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Volunteer with White Shark Diving Company in Gansbaai
Research one of nature’s most enigmatic sea-creatures with this conservation-focused cage diving operator in the ‘great white shark capital of the world’
“Great white sharks are a source of wonder to some and fear to others – but no matter which category you fall into, the mystique of this powerful creature is undeniable,” states Cindy Tilney, media manager for White Shark Diving Company (WSDC) in Gansbaai.
Operating from the small Overberg fishing town and popular tourist destination situated approximately two-hours away from Cape Town; WSDC strives to provide visitors with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to encounter one of nature’s most feared, and mysterious, ocean predators in its natural habitat – the great white shark. Well-known for its dense population of great whites (as well as other marine life), Gansbaai – which is often referred to as the ‘great white shark capital of the world’ – is a prime location for not only viewing the perplexing, and seemingly private, marine creatures but also to study them.
Although, the question is: why are great white sharks such a mystifying wonderment?
The great white mystery seems to lie with the fact that it’s extremely difficult for scientists to study the sea creatures as they are highly nomadic and migratory by nature and cannot be kept in captivity – the stress caused by being confined is too much for the sharks to survive. Thus the biology and ecology of the great white shark remains largely unknown.
And so, striving to further develop their research and educational enterprises – WSDC is passionately committed to ocean preservation and actively involved in a number of conservation and community upliftment projects – as well as to assist in shedding some light on these alluringly complex ocean predators, the Gansbaai-based experts have launched a Volunteer Programme for budding scientists, biologists and marine-enthusiasts.
Volunteers are given the awe-inspiring opportunity to be involved in innovative marine research as well as play a vital role in data collection and management. By conducting its own aquatic studies on great white sharks, shark and ray diversity and abundance, marine debris accumulation and change in rocky shores, WSDC seeks to aid and support fellow researchers in the plight to better understand the majestic great white shark and the health of their marine ecosystem as a whole.
In addition, volunteers will gain work experience on-board the reputable operator’s shark cage diving tourist boat, White Shark, overseeing and helping cage diving and shark breaching excursions, as well as having ample opportunities to enter the cage themselves and experience the predators from below the ocean’s surface. Marine research assistants will also learn more about the wide range of other South African marine wildlife, as well as contribute to new and exciting initiatives aiding the surrounding community and environment.
Over the last two decades, Gansbaai has become a shark cage diving hub of activity and is further well-known for the strong conservation principles that the industry has sparked. With a key focus on the protection of great white sharks as well as the importance of educating and creating an understanding around the mysterious, and widely misunderstood, sea-creatures and marine life as a whole, WSDC runs daily informative trips to enlighten guests about sharks and its current conservation initiatives. What’s more, WSDC also supports and facilitates various outreach projects, as well as conducts numerous educational presentations and field trips for local schools and public beach clean-ups to raise awareness on marine pollution amongst community members. Volunteers are encouraged to get involved in such projects.
Despite the increase of great white shark research in recent years, which in turn has helped to peel away a few of the many layers of uncertainty surrounding the great white shark, there is still a lot to be learnt and understood about the kings of the deep. “One of the most phenomenal aspects of these formidable animals is their ability to remain elusive and unpredictable”, Tilney continues.
Through its volunteer programme, WSDC strives to give individuals the extraordinary opportunity to be involved in ground-breaking research and studies revolving great white shark population and behaviour. What’s more, by encountering the furtive sea creatures in its natural habitat, volunteers will further gain a greater insight and understanding of the sharks, which will no doubt help develop and strengthen not only their research skills for future studies and endeavours but also their knowledge and appreciation of the magnificent great white shark.
“Yet until more is known about these marine predators, the true story [of a great white sharks ecology and biology] will continue to elude us”, concludes Tilney.
Gansbaai: Dyer Island and Shark Alley
Located a short distance from the mainland (roughly a 15-minute boat ride) is Dyer Island, which is home to one of the densest known great white shark population in South Africa (and even the globe). Running between Dyer Island and neighbouring Geyser Rock is a channel of ocean so frequented by great white sharks that it’s been aptly dubbed ‘Shark Alley’. This incredibly dynamic ecosystem is considered one of the best places on earth to study great white shark behaviour and demographics and it’s here that WSDC operates not only its research facilities but also its cage diving experiences and shark breaching tours.
Volunteer Programme Package Includes
- One night’s accommodation in Cape Town
- Transfers from and to Cape Town International Airport
- Transfers to and from Gansbaai
- Accommodation whilst on the volunteer programme
- Breakfast basics and light lunch on working days
- Lectures and workshops
- Welcome pack – includes information about the programme, a WSDC branded warm top, cap, t-shirt and buff as well as a DVD of bonus shark footage
- Waterproof deck boots to use for the duration of the programme
- Boat trips – minimum of four trips per a month if weather permits
- Opportunity to cage dive and view great white sharks
- Practical training in all running projects
- Great white shark data collection on cage diving trips
- Great white shark behaviour and demographics
- Data analysis
- Shark and ray angling and video surveys
- Shark tagging trips
- Rocky shores surveys
- Marine debris surveys
- Outreach activities
- Training in boat handling skills
- Some excursions organised on bad weather days
- Contribution towards WSDC conservation and research initiatives
Volunteer Programme Package Doesn’t Include
- Flight Tickets
- Visas (WSDC can assist with advice if necessary)
- Medical and Travel Insurance
- Meals (other than basics provided for breakfast and light lunch on working days)
- Any additional lodging in Cape Town prior to the programme or on departure, if required.
NOTE: If WSDC experiences a number of consecutive bad weather days (WSDC relies on good weather conditions for diving), other educational activities or excursions – day trips, diving, hiking or horse riding tours, boat cruises and more – may be organised as an alternative to conducting onshore research projects. Please note that some of these activities may be at the volunteer’s own expense.
APPLICATIONS AND COSTS
To apply for the Volunteer Programme, potential candidates must fill in and submit the online application form provided on the operator’s website along with a CV and short letter of motivation as to why they would like to volunteer at WSDC to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that preference will be given to candidates who have marine biology experience and those who are already involved in conservation initiatives.
If accepted into the volunteer programme, candidates will be sent an information pack with additional details about the programme including accommodation, current research projects, a rough daily schedule as well as further information on arrival and departure dates and times and payment options. Please note that a 50% deposit is required to secure a volunteers spot and the balance of payment is due 14 days prior to arrival.
Cost: $2 950 per a volunteer per a month and $1 950 per a volunteer for two weeks. A 5% discount will be given to those staying on for the second month and a 10% discount for those staying for a third month. All South African volunteers are eligible for a 25% discount.
NOTE: All booking should be made at least 30 days before the programme starts, although WSDC suggests booking earlier due to the popularity of the programme. All applications must be cancelled at least 30 days before the programme starts – if the volunteer cancels less than 14 days before the programme begins a 100% cancellation fee will apply.
Tip: As WSDC relies on good weather conditions, the company recommends that volunteers stay for a minimum of one month to obtain the full working experience and to ensure that they have adequate sea time.
Volunteer Programme Dates: Start dates are on the 1st of each month. In December WSDC only runs a two week programme from the 1st to the 14th.
Before you embark on your once-in-a-lifetime Great White Shark cage diving experience in Gansbaai, make sure you buff up your ABCs – and stats and facts – about these fierce fish. Also, read more here about White Shark Diving Company’s Breaching Tours.
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