South Africa has long been known as one of the best places to see great white sharks, making it a prime area to observe these magnificent and formidable predators and go great white shark cage diving! These sharks, which can grow up to six meters in length (20 feet!) and 2 tons in weight, have been a protected species in South Africa since 1991.
Owing to massive negative media publicity over the years, sharks have become one of the most maligned, misunderstood, and even hated species on our fragile planet. They have been pursued, hunted and indiscriminately slaughtered to the point where many species are now critically endangered – certain shark species have experienced population declines of over 90% in the last thirty five years.
Unsustainable fishing practices, dorsal fin poaching and environmental degradation compounded by a relatively slow breeding cycles are all factors contributing to the potential demise of these amazing creatures.
This project then is a commercial operation dedicated in preserving this fantastic predator and its environment and help in vital great white shark conservation. It also serves to educate people on why it is essential to conserve this species. The project works with students, eco-tourists, conservation organizations and marine resource users to gather data on the sharks, helping to correct negative misconceptions about them and stop the needless slaughter of over 100 million annually.
Helpful Project Information
Please note that these duties may change from day to day, and that you will always be working in conjunction with a qualified crew member of the project. As this Great white shark conservation project is subject to weather and tide conditions. Your duties will change from day to day, as shark conservation volunteers do rotate.
Great White Shark Cage Diving
Project facilitators use a specially designed and secure five man steel cage to conduct dives. This floats on the surface, and divers no more than 1m below the surface at any point. Shark conservation volunteers will be taught how to get in and out of the cage and how to remain secure and safe in the shark diving cage. Cage divers are responsible for recording observations on the great whites, including sex, size, markings and behaviour.
White Shark Field Research Data Collection
Shark conservation 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 and pointing out any sharks you spot. You will be learning about the behaviour of the great whites, their history, and the urgent need for their research and on wider Great white shark conservation initiatives. You will also receive lectures on their biology, shark conservation, and status in the waters of the cape.
Basic Seamanship and Boat Skills
Volunteers will also be taught basic seaman skills including boat handling on board in a practical environment. This includes general boat maintenance, packing and cleaning of equipment and bait, anchor positioning (deployment and retrieval), Great white shark cage diving deployment (attachment and retrieval), knots, assisting clients as needed, as well as general safety and good safe crewing practices.
Assisting at Swop-Shop
Every Tuesday, volunteers will be expected to help out at the ‘Swop Shop’, a new project that promotes recycling, environmental awareness, sustainable practices, self-reliance, and also helps to provide for the needs of the local children. The project encourages these children to collect recyclable rubbish and litter from the street and from their homes. They then earn points for what they collect, and this can be used to ‘buy’ school stationary and clothes in the Swop-Shop.
On days where you can’t go out to sea (as this shark conservation project is completely dependent on weather and sea conditions), you will be taken on various excursions. These include wine tasting in Stellenbosch, a visit to the penguins at Boulders Beach or a trip to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa.