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GAP YEAR | VOLUNTEER ABROAD | WORK EXPERIENCE OVERSEAS

 
CONSERVATION: MULTI-MARINE PROJECT WITH SHARKS, WHALES AND DOLPHINS, NEAR CAPE TOWN IN SOUTH AFRICA

SOUTH AFRICA

CONSERVATION: MULTI-MARINE PROJECT WITH SHARKS, WHALES AND DOLPHINS, NEAR CAPE TOWN IN SOUTH AFRICA

Sharks, Whales, Penguins, Seals, Dolphins... this is an extraordinary project in a beautiful location, white beaches and blue ocean. And two hours from Cape Town. Fantastic!

Work with sharks, whales, penguins, tourism, research and community development. You’ll be taught, guided and lectured by very skilled field teams.

Go on whale watching trips that are not just magical but rewarding too. See penguins dancing on the sand.  Laugh at the antics of hundreds of seals in their colonies on Dyer Island. And of course there's the Great White Shark, the greatest predatory force of the seas that remains a mystery to man.

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SUMMARY FACTFILE
Start Dates All year round. Start dates every Monday, but you need to arrive in Cape Town on the Sunday before.
Duration From 1 week to 6 months or longer, subject to visa requirements
Requirements No qualifications needed. Minimum age 17.
Price Full Price List
What's included Arranging your program,
Full pre-departure support and assistance,
Payment Protection insurance
Accommodation

Meeting you at the nearest airport
First night in a hotel in Cape Town (usually)
Transfer to your on-site accommodation
Transport to and from your project
Local in-country team support and backup
24-hr emergency support.
Certificate of Completion
What's not included Flights, Insurance, Cost of Visas (if a visa is required), Return transfer to airport.
Who can do this Project? This project is open to all nationalities and all ages over 17.
Suitable for gap years or those taking a year out, grown-up gappers, career breakers, anyone interested in marine conservation, caring for marine animals and ocean habitats, and working with marine wildlife overseas.
This is a good placement if you want to learn about marine conservation strategies and habitats plus shark, whale and other marine species' behaviour while doing voluntary work, projects abroad or study abroad.
Also available as a summer placement in South Africa or a short break activity.

"Look into the mouth of this ocean predator ... it's as big as a delivery van!
Great White Shark cage diving is incredible!"

WHAT YOU'LL GAIN FROM DOING THIS PROJECT:

  • An exciting, never-to-be-forgotten adventure into Africa and the many diverse cultures in South Africa

  • The enormous satisfaction of knowing that our work is contributing to marine conservation.

  • New skills, more confidence, a greater understanding of a different culture, invaluable personal and professional development.

  • An entry on your CV or résumé that will put you head and shoulders above most others in the job market.

  • And best of all ... an unforgettable experience!

Conservation with Whales, Sharks and Dolphins in South Africa

WORK CONTENT

Weather permitting you'll go out to sea frequently. At sea, you'll get involved as much as possible with all aspects of sea work. Much emphasis will be placed on observing behaviour and the interactions of marine species around the boat. You'll record your observations onto datasheets, including data such as sex, size, markings and behaviour.

There is a great variety of work that you'll be doing and this will largely depend on what work is required at the time you are there. Seasons play a great part in the work as well because the different species come and go according to their seasonally-driven behavioural patterns.

For example, during the summer time (November through to February), MD (the organisation we work with) are very involved in Tourist trips and dives. These trips and tourist-related activities are crucially important because they provide the funds that are used for MD's research and community development projects. During these months, there is a possibility that you'll be called on to provide more help with the tourists and less help with the marine research.

Shark Research
Much emphasis is placed on observing behaviour and the interactions of sharks around the boat.  You will be taught how to get in and out of the cage and how to remain secure and safe in the cage.  You may have to record observations of the White Sharks.  This will include sex, size, markings and behaviour. You might be asked to help fill in data sheets for the sharks they spot day to day.   

Individual recognition of sharks is achieved through photographing dorsal fins, marks, scars and colouration. A shark log is kept for each shark. The objectives of the research are to collate a database of dorsal fin data which are used to identify individual animals, to ascertain why the sharks use this area and how long they stay, to study the behaviour of sharks in their natural environment and in the vicinity of shark-cage diving boats, as well as to obtain a population estimate.

Whale Research
On the whale boat you will help to GPS all the whales, birds and dolphins. You may also get involved in helping to rescue animals in need, such as oiled, sick and injured penguins and birds.

"Anyone who has had the joy of meeting a mighty whale face to face will tell you just how magical it is. Huge, gentle, mysterious, curious. Can you imagine a giant friend, like none other? As captivated by you as you are by him."

Skills learned from the Project
Depending on your previous experience, you are likely to learn many new skills, from running a boat and keeping it in a good working order, to identifying the sharks and other marine life and learning their behaviour. Sometimes researchers use the boat trips to collect data, so speaking to them will teach you a lot as well.

A TYPICAL DAY
Wake up at and get ready any time between 6:30 – 8:00. After breakfast, assuming that the boat trip will take place that day (because the trips are subject to weather conditions, the day will start with making your way to the ‘Great White House’ where, once the tourists have had their briefing, you will help to dress them in their jackets and life vests or go and prepare the boat for the trip.

You'll walk the tourists down to the boat. Once the boat leaves the harbour you’ll spend between 3 and 6 hours out at sea. The Shark Boat will go out once or twice a day depending on numbers and time of year and the Whale Boat normally goes out four times a day (for a duration of roughly 2 hours for each trip).

During your time on the shark boat, Shark Fever, you'll participate in data collection. Once a shark is spotted, you will need to record as much information as you can about it, including data such as size, sex, any scars or other identifying marks, the length of time it remains around the boat, behaviour, and if it is a re-sight, etc.  You'll be informed about what information you need to collect.

If it is decided that it is a ‘good’ shark, the cage will be lowered into the sea and you'll help with preparing the tourists for the cage dives. This will include getting them into their wetsuits.

You may not participate in a cage dive on each occasion, but you should have the opportunity on couple of occasions. Not every boat trip ends in a cage dive – it will depend on whether there are any sharks around at that time, whether the sea conditions are conducive to lowering a cage, and other similar factors. Just to give you an example, though, a very recent volunteer on a one-month placement went out to sea on 20 occasions, but the cage was only lowered on 9 of those occasions.

At the end of the 5 hours, you will return to the shore and here your work will continue. Once back in shore you might have to wash the boat down and pack all the kit up.  The equipment needs to be washed and hung to dry for the next day.  If it is busy there might be a second boat trip so all the above is repeated.  If not, they have the rest of the day off.

The work you do will ideally be split between the two boats, Shark Fever and Whale Whisperer, and work on land or in the office. It will largely depend on what is happening at the time of your placement and where the most help is needed. This is only a rough idea of the work that you will be doing.

You'll be given information and the necessary material to help you answer any general questions that the tourists on the boats might ask you and you will be expected to know and provide basic information.

Lectures and Activities
During your placement you might have the opportunity to attend some lectures on various aspects of shark and marine conservation. The number of lectures will vary at different times of the year.

Wherever possible, a weekly lecture and activity will try to be organised for you. However, due to the workload at the time of the year and other external factors, this may not always take place.

Conservation with Sharks, Whales and Dolphins in South Africa

Conservation with Sharks, Whales and Dolphins in South Africa
The Research Center

Conservation with Sharks, Whales and Dolphins in South Africa

Conservation with Sharks, Whales and Dolphins in South Africa

Conservation with Sharks, Whales and Dolphins in South Africa

Conservation with Sharks, Whales and Dolphins in South Africa

ACCOMMODATION:

Your accommodation will be in a comfortable house in Kleinbaai. You'll stay in a shared dorm room and you have the use of a bathroom, a kitchen, lounge area, and courtyard braai area.

The house is situated within a short 10 mins walking distance from the ‘The Great White House’, which is the project office and meeting point for tourists. There is a shop and cafe as well.

Internet is available for you to use at the MD office at the Great White House. There are also two internet cafes in the town.

FOOD:
Food is not provided on this project. However, the local supermarket stocks a variety of food and there are kitchen facilities in the house for cooking.

You'll need to take additional funds with you to cover the cost of meals.  At the time of writing this, a very loose guide of how much you’re likely to need is R1,000 per month (roughly £88, eating sensibly and cheaply) to R1,500 (roughly £132, on which you should be eating fairly well). (These exchange figures correct at time of writing.)

There is an outside courtyard where you can have a typical South African barbeque known there as a ‘braai’. Make sure you try the local spicy sausage known as ‘boerewors’. Also, the Karoo lamb chops are to die for on a ‘braai’, but if fish is more to your taste then a fish ‘braai’ with South African ‘snoek’ is a must.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Got any questions? Please email us: info@travelersworldwide.org

ABOUT DYER ISLAND
Much of the fieldwork will take place around Dyer Island, which is also known as "Shark Alley"!

Dyer Island (larger island) is the breeding ground of Jackass Penguins, Cape Cormorants and Gannets, while Geyser Rock (smaller island) is a breeding Mecca for Cape Fur Seals and currently home to approx. 50 000 seals. In season, whales and dolphins may also be spotted.

The name of the island originated from an African American, Samson Dyer, who went to live on the island in the 19th century. He collected "guano" (bird droppings), and made a living from supplying it to farmers on the mainland as fertilizer. The boats that transported the guano from the island are today in the Maritime Museum at the Waterfront in Cape Town.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU BOOK YOUR PLACEMENT:
Once you have applied for a placement, we'll contact you and send you our Welcome Pack. You'll also receive Log-on details and password for our Volunteer Extranet where you'll have access to all the documentation and information which we've put together to facilitate preparations for your adventure! Your Project Co-ordinator for your country will liaise with you throughout the arrangements process, as well as while you're on your placement and on your return home.

The documents you'll have access to also include a Country Factfile, Safety Guide and any manuals that may assist you on your particular program (e.g. Teaching Guide, Sports Manuals, Enrichment Suggestions for Animal Care, etc.). We do all we can to make your stay one that you'll never forget. This is a truly awesome, elegant and beautiful country.

As with all our destinations, the culture and heritage is different to what you're used to ... which, although one of the most exciting aspects of travelling, should be borne in mind.    Self-reliance and independence are highly appreciated in all our destinations and will help you to make the most of this wonderful opportunity!    

On Arrival, your Introduction to the Country: When you arrive you will be welcomed by a member of our South African staff who will take you to your accommodation and introduce you to everyone. During your first few days you'll be given an induction so that you can learn about the country and its culture, as well as other useful information, like how to use the transport system, banks, safety issues, tipping, and lots more.

You will have weekends free and this will also allow some time for travelling and sight seeing.

Read an article by Volunteer Ilona Veenema for a local newspaper about her Marine Project

  

Feedback on theGreat White Shark Conservation Project in South Africa


Multi-Marine Project Video (courtesy of Fasttrax Marine Media)


Photo Galleries

Knysna Diary
Wildlife Rehabilitation Diary
Wildlife Expedition News!

A whale approaches the boat
Up close and personal with a whale

ABOUT THE GREAT WHITE SHARK

Sharks are intelligent and vulnerable, deserving of sympathy and respect. Education helps people to lose the Jaws phenomenon and gain the realisation that sharks are a complex and precious species, living in the water – just doing their best to survive.

100,000,000 sharks are killed each year by humans, usually through fishing. They are, as a result, on a collision course with extinction. Great White Sharks are the last wild predator on earth that we cannot tame; from that point of view alone it deserves our respect and attention.

How could our oceans be the same without the glorious Great White beneath its surface.

Great White Sharks are very stable animals, displaying stable and predictable behaviour. They do not like to fight with or bite one another. They are highly intelligent animals, able to learn quickly and to remember. This is all new and contradictory evidence in the field and it is apparent that the Shark Team are just scratching the surface now.

Finding the Great White, or letting them find you, is a skill, involving years of practice, the water temperature, depth, visibility, swell height, current and wind direction are all major factors. Once the site is found, the bait is prepared and the team awaits the shark, respecting it as a free animal. A recent tagging project was very successful allowing a number of Great Whites to be tracked.

Possible Extinction:
Considering the incredible number of between 150 - 200 million sharks destroyed each year, there is a potential threat of extinction to these species. Most sharks are slow growing, have late maturation and low fecundity and this is the shark's downfall. They cannot replace their stocks to keep up with human exploitation, such as say, sardines can.

Lets look at the Great White Shark. The Great White Shark female takes approximately 15 years to become sexually mature, and the male about 8 years. At these ages the female will be around five meters long and the male around four meters long. The Great White Sharks' fecundity is low, so the female may possibly only give birth to several litters of pups in a lifetime and these litters are relatively small, ranging from about seven to eleven pups in a litter.

So due to the shark's inability to reproduce quickly, stock replacement is not occurring and subsequently the populations of the world are fast diminishing. In fact, they are being wiped out far quicker than most people realise, with many species critically endangered and some species literally on the brink of extinction.

The Great White Shark is now protected in South Africa, California, South Australia and Tasmania, and although this is only one of almost 400 species of shark, its protection is a step in the right direction.

The Great White is a key stone species on this planet and its protection, subsequent media attention and high public profile allows us to use it as a battering ram to push for the protection of other shark species.

About the Great White Shark



OPTIONAL ADD-ON ACTIVITIES:

While on your placements, you can also book some Optional Add-Ons to do before or after your Placement at the Rehabilitation Center, to make the most of your Travel Experience. The most popular choices are the safari trips from Cape Town and many volunteers use these as their means of travel to arrive at their project in Knysna.

Wildlife Safaris & Adventure Tour Combos
4-Day Surf Safari and Wildlife Adventure
1-Day Adventure Activities in Cape Town
1-Week Wildlife Rehabilitation

1-Week Whales Sharks Dolphins
Cage Dive with Sharks

This project can also be combined with any of our other projects in South Africa, or you could even do a second project in a different region of the country, thus doubling your adventure and enjoyment!


An endless number of Game Reserves, Safaris, Treks, and more.

LOCATION, EXPLORING AND SIGHTSEEING:

The best advice you'll get from us is to try to see some of the country while you're in South Africa. It's big (huge!) and each different region is exciting and very, very beautiful. Cape Town is probably the most beautiful city in the world (I can say that, I grew up there :-)  KwaZulu-Natal comes a very close second, albeit very different. Knysna is where South Africans go on vacation, which gives you some idea of how lovely the region is.

LOCATION:
The program runs out of Gaansbaai, South Africa. Fieldwork will take place around Dyer Island and possibly other shark locations. Dyer Island (known as Shark Alley!) is possibly the best place in the world to see Great Whites. Gaansbaai is a seaside village, which depends on fishing and tourism for its survival. It is situated approximately two hours south east of Cape Town.

On one of the main research sites, Dyer Island, many other wildlife species can be viewed from the boat. It is the breeding ground for Jackass Penguins, Cape Cormorants and Gannets, whilst Geyser Rock opposite, is a breeding mecca for Cape Fur Seals and currently home to approximately 20 000 seals. In season Whales and an occasional Dolphin can be spotted. This is a perfect habitat for the Great White.

The sharks have been awesome. The largest one I've seen so far was a 3.5m shark nicknamed "Slashfin" because her dorsal fin is cut. She looks a lot bigger up close, I can tell you! Got to see a "predation" as well - a shark take out a seal. Was all over in a matter of minutes, just a pool of blood on the surface to tell the tale. Also saw a Southern Right whale out on the water which was pretty cool. Andrew Burge

One of the exciting aspects of this project is that you may be fortunate enough to spot all the ‘Marine Big 5’ :

  • Shark – The Great White
  • Whale – Southern Right, Humpback and Brydes’
  • Penguin – African
  • Seal – Cape Fur
  • Dolphin – Bottlenose, Common and Humpback

ACTIVITIES IN CAPE TOWN
Adrenaline Activities -
Enjoy exciting and “real” adventures with an adrenaline twist!

  • Abseiling
  • Sandboarding
  • Deep-sea Angling
  • ‘Kloofing’ (insanely jumping off very high cliffs into pools of water!)
  • Paragliding
  • Helicopter flips
  • Bungee jumping (just up the coast)
  •  …..and a LOT, LOT more!!!!

      Township Tours - A visit to one of the many townships surrounding the city is an experience that will open your eyes to the way in which the biggest portion of Cape Town's population are living. Take a township tour of Langa, the oldest township in South Africa or Khayelitsha, the second largest township in South Africa. Township tours will usually be co-led by a resident in the area, showcase local industry and community projects and include a visit to a township bar or 'shebeen'.

       Two Oceans Aquarium - Located in the V&A Waterfront, the Two Oceans Aquarium has lots of display tanks, interactive experiences, a touch pool and the highly popular predators tank.

      Cape Winelands - Wine lover or not, a visit to the Cape Winelands is an absolute must as the region is one of breathtaking beauty and majestic mountain backdrops. Rolling vineyards and quaint Cape Dutch homesteads ... as well as some of the country's best wines.

     Relaxing drives: Drives are a very popular leisure activity in South Africa, because the roads are generally wide, in good condition, relatively empty and a pleasure to drive on. People often go for drives on a Sunday afternoon to a favourite hotel or restaurant for afternoon tea and scones, or to the top of a pass just to look at the view, or to a national park to watch the baboons - there's always a good reason to go for a drive!

Cape Town has lots of cafes and restaurants with outdoors seating areas overlooking the street or on the pavements, with colourful sun umbrellas - a perfect place to sit with the sun on your face, watching passers-by ambling along, sipping a steamy cappucino or staving off the heat with a cold drink.

TRAVEL:
To read about Travel arrangements and what happens when you arrive in your new country, please click here.

Support & Backup: To read about the excellent Support & Backup we provide before you leave and during your program, please click here.

 

 

 

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