WORK CONTENT AND DESCRIPTION
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.
This project gives you the opportunity to work with sharks, whales,
penguins, tourism, research and community development. There is a huge variety of work that you will be doing and this will largely depend on what work is being done at the time you are there.
You may be fortunate enough to spot the ‘Marine Big 5’:
• Shark – The Great White
• Whale – Southern Right, Humpback and Brydes’
• Penguin – African
• Seal – Cape Fur
• Dolphin – Bottlenose, Common and Humpback
You will be able to go out to sea a minimum of once every other day. For example,
a 30 day stay enables you to go to sea at least 15 times. Please note that this
will be the minimum (depending on no-sea days and weather), but could be much more,
and we do our best to accommodate you as often as possible.
You can choose daily on which boats you would like to assist. The majority of volunteers prefer the shark cage-diving vessel, but many do choose to only go on the eco-tour/whale-watching vessel. Alternatively, other volunteers choose to do a bit of both!
When at sea it will not be feasible for you to dive in the cage every trip, or you
may not even want to – lots of people choose to observe the sharks from the deck
instead. If you do wish to dive that day please inform the Marine Biologist or Skipper,
and we will do our best to accommodate you.
Your day will start off with prepping the boats and the tourists for their trip.
Much time will be spent with the tourists educating them about the sharks, assisting
the tourists, as well as observing sharks, possibly taking part in cage dives, if
time allows and maybe helping out on the daily research projects on the vessel,
by assisting with data recording. After the trip you will help wash down the boat
and equipment before attending a presentation or conservation activity (1 -2 times
for week ) or having much-welcomed relaxation time.
During the summer time (November, December, January and February), the project is
very involved in Tourist trips and dives (these fund research and community development
projects) and thus they have very little time for the research and development side
of their work during this period.
You can also help out with bird rehabilitation work at the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary, doing boat trips in-between. The programme is a combination of several different experiences – mostly ecotourism and conservation, but also seabird rehabilitation, beach clean-ups, assembly of fishing line bins and some research
Activities on "No-Sea" Days:
On your no-sea days (when weather is unsuitable for boat departures) you will be
involved with activities arranged under the auspices of the Dyer Island Conservation
Trust. Examples of these are:
Beach Clean-ups and Fishing Line Bin Project:
This project supports recycling and is aimed at involving local schools and the
community in beach clean-ups, marine education and placing unique fishing line bin
disposal units along the coast. It was recognised by WESSA and the Blue Flag beach
You may have the opportunity to work with children´s groups in doing beach clean-ups.
Data from these exercises is collected for our project on marine pollution. You
may also make up our unique fishing line bins or help clean the fishing line for
recycling. Being involved in removing fishing line and other litter off our beaches
you are quite possibly helping save birds, seals, sharks, dolphins and even terrestrial
animals from injury and an agonising death due to entanglement.
This project supports clearing of alien vegetation and providing firewood for heating
and cooking purposes to the local poorer community. We noticed very young children
walking along a dark road at night carrying firewood that they had collected themselves,
so we hope that that providing wood in this way will help to keep the children at
home and off the streets in the evenings. You will help to load wood onto a trailer,
travel with us when we go to deliver it and unload it alongside these children.
You will see many a happy smile as a result of this activity!
African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary Project:
This project is a true feather in the cap for the Dyer Island Conservation Trust.
APSS is a state-of-the-art centre for the rehabilitation of seabirds in distress,
with a particular emphasis on conserving the African Penguin, which is endangered
and has been undergoing a shocking decline in population numbers. Injured, oiled
and sick birds are collected or brought to us for care and recuperation and when
they are fit and healthy again we release back into the wild.
You may be involved in cleaning their pens, assisting with preparing medicated
fish and telling visitors about what we do. If you will be staying a minimum of
5 weeks and you want to volunteer at APSS regularly during your time here then you
may be able to learn how to handle the birds.
Shark Egg Case Monitoring Project:
This project is part of a larger project that monitors the types (species), quantity
and seasonality of shark egss (or mermaids’ purses) that are washed out along our
shore. You will help to hunt for these empty eggs amongst the kelp, collect, identify
and measure them.
African Penguin Nest Project:
Penguin habitat has been largely destroyed by man removing much of the guano that
they produce and subsequently burrow and nest in. We have designed an artificial
penguin nest that people can sponsor and if you stay for 4 weeks or more, you automatically
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 Shark Fever, you will 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. Michael
will inform you 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 will 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.
Please keep in mind that 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
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 working week is 6/7 days, it is possible to take weekends off, if you ask.
The work you do will ideally be split between the boats, Slashfin and the Dream
Catcher, work on land or in the office. It will largely depend on what is happening
at the time of you placement and where the most help is needed.
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:
There will be 1-2 presentations every week. They will be conducted when time permits,
with regards to sea conditions, and the number of trips each day. You will probably
rotate between the shark boat, the whale boat and work on land, which will vary
between maintenance, dressing clients, checking jackets, cleaning the parking lot,
placing and manufacturing penguin nests, etc.
During your placement you might have the opportunity to attend some lectures on
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. For the Sharks:
Best sightings are May to September.
The chances of seeing sharks are 90% or more. During winter stormy weather is a
of life, and this can prevent us from going out to sea.
December to March is considered the “low” season for sharks. Sightings can vary
from very good to below average. With wildlife there are no guarantees – you just
For the Whales:
They run from July – December. This is quite possibly the only place in the world
where one can see a mighty whale and a great white shark on the same boat trip.
You will be involved with boat-based whale watching. Southern right whales are almost
guaranteed July to December. All trips are weather dependent.