South Africa Great White Shark Experience
9-30 days from £639
- Have an amazing experience getting up close to Great White Sharks!
- Learn all about ecosystems and how to interpret shark behaviour
- Help out on tourist cage diving boats, and head underwater yourself
- Make a real difference in conservation and protecting these endangered species
- Stay in beautiful Gansbaai, one of the best places in the world to see Great White Sharks in their natural habitat
- Explore the rest of South Africa during your time off!
Get up close to Great White Sharks and volunteer alongside marine biologists on this fantastic volunteer programme. Help out with vital research projects and learn about these fascinating creatures, their environment and other marine wildlife. As well as conducting research, you'll also help out on tourist shark cage diving boats, preparing the boats and assisting the crew. If that isn't enough, you'll even have the opportunity to go shark cage diving yourself and experience these incredible predators up close and personal! With the world's shark population becoming increasingly under threat, this rewarding volunteer programme is a great way to help observe and protect these majestic creatures.
Interested and want to find out more? Download more trip information and detailed itinerary HERE!
What to expect at the project
When you touch down in South Africa, you will be met and taken directly to your 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. Gansbaai is home to Kleinbaai (Klein Bay), an extraordinary marine environment, and you’ll likely see fur seals, great white sharks, humpback whales, and more during your time here. As a volunteer, you'll get involved in the work that helps preserve these species and their environment, and you'll gain truly exceptional research experience and training.
You’ll be working on a fleet of dive boats, which monitor marine species and collect information about animal behavior and movement patterns. Alongside these data collection tasks, you’ll also help out with eco-tourist boat trips, helping tourists as they head underwater on cage dives.
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. Past excursions have included wine tasting and visiting the most Southern point of Africa. Kleinbaai is a quiet village and evenings can be spent in one of the cosy local pubs or restaurants.
Day in the life
You will volunteer either half-days or full-days, depending on the number of boat trips in a day. You’ll get involved with a range of volunteer duties during your time in South Africa. These duties will vary across the year, but may include some of the following:
Dorsal fin identification: This takes place on the daily shark cage diving vessel. Each shark’s fin is unique, and with bait and chum, images can be captured of the shark’s fin and matched to the project database. Such information is crucial to calculate population estimates for great white sharks on a local, national and global scale.
Predation studies: 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.
Whale watching and shark cage diving: Daily shark cage diving and whale watching trips run during the months of July to December. 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!
Environmental surveys: 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 learn a lot, and see complex marine concepts in action.
Alongside these research activities, you will also assist the local team in delivering shark-cage diving experiences for tourists. You will help prep and clean the boats and wetsuits, welcome tourists, and assist them in suiting up for their experience. You’ll also learn to make a mean hot chocolate – a vital part of the process!
Other activities may include beach clean ups and searching for animals. It is a truly diverse experience and two days are very rarely the same!
Purpose and aim of the programme and how do you benefit the programme
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 marine biologists study important aspects of shark behaviour. 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.
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.
This project is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who is interested in marine wildlife conservation. Not only will you get up close to some incredible endangered creatures, but you’ll also learn vital conservation skills through your hands-on work at the project. You’ll gain an insight into eco-tourism practices, and you’ll work alongside professional marine biologists who will share their skills and experiences with you.
Alongside these practical and theoretical skills, you’ll also enjoy the sense of achievement that comes from making a difference. Volunteering is a hugely rewarding way to travel the world, offering you a unique insight into South African culture and wildlife, and giving you the satisfaction of giving something back to this incredible country.
- All accommodation
- Full orientation and briefing session with the team
- Return Transfers to and from Cape Town
- Internet access at volunteer house
- Boat trips, conservation work, cage diving opportunities
- 2 T-shirts, 1 cap and 1 jacket (jacket to be returned after programme completion)
- 1 pair of water boots
- Breakfasts and lunches on the boats
- Certificate of completion
- Tours of Gansbaai, around the township and surrounding area, such as to Danger Point Lighthouse
- 24-hour emergency support
- Medical and travel insurance
- Meals (budget approximately £200 per month)
- Optional activities (a monthly budget of £125-250 is recommended)
You will be situated in Kleinbaai – known as the “White Shark Capital of the World.” This is a small town, part of Gansbaai 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 Wi-Fi, 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 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.
The minimum age to join this trip is 18 years old.
UK nationals don’t require a visa to enter South Africa for stays of up to 3 months. Adequate travel insurance is required to cover shark cage diving.
When Is The Best Time Of Year For Seeing Sharks?
In this part of South Africa, sharks can be seen all year round! There are pros and cons to each season: in the summer (December to February), sharks can be seen in the shallows, but visibility can sometimes be impaired by algae in the water. During the winter (June to August), visibility is improved, but storms can occasionally keep boats off the water. Either way, you’re sure to have a memorable conservation experience!
How Often Will I Get To Go Cage Diving?
You will enjoy one cage dive as if you were a tourist, so that you see how it all works. After that, your cage diving opportunities will depend on time, space and crew needs on the boat.
What Happens If We Can’t Go Out To Sea Because Of Weather Conditions?
On no sea days, alternative activities will be organised. These activities might include a day trip to Cape Agulhas, a visit to Stony Point penguin colony, horse riding, wine tasting, hiking, a visit to a micro-brewery, & much more! Entrance fees and meals may be at extra cost.
Do I Need Any Special Insurance?
You must ensure that your travel insurance policy provides adequate cover for shark cage diving and other water activities. See our backpacker travel insurance policies here.
How Long Should I Go For?
This trip has 9, 16, 23 and 30 day options. Because many of the activities on this trip are reliant on good weather conditions, we recommend booking the 23 or 30 day options to ensure sufficient sea time.
Do I Need To Bring Diving Equipment?
No, all equipment is provided.