South Africa is the Great White shark capital of the world – aka the perfect place to work up-close and personal with these incredible creatures of the sea!
We headed to Gansbaii, a little fishing town 2 hours drive from Cape Town, to volunteer at Go Eco‘s Great White Shark Conservation project where we contributed to the marine conservation & eco-tourism efforts happening in this stunning area of South Africa.
Gansbaii is a quite coastal town home to an abundance of marine life. Its coastal islands are home to large populations of seals and penguins, with the channel in between them known as Shark Alley, due to having the densest population of Great White sharks in the world.
The bay is also a major breeding area for endangered Southern Right whales, which migrate from their feeding grounds in Antartica to mate and breed here in Gansbaii from July-December (making it the best time of year to volunteer).
I am deadly afraid of sharks: Is this for me?
First of all, there is no need to be afraid of sharks, why? Well in Australia (well known to be dangerous shark capital of the world) there were only 2 fatal attacks by sharks in 2016. Want to know how many we kill in a year? 100 million! Yes million sharks, which is mostly for shark fin soup.
I watched this incredible documentary by Jacksgap about Shark Conservation. If you are like me and love content made for YouTube – this is for you.
However, if you are deadly afraid of sharks I still wouldn’t suggest you put yourself in a situation where you feel uncomfortable. All I can suggest is you watch some documentaries and see if it helps change your mind.
Great White Shark Conservation: What to expect?
During our stay we were involved with both the eco-tourism and conservation work. We worked alongside marine biologists, learning about the behaviours of the marine species in the area including Southern Right whales, Humpback whale, dolphins, seals and African penguins.
A major part of your daily work is assisting on the tourist boat by helping cage divers and educating visitors on why we need to protect our marine life. You also get the opportunity to go cage diving yourself, so make sure you take every chance you get to get up close and personal with the Great Whites!
A few things you will get up to…
Tourism education and helping tourists on board
‘Chum’ trips – bringing sharks close to the boat to assess populations
Research observation on whales, dolphins, penguins, seals, or sea birds
Working with local children in education and beach clean-up
Cleaning boats and preparing wetsuits
African Penguin Conservation
If you are volunteering for longer than 4 weeks you will have the opportunity to work closely with the endangered African penguins. Just up the road is APSS – the African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary which has been assisting the endangered African penguin colonies of Dyer Island.
These penguins have declined almost 90% in the last 30 years and the fully equipped lab can look after and birds with a goal of increasing their survival rate.
I just wish this addon was available as apart of the shark conservation from day one. I honestly had one of the most memorable volunteering experiences at this sanctuary and just hope more volunteers get to experience it to.
Cleaning the enclosures
Getting to feed these adorable penguins.
Organising Volunteering Abroad
If you are interested in volunteering abroad we feel the best way to do this is with an organisation that can set you up with a project of your choice. We teamed up with GoEco who help people that want to volunteer abroad do just that. You simply tell them what kind of volunteering you are interested in experiencing and what country you would like to travel to and they will help find you your perfect project.
If you are interested in the volunteer project we experienced check out the South Africa Great White Shark Conservation with GoEco.
A One Week Project
I am starting to lose count on how many volunteer projects we have been to around the world. I think off the top of my head this was volunteer project number 15. I believe we have one of the best understandings on how long you should stay at each project.
There are some to which we recommend you stay two weeks, some only need one week to get the full experience. This project we would suggest you book for one week and then head to either George for the African Wildlife Ranch or Cape Town for some community projects.
Staying for a week or for two weeks is in no way an indication on a projects quality. When you are working in a very specific area (such as sharks) the work can feel repetitive as your week ends. I would suggest two weeks if the Penguin addon was available from day one.
As always, we filmed our entire experience here at the project. If you want to see exactly what it’s like to work up close & personal with incredible marine life in South Africa you can watch our experience below.
You can book your volunteer experience in South Africa for $800USD per person, for one week.
Have you ever volunteered abroad? We would love to read about your experience below.
Thank you to Go Eco for allowing us to experience this incredible volunteer project in South Africa. Our opinion is, as always, our own.