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 is a rare opportunity to view the Great White Shark in its natural
environment, either from a boat or an underwater cage. You'll also see other wildlife
species, including Cape Gannets, Bryde Whales, Cape Fur Seals, Dolphins and Jackass
Penguins. The Shark Conservation organisation is dedicated to the exploration and
conservation of Sharks and the preservation of their environment. Your work with
them will help to gather accurate data on the white sharks to assist in management
programmes for the ensured survival of the species. Your work will also help in
their efforts to change negative public attitude towards sharks through awareness
When you arrive, you'll be given a lot of training before starting your actual work.
This training will consist of most of the elements of a two-week course which the
project offers the general public. However, whereas the general public go home
after completing their course, you will be working with project staff to assist
in their research and fight against the encroaching possible extinction of the Great
You'll receive training in White Shark biology, research, behaviour, conservation,
changing attitudes, shark attacks, basic seamanship, underwater filming, still photography
and shark tourism. Part of the training will be in the form of slides and videos.
They will take place in the evenings after you return from sea, or on off-sea days.
Weather permitting you will go to sea frequently. At sea, you'll get involved as
much as possible with all aspects of sea work. This will be focused on working with
the sharks from above and below the water. Much emphasis will be 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. Participants
in the cages will record observations of the White Sharks. This will include sex,
size, markings and behaviour.
You'll also be taught the basics of how to set the camera up, how to use it under
water and how to obtain the best images. This training is designed to educate you
to a level of competence of a field assistant. During the training, you will be
evaluated on how you handle teamwork, take your own initiatives, take interest in
the work and activities, show interest in learning. Thereafter, you'll participate
in assisting with various duties and responsibilities, including helping to educate
locals and children on the Great White.
You may participate in assisting with various duties and responsibilities, including
helping to educate locals and children on the Great White. You could also be involved
with beach clean-ups, school talks and fundraising for a local shark conservancy
Not-for-profit (NPO) organisation.
On a Tuesday afternoon a swop shop is also run for the local community between 2
and 4 pm which you can be involved in. The school children collect rubbish and litter
from the streets and in their homes. They earn points for these recyclable materials
which they ’spend’ in the shop on much-needed school stationery or clothes.
This project promotes recycling, environmental awareness, and self-reliance, and
helps to provide for some of the basic needs of the children. The volunteers and
staff involved find it an enriching experience that helps bridge the gap between
different cultures and communities. You'll also help at the Swop Shop.
If you have a specific interest, like fundraising or community involvement, they
will do what they can to get you involved you in those areas.
Please note these duties may change from day to day and you will always be working
in conjunction with a qualified crew member of the placement:
- Boat check before trip
- Checking equipment for diving, chumming, bait, food etc.
- Assist with anchoring
- Assist with securing the cage
- Educating clients and general interaction with them
- Assisting clients as needed, including preparing and distributing wet-suits to them
- Data capturing and recording
- Writing for the blog
- Constant and vigilant shark spotting
- Point out sharks to crew, clients and fellow volunteers
- Clean boat post-trip and clean and stow wet-suits
- Tuesdays assist at our recycle Swop Shop
A TYPICAL DAY:
The first boat trip usually goes out at 7:00am. The tourists arrive from Cape Town
around 6:00am for a breakfast at the Lodge. Volunteers get up around 6:00am to help
with preparing the equipment (wet suits, masks, etc.) for the day. You'll have breakfast
and be ready to welcome the guests at 6:30am.
You'll walk the guests a short 5 minute walk to the launch site. Once on the boat,
you'll help the crew in any way you can. This includes getting the boat anchored,
helping the guests get kitted out for their cage dive, help with the chumming, and
anything else that crops up. The 3.6 meter cage takes 6 people at any given time
and you will be able to go into it too.
Once anchored at the dive site, the project makes use of a specially designed, secure,
six man steel cage, which floats on the surface, with divers no more than 1 m below
the surface. Volunteers will be taught how to get in and out of the cage and how
to remain secure and safe in the cage. Cage divers are responsible for recording
observations on the Great Whites, including sex, size, markings and behaviour.
Diving takes place on a rotational basis on good diving days. The duration of each
dive depends on the diver, the number of eco-tourists and the activity of the sharks,
but could be up to half an hour per dive.
When the boat trip is over, you'll wash the boat down and pack all the kit up to
take back to the lodge. 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 (and even possibly a third!)
so all the above is repeated. If not, you have the rest of the day off.
This daily routine takes place 7 days a week. If it’s a quiet day, you may have the
opportunity to go on the Whale Watching boat (if there is space) for no charge.
SKILLS LEARNED FROM THE PROJECT:
You'll learn many new skills (depending on your previous experience) - everything
to do with running a boat and keeping it in a good working order. You'll also learn
ways to identify the sharks and study their behaviour. A lot of researchers use
the boat trips to collect data, so speaking to them will teach you a lot as well.
You’ll also be taught basic seamanship skills and how to crew and assist on the boat
when out at sea. Tasks include chumming, wet-suit and cage diving preparation, client
well-being and cage and anchor set up.
You'll 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. You will be
educated in an informal environment, learning about the behaviour of the great whites,
their history and the urgent need for research. Volunteers will also be taught how
to input the data into our database.
Volunteers help the project staff to fill in data sheets for the sharks they spot
day to day. There is no scientific research carried out by the project itself. It
is a tourist operation, but their sightings are sent back to Cape Town to the researchers
and this information is used by them. Wednesdays are data capturing days. Great
White sharks are identified by marks, scars, dorsal fins, sex and size and satellite
and acoustic tags are also looked out for.
You should be hard working, have a genuine interest in the sharks and be up for
mucking in at all times. We don't recommend it for anyone with a ‘shark curiosity’
as we feel you may get bored very quickly. The day-to-day routine doesn't change,
the real thrill is seeing the sharks. If you aren't passionate about the creatures,
the novelty could wear thin quite quickly. There isn’t much to do outside of work
hours, so you must be able to amuse yourself - the crew does go for drinks sometimes
and our volunteers are invited along, but they all have families to go home to and
it’s an early start, so no big parties.
Positive aspects of this project are the sharks (obviously!) and
an active outdoor lifestyle in a stunning environment. Generally, our volunteers
can go on the boat everyday - if there is room, and subject to weather conditions.
You'll usually be able to dive in the cage as many times as you like as well, again
depending on tourist numbers and weather conditions. There is generally space on
the boats most days, a full boat is not a daily occurrence.