- Why do people like doing this?
- Typical Day
- When is the best time to see great white sharks?
- Is shark cage diving a good thing?
- Do I need to get in the cage to see the sharks?
- Is cage diving safe?
- Do I need to know how to scuba dive?
- How cold is the water?
- How long will we stay on the ocean?
- What does the research contribute to?
- Why do the sharks come near the boat?
- What free time activities are there in the area?
- The Season
- Time Zone
- Distance from town
- Transport to town
- Cost of a beer
- Cost of a coke
- Cost of internet
- Communication with home
- Background Reading and Information
- Current Exchange Rate
Why do people like doing this?
This placement would suit any nature lover, but is particularly good for someone with an interest in marine biology, conservation and also eco-tourism. There is a particular focus on teaching volunteers about sharks, conservation and the marine environment, with daily lectures and additional advice. Volunteers come away with a lot of factual knowledge, but also some useful practical skills to enhance their CV. They will get experience at all sorts of levels, from detailed scientific research, cage diving and underwater photography to boat maintenance!
For a lucky few, staying a minimum of 3 weeks and who have a specific scientific interest in marine biology, there is the opportunity to get out to sea on the purpose-built research vessels. This would be working on the detailed research projects, so you would need a scientific mind!
In addition, the boat trips, the encounters with sharks, the social life and the beautiful local scenery make this a truly memorable trip.
The day starts early, meeting the team with which you are going out on the boat for that day. You will meet and greet the tourists and help them get ready for their trip. Once on the boat you will be helping with general boat duties until you get out to the stopping point for viewing the sharks. You will be observing the sharks from the boat or from a cage in the water, photographing them and recording marks and injuries. You will be chatting to the tourists and sharing your experience and knowledge with them- which will grow very quickly with the lectures that you attend! After lunch you will concentrate on research, recording data, uploading photos and writing observations. You might also attend a lecture. In the evening you can cook a meal with fellow volunteers or enjoy a braai, watching the sun set over the spectacular bay. Alternatively, you could visit the bars and restaurants nearby.
When is the best time to see great white sharks?
South Africa is one of the few white shark hot spots in the world, offering the best opportunities to observe these sharks in their natural environment throughout the year. The colony of about 60,000 cape fur seals in the bay attracts one of the densest and most accessible populations of great white sharks in the world. Shark sightings are a daily occurence throughout the year, with a peak in Southern Hemisphere winter May - September.
Is shark cage diving a good thing?
Yes, if it is done properly, with respect towards the sharks, the other wildlife in the area and the general ecosystem according to the regulations in place. The mission for this project is to change people's mindset and attitudes towards great white sharks through education and appreciation. This change in the public's perception is vital to establish an appreciation of, and thus conservation of this wonderful species.
Do I need to get in the cage to see the sharks?
No. This is one of the great advantages with sharks in that they are very active at the surface and can be observed from the boat without having to go into the shark cage. Surface viewing from the boat is often better than from the cage, as the underwater visibility is often limited (3-6 meters on average). Surface viewing is great and provides you with the best opportunities to capture these amazing and beautiful animals on camera!
Is cage diving safe?
Yes. The South African cage-diving industry is regulated by a Code of Conduct and regulations from Marine and Coastal Management (DEAT - Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism). Apart from minor injuries due to the boat or cage itself, and sea-sickness and dehydration, no injuries or accidents to guests have been recorded in over ten years.
Do I need to know how to scuba dive?
In most conditions, we prefer not to use scuba equipment which produces a lot of noise and bubbles under the water, which often keeps the sharks from coming close. If you are a qualified scuba diver and would like to see the sharks in this way, we will provide you with a regulator to dive in the cage once everyone else has had their share. Having said this, the experience is much better if you simply hold your breath when going under!
How cold is the water?
The water temperatures do vary during the season, but you should expect10 -15 degrees in the winter months (June - September), and 15 - 20 degrees in the summer months (November - March)
How long will we stay on the ocean?
The launch is generally between 8 and 10 in the morning. The time spent on the ocean depends mostly on the sharks- sometimes you might even need to wait for a couple of hours! Moreover, sharks present different personalities, and although curious by nature, they are generally very cautious, and while some sharks will sometimes stay around the boat for hours, most sharks only remain around the boat for 5 to 15 minutes... The return to shore is usually after about 4 - 6 hours.
What does the research contribute to?
The research trust is well-respected in the field and includes expert scientists and entrepreneurs among its trustees. It has worked in partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs; CapeNature; SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Care of Coastal Birds); research units at the University of Cape Town and the University of Pretoria; the WWF and various local conservation organisations.
The work includes taking hundreds of thousands of photographs, allowing sharks to be identified and tracked for research work on global shark populations. This has also contributed to the latest scientific information on the incredible wound healing of the great white shark. Currently research is being done to look at how environmental conditions affect shark behaviour as well as studying the activity of parasites on sharks.
Why do the sharks come near the boat?
Sharks are attracted using chum, which creates a scent trail to the boat. Research suggests that this does not have an adverse effect on the natural behaviour of sharks, as long as the chum is only dispersed where the sharks are already active (following their seasonal behaviours) and the sharks are not fed. This organisation follows strict protocols to that effect and has been at the forefront of campaigns to ensure shark products are not included in chum. Chumming is used to formulate research on the great white shark, which is severely lacking to date.
What free time activities are there in the area?
The Gansbaai area is popular with tourists because of its beautiful scenery and marine life. There are some excellent cafes, bars and restaurants within easy reach of your accommodation if you fancy an outing after work.
This is a perfect destination for nature lovers. If you haven't got tired of being on the water, you can take a boat trip out to see African penguins and the fur seal colonies at Dyer Island - a very impressive sight. Trekking is popular along the local coastline where you can explore large shoreline caves and sandy beaches. The cliffs and hills are beautiful too, with their covering of shrubs, fynbos and flowers - many of them quite rare.
Cape Town is under 2 hours drive away and well worth a visit. You could simply hang out on its lively waterfronts, but the more intrepid should visit Table Mountain for its magnificent views or take a tour of Robben Island (Nelson Mandela's prison for 28 years).
There are loads of things that you can get involved with locally. Here are just a few options with some prices:
- Horse-riding ( approx £25)
- Quad biking ( approx £25)
- Cave hiking
- Beach activities
- Paintballing ( approx £15)
- Wine tasting (approx £15)
- Kayaking (approx £25)
There are often trips to Cape Agulas (the southernmost point of Africa), Hermanus (local town great for shopping and wine tasting) and Cape Town.
We are very proud of the accommodation on this project. Nestled on lodge grounds about 15 minutes away from the main boat house, the four chalets provide home to up to 20 volunteers at one time. There is a great atmosphere here, with a lovely garden with swimming pool, pool table, braai and a well-equipped kitchen for cooking up your dinners. It is just a short walk from the village centre and is equipped with wifi and dvd player in the lounge.
This area of South Africa has a Mediterranean Maritime climate, with moderately hot summers, and mild to chilly winters. It is one of the richest rainfall areas in South Africa, with most rain occurring in the winter months. The area is perennially green, making it a beautiful region to visit.
Being in the southern hemisphere, summer is from November to March, with mid-summer daily temperatures of about 24-30ºC. From April through to September, temperatures start cooling down, with average daytime temperatures in the low 20s. During the winter months the days can still be warm (up to 20ºC), but expect chilly nights.
South Africa is two hours ahead of GMT.
A special three pin plug can be purchased at most airports.
Distance from town
The accommodation is an easy 15 minute walk from the main shark house and all village facilities. The village is based on the rugged coastline, and the sunsets are glorious.
Transport to town
You will be based at Kleinsbaii, but there will be daily opportunities to get a lift into Gansbaii, which has a larger selection of shops and cafes.
Cost of a beer
A beer should cost about 8-10 rand
Cost of a coke
A coke should cost about 5 rand
Cost of internet
Internet is available free of charge on site.
Communication with home
There is internet available at your accommodation, as well as at internet cafes in nearby towns. There is mobile phone coverage in the area. You can purchase a sim card in Gansbaai.
Background Reading and Information
For extra information on white sharks, we would recommend National Geographic's website http://animals.nationalgeographic.co.uk/animals/fish/great-white-shark/
There are a number of useful guides available including the well known rough guide and lonely planet which provide good overall advice on visiting this region of South Africa.
Current Exchange Rate
1 British Pound = 0 South African Rand
This information should be used as a guide only.
Currency data has been provided by a third party source.