Marine conservation in South Africa
Take a trip on the wild side as a volunteer with sharks in South Africa. Become part of an exciting expedition to discover more about the great white shark, the world’s favourite misunderstood creature. If that’s not a big enough draw for you, you can also volunteer with penguins or go out on the boats to spot whales, dolphins and seals. Not close enough? Tick an item off the bucket list and go cage diving with sharks too!
Volunteering along a beautiful stretch of South Africa‘s rich coastline, you will work with the marine Big 5, comprising whales, great white sharks, cape fur seals, dolphins and the African penguin. You’ll become part of a passionate team, helping to monitor and observe the sharks and other marine life in their natural habitat.
The main component of marine conservation volunteering in South Africa is of course shark volunteering. Based in what is known as the “great white shark capital of the world”, you will discover the complexities of shark conservation and the wider importance of marine conservation research as a whole. 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 and other marine life, using shark cages to see them from underwater as well as from the vantage points on the boat.
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), educating visitors about marine conservation.
Your days will invariably be spent out at sea during the morning and early afternoon, although depending on the weather this can change. Afternoons are spent doing extra conservation tasks and even working with penguins:
- Daily boat 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 shark cage diving too!
- Monitoring: Whilst out on the boat you will help researchers in their work to identify the movement of the sharks and other marine life throughout the year. This involves observing, identifying, tracking, recording data and taking photographs. This research is crucial if we are to stop the decline of shark populations around the world.
- Extra conservation initiatives: From painting penguin houses to helping out with local education programmes, from beach clean ups to bird surveys, from animal rescues to shark egg collection – there are a whole host of extra conservation tasks that you can get involved with each week.
- Volunteer with penguins: A penguin rehabilitation centre is located just next to the volunteer accommodation. Tasks can involve feeding, data collection, cleaning and monitoring.
- The daily admin: Each day there are blogs to be written, data to be logged and equipment to be cleaned down. You are encouraged to get stuck into everything to really make the most of life as a conservation volunteer!
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 can be 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.
- There is a 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.
- Breakfast is provided at the volunteer house, and lunch is given on the days that you are out at sea.
- WiFi is available at the accommodation, as well as satellite television and DVD player.
When should I book?
Whilst late-availability is possible, we would advise booking as soon as you can to guarantee your ideal dates. Our projects are very popular and spaces can fill up several months in advance, especially for the months of June to September.
Fancy exploring the Garden Route after the project?
Turn your volunteering adventure into a volunteer holiday in Africa on our Garden Route tour. We are excited to offer our conservation volunteers the opportunity to join a 5 or 6 day tour after the project. This tour will collect you from the project and take you along the world-famous Garden Route, stopping off at the major tourist sites as you go. Join a group of likeminded people and keep exploring. To find out more about the tour, see our Garden Route Adventure page.
Want to learn to dive whilst in South Africa?
We are pleased to offer a 3 day diving course to shark volunteers who stay on this project for 2 weeks or more. The course would include 14 hours of e-learning and 17 hours of practical learning. Follow the link to find out more about learning to dive in South Africa. Please note, this is not a pre-requisite for the programme, as you do not need to be able to dive to go shark cage diving.
- Observe the sharks from above and below the water – watch the fins slowly approaching from the surface, and experience the thrill of cage diving as a shark swims straight towards you!
- If you are passionate about marine conservation, South Africa is a fantastic place to do volunteer abroad marine conservation. With the Marine Big 5 and being the Great White Shark Capital of the World, you are in for a real treat!
- Work with African penguins, see whales in season and enjoy having dolphins leap along beside the boat.
- Become part of a friendly team, working and socialising around a spectacular stretch of coast.
- Enjoy exploring this beautiful coastal region and its vibrant lifestyle, with trips to local vineyards, the neighbouring town and the beach.
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.
Whether you are taking marine conservation holidays, a gap year, a career break or just some annual leave, this is a fantastic option for people who are passionate about the marine world.
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.
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
- Access to your personal ‘My Oyster’ account – our online portal where you can find out much more about the programme and manage your booking.
- Pre-departure information covering medical, safety and project advice
- Full support before, during and after your time away
- Advice on visa requirements
- Help and advice from our UK office before departure and whilst away
- 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
- Pre-arranged voluntary work with accommodation
- Access to wifi, swimming pool, games room etc in the project accommodation complex
- 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
- Oyster Worldwide volunteer t-shirt
- Oyster luggage tag
On your return:
- Welcome home pack
- Certificate of Recognition (on request)
- References (on request)
What do I need
- A passport valid for a minimum of 30 days after your return date
- Insurance – we can introduce you to 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