat every day, you will predominantly be helping out with shark spotting (all year round) and whale watching (June to December only) trips, educating visitors about marine conservation. Your days will invariably be spent out at sea during the morning and early afternoon, with various supplementary lectures and trips provided later in the day.
- Tourist trips: The research team take groups of tourists on shark and whale watching trips. You will be working alongside them, operating equipment, preparing the cage, recording data, helping with photography and looking after the passengers. You’ll never tire of seeing the wildlife along this coastline – whales lifting their flukes as they dive, penguins, dolphins and, of course, sharks! You are encouraged to get involved in the diving too!
- Monitoring: Whilst out on these trips you will help researchers in their work to identify the movement of the sharks throughout the year. This involves observing and identifying, tracking, monitoring responses, recording data and taking photographs. This research is crucial if we are to stop the continuing decline of shark populations around the world.
- Education and boat activities: You will be given plenty of training and development, including lectures on sharks and their habits. It won’t be long before you are contributing your own observations at lectures and feeling very much part of the team. Other activities include cleaning down the boats and wetsuits, data recording, photography and marketing. There are daily blogs, so budding writers are encouraged to help with writing and marketing.
- Extra conservation initiatives: Volunteers are also encouraged to take part in other conservation efforts, from painting penguin houses to helping out with local education programmes and doing beach clean ups. Conservation initiatives such bird surveys, shark egg collection and animal rescues are likely to feature too. These are great fun to get involved with, and really contribute to the local community.
This project is located in a beautiful coastal region of South Africa, close to the southern-most tip of the continent! There is plenty to do during your time off, both locally and further afield. Many trips are arranged for you, such as trips to local vineyards, the neighbouring town and also the beach. There is a vibrant lifestyle in this area of South Africa, with lots of great shops, cafes and bars to keep you busy – as well as Cape Town not far up the coast.
Accommodation and Food
Accommodation is located in lodge grounds 10 – 15 minutes walk away from the shark boat launch station. The lodge is equipped with four spacious chalets, each of which houses between four and six volunteers at one time. Contained within the grounds is a main living area with pool table, indoor braai (the South African BBQ) and spacious kitchen for cooking your evening meal. There is also a swimming pool and large garden to relax in after a day out on the boats.
A good breakfast is provided at the volunteer house, and lunch is given on the days that you are out at sea. Wireless internet is available at the accommodation, as well as satellite television and DVD player.
- The thrill of having a shark swimming towards you – still exciting even after several weeks!
- Seeing the sharks from above- watching the fins slowly approaching is a heart in mouth moment!
- Being part of a friendly team, working and socialising around a fantastic stretch of coast.
- Getting involved in the many volunteer opportunities, trips and the vibrant lifestyle on this rugged stretch of coast
- Helping a species that is dying out and contribute to reversing this sad trend.
Whyshould I do this?
Great white sharks are incredible creatures that are unfortunately desperately misunderstood. Experience the thrill of working closely to them, learning more about them and sharing your knowledge with others on a daily basis. Seeing a shark swimming in your direction whilst in the safety of the cage is an unforgettable experience, and one that is on many a bucket list. The best thing about this opportunity is that you can learn and conserve, with the opportunity to see sharks on a daily basis.
You will fly into Cape Town (CPT) on a Sunday. Your first night will be spent in a guest house in Cape Town, arranged by Oyster, before being collected the next day and transported out to the project site. Expect to see your first sharks that very same day!
Whilst on the project you will be supported by Christoff and Marlette, a married couple with a huge passion for conservation and preservation. Their combined experience of living overseas, working on nature reserves and their passion for people means that they are excellently placed to help you settle in and get you involved in the day to day conservation activities. They are firm advocates of sustainable living and the saying “what you do today will help in the future”. Their enthusiasm for this program and the amazing area they live in is truly infectious!
What is provided
- Before booking: Dedicated period of time on the phone or in person to discuss the project, answer any questions that you might have and find out more about you
- Pre-departure information covering medical, safety and placement advice
- Advice on visa requirements
- Help and advice from our UK office before departure and whilst away
- Pre-arranged voluntary work with accommodation.
- ATOL financial protection (if Oyster books your flight)
- Being met at Cape Town airport and taken to your first night guest house accommodation in Cape Town
- Collection from your guest house and transfer to the project site
- Assistance and support from our representative whilst on your placement
- Formal training session upon arrival, including health and safety, rules and regulations etc
- Internet access at the accommodation, along with swimming and pool table access
- Suitable gear for working with sharks, including cage diving
- Breakfast provided, as well as lunch when out on the boats
- Return transfer to Cape Town
- Donation to penguin houses project included
- Contribution to Oyster’s penguin house sponsorship
- Free access to InterHealth’s Travel Health Advice Service
- Oyster Worldwide volunteer t-shirt
On your return:
- Call from Anne to gather your feedback
- Welcome home pack
- Certificate of Recognition (on request)
- References (on request)
What do I need
- A passport valid for 6 months beyond the end of your placement
- Insurance – we recommend you a policy
- Return flights to Cape Town. We can help organise these.
- Sun block
- Anti sea sickness tablets
- Spending money – for food (approx £20 – £30 per week), eating out, trips etc
- Old clothing including shoes that can be worn at sea and on a boat
- Rain jacket
- Polarised sunglasses are great for helping you see the sharks better
- Warm clothing for the evening and out on the boat.
- Funds for any independent travel