South Africa Great White Shark Experience
9-30 days from £639
- Have an amazing experience getting up close to these amazing creatures
- Learning all about ecosystems and how to interpret the sharks behaviour
- Being in one of the best places in the world to see Great White Sharks in their natural habitat!
With the world's shark population becoming increasingly under threat and as a volunteer on this project you will play a pivotal role in observing and protecting these majestic creatures.
This is a very exciting program and not for the faint hearted! You'll be getting up close to Great White Sharks, volunteering on a shark cage diving vessel and working alongside marine biologists conducting research on these fascinating creatures, their environment and other marine wildlife. You might even be lucky enough to help with the tagging and tracking of the sharks. As well as conducting research you'll be helping out with the tourists on the shark cage diving boats by preparing the boats and assisting the crew. If this isn't enough, you'll even have the opportunity to go shark cage diving yourself and experience these incredible predators up close and personal.
The project is based in Kleinbaai in the Western Cape of South Africa, one of the best places in the world to see Great White Sharks in their natural habitat so you're definitely in for an unforgetable experience!
Interested and want to find out more? Download more trip information and detailed itinerary HERE!
This is an outstanding opportunity for volunteers to see sharks in their natural environment, either from a boat or a cage, and to learn about the marine wildlife and ecosystems in the area. As a volunteer you'll be getting involved in the work which helps preserve these species and their environment and you'll gain truly exceptional research experience and training. Here's a taste of the types of activities on offer on this programme.
Tagging and Tracking
Tagging and tracking is done throughout the year but is completely weather and funding dependent and cannot be guaranteed as it is a bonus when it happens. When it does happen though all volunteers will get involved. The first white shark tagged in South Africa was in 2009, where ‘Sarika’ a 4.2m female was spotted in the shallows. For the next two months we manually tracked her on our dedicated research vessel, to within meters of the beach and up to the edge of Dyer Island. Sharks are externally tagged while free swimming and manually tracked using ultrasonic pings from the tag which are picked up by a receiver on the boat. We shadow the sharks’ movements up and down the bay. We are investigating the effect of environmental parameters on the localised movements and predatory foraging on prey species. As members of the research team, volunteers assist us in both tagging and tracking expeditions as well as processing the data.
Dorsal fin identification
As a volunteer you will be getting involved and helping the marine biologists with dorsal fin identification which takes place on the daily shark cage diving vessel. Each sharks fin is unique, and with bait and chum, images can be captured of the sharks fin and matched to our database. Such information is crucial to calculate population estimates for great white sharks on a local, national and global scale. Our catalogue dates back to 2007 and is likely the most extensive on the species with a dedicated effort for everyday we work with these animals. Interns will assist with this project by learning photo editing techniques as well as cataloguing.
Predations are monitored mainly in the winter time when the sharks are at their most active and if you are volunteering at this time there might be the chance for you to help out the marine biologists with this.
Geyser Rock is home to a Cape fur seal colony of some 55-60,000 individuals and each year this huge abundance draw white sharks to feed. The predation pressure on the seals is immense, and simply by being in the area the sharks shape the movements of the seals before they even begin to attack. The ecology of fear examines what extent this presence plays in the day to day lives of the seals. By dedicatedly observing and quantifying the seals’ movement patterns, we are further understanding the influence of dynamic predators in ecosystems. You will have the opportunity to join Michelle, one of our researchers on surveys around Dyer Island and deep into Shark Alley where seals play the game of predator vs. prey; a game in which you either win or you die!
Whale watching and shark cage diving
We run daily shark cage diving trips and whale watching during the months of July to December. As a volunteer you'll be working on these 2 vessels and you'll be conducting research on the sharks and other marine life. We use these trips as unique opportunities to gather data and further our understanding of the wildlife in the bay. Already we have observed wound healing in white sharks, predatory interactions between sharks and dolphin and the long term effect of satellite tagging on the sharks dorsal fins. You will have the opportunity to help gather data from these commercial trips and even help the guides and crew on the water. You will also have the opportunity to jump in yourself and experience these apex predators up close and personal! As these are tourist boats, volunteers will also be getting involved withe tourist duties such as, assisting with dive operations, helping the tourists and preparing and cleaning the boats and wetsuits.
Environmental surveys are conducted almost daily, with regular beach walks, beach clean ups, hikes, shark egg case walks and rocky shore ecology. These walks are a great opportunity for volunteers as you can really learn a lot and this work is really hands on. Because we are located between two oceans, the Atlantic and Indian Ocean we see dramatic changes in the environmental parameters on both a seasonal and day to day bases. As warm water from the east (in the Agulhas current) meets cold water from the west (in the cold and upwelling Benguela current) mixing occurs and we have an abundance of nutrients and biodiversity. Changes can dramatically impact the wildlife in the bay from the fish species we observe to the amount of sharks, whales and dolphin we encounter. Alison’s PhD hinges on decoding these complex relationships and volunteers will be fully trained in the deployment and interpretation of YSI probes measuring oxygen, salinity and temperature of the water column.
We are involved in the community and although we do not have a set schedule for the community projects, if our community needs help, we will go and help no matter what time of the year or what activity. We have a range of community projects that we support and that you can be a part of, from teaching kids from the local schools about the Marine Big 5 (dolphins, whales, seals, sharks and penguins) to cleaning up beaches and assisting the making and deployment of penguin houses and fishing line bins.
Situated near Cape Agulhas, the southern tip of Africa, Kleinbaai (Klein Bay) is an extraordinary marine environment. At the centre of the Bay, Dyer Island is the home of about 60,000 Cape Fur Seals attracting one of the densest and most accessible populations of Great White Sharks in the world. The clear waters and relatively small area make shark sightings a daily occurrence throughout the year with a peak in the Southern Hemisphere winter (May-September). Despite their large numbers and the frequent sightings, little research has been conducted on this Great White Shark population.
The organisation is filling this knowledge gap with an intensive programme of research conducted from the cage diving boat, and a dedicated research boat from which our marine biologists study important aspects of shark behaviour. Our work has been presented at international conferences.
The Bay is also a vitally important breeding area for endangered Southern Right Whales which migrate from their feeding grounds in Antarctica to mate and breed here from July-December.
About 800 adult whales are seen annually. Fortunately, boat-based access to these animals is strictly controlled with only a limited number of licences being given to responsible tour operators. Our eco-tourism partner offers some of the best boat-based whale watching in the world.
In addition to Southern Right Whales there are resident populations of Humpback and Bryde’s whales as well as large pods of Bottlenose and Common dolphins. Dyer Island has one of the few remaining breeding colonies of the vulnerable African Penguin around the coast of the Cape. The habitat of these charming birds was largely destroyed in the 19th and early 20th centuries when guano was stripped from the islands thus removing the soft ground into which the penguins could burrow. As a result, eggs and chicks are now exposed to predators and the elements. Together with overfishing and marine pollution, this has caused the population to fall by 90% in the last 100 years and it is now at an all-time low.
Step 1: Application
To apply for this project we ask you to either call us or apply online. When you apply we will request information on your emergency contact details, passport number and your health background and other important information. At this stage a deposit payment of £199 is requested, this deposit is non-refundable, unless your application is declined by our team in South Africa.
Step 2: Acceptance onto the project
Once our team in South Africa have reviewed your application, and accepted you onto the programme for your preferred dates we will contact you to confirm your application has been successful. We recommend you purchase insurance as soon as you secure your placement.
Step 3: Online account details
Once your placement has been secured, we will set up and send you details of your online account login which will take you to your personal Real Gap Experience secure website. Here you can view details of your project, along with info specific to your time in South Africa. This includes; what to expect during your time in South Africa, what to take with you, country and visa information and details such as insurance and where to get necessary vaccinations. Once you have your login details you can go ahead and book flights, to do this please contact your travel advisor who will give you a quote.
In the run up to your project, our expert team will be here to answer any questions you may have and to fully prepare you for your time in South Africa.
On your ‘off-sea’ days, there are dozens of trips and excursions in the area, which is known as one of the most scenic destinations in the world, such as wine tasting, visiting the most Southern point of Africa. Kleinbaai is a quiet village and evenings can be spent in one of the nice pubs or restaurants, but there are no nightclubs or cinemas. Our volunteer co-ordinator can help you arrange activities (at an additional cost) some of which are listed below.
Take up the relaxing opportunity to explore the valley on horseback along rambling trails through the Walker Bay Whale Conservancy. The ride will take you through a private nature reserve along the Klein River and up into the Kleinriviersberg Mountains. They can be for one to four hours and are tailored to suit riders of all abilities.
This quad biking trail takes you around the historical Robert Stanford Wine Estate through vineyards and thick bush just wide enough for your quad bike to ride through. The trail finishes with a short but steep drop which, with assistance from the guide, riders take on one-by-one. More steep climbs and drops await, head up a waterway and make sure you counter-balance on the impressively sharp angles. If you need even more excitement after your shark encounters then this is a must.
Join a magical Whale Watching trip and encounter a whale longer and wider than the boat you are on! This huge, gentle and mysterious creature really is a magnificent site. The season for Whale spotting is July to December.
No trip to South Africa is complete without a visit to Cape Town, home of the world famous Table Mountain and one of the most lively cities on the planet. If you are interested in history, you can go to Robben Island, where you can visit the prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated. There are also markets, botanical gardens, and cape of good hope, one of the most southerly points in Africa.
- All accommodation (including bedding, coffee, tea, cereals, etc.)
- Full orientation and briefing session with the team
- Return Transfers to and from Cape Town
- Internet access at volunteer house
- Boat trips
- 2 T-shirts, 1 cap and 1 jacket (jacket to be returned after programme completion)
- 1 pair of water boots
- Certificate of completion
- Tours of Gansbaai, around the township and surrounding area, such as to Danger Point Lighthouse
- Flight ticket
- Medical and travel insurance
- Excess baggage
- Use of telephone
- Food- you will need approximately £200 / US$360 per month
- We usually suggest a monthly budget of £125-250/ US$215-430 for entertainment and other personal details, excluding your basic food costs.
You will be situated in Kleinbaai – known as the “White Shark Capital of the World.” This is a small town, part of Gaansbai in South Africa's Western Cape, which offers a wide range of services including well-stocked supermarkets, banks, etc. Kleinbaai is about 30 minutes by road from the larger town of Hermanus which is an important tourist centre and about 2 hours drive from Cape Town. The surrounding area offers easy access to the Cape fynbos – one of the world’s most diverse eco-systems – and a number of tourist attractions and activities.
Accommodation is in a lodge, equipped with 4 chalets that house between 4 and 6 persons per chalet, with own bathroom, kitchen and living areas as well as daily living essentials. The main house will be occupied by volunteer coordinators and a full time janitor so all the needs of the grounds are met. There is also a very spacious living area in the main hall with a pool table, TV, DVD player and wifi, communal indoor braai and kitchen area.
There is also a swimming pool and garden.
Breakfasts and light lunches are provided whilst on the dive boats. Lunch on board the boat is provided on a help yourself basis so you can prepare your own sandwiches. Other meals and snacks are not included, however there is fully equipped kitchen at your volunteer accommodation which you are welcome to use. Additionally there are also restaurants, bars and supermarkets nearby in the local town. We recommend that you budget approximately £200 / USD$360 per month on the programme, however if you plan to eat out in restaurants etc then you will need to budget extra.
To get a flight quote simply use the form below, or contact our fantastic flights team on 01892 277037.
Get Flights Quote
Your flight should arrive into Cape Town International Airport (airport code: CPT) on your programme start date. Inclusive transfers generally run between 8am and 3pm. From the airport you will be met and taken directly to your designated hostel in Cape Town where you will spend your first night.
The following day, you will be transferred to the shark project which is located in Gansbaai, Western Cape. The journey takes approximately 2.5 hours from the hostel in Cape Town and pick up times are usually between 5am and 8am.
Your return flight should be booked to leave Cape Town after 19:00pm on your programme end date.
To arrange your flights, contact our fantastic flights team on 01892 277037 or email them at [email protected] They will be able to search for the best flight offers to your chosen destinations, so you can plan and organise your trip in one place. Just make sure you give them your full name, as stated in your passport, along with your chosen departure dates, return dates, and any other details you want to include.
Minimum age is 18 years old.