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PROJECTS

Lapolosa Wilderness
Makalali Game Reserve
Siyafunda Bush Experience
Kariega Conservation Project
Amakhala Game Reserve
Zingela Endangered Species
Modisa Wildlife Project
Bambelela Wildlife Sanctuary
C.A.R.E. Baboon Sanctuary
Noah's Ark Wildlife Centre
Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary
O.R.C.A. Marine Conservation
Great White Shark Project

 

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GREAT WHITE SHARK PROJECT

(Gansbaai, South Africa)

South Africa has long been known for its abundance of Great White Sharks, making it a prime area to observe these magnificent creatures. The Great White Shark, which grows up to seven meters (23 feet) in length and 4 tons in weight, is now a protected species in South Africa. Owing to massive negative media publicity over the years, sharks have become one of the most maligned, misunderstood, even hated species on our fragile planet. They have been pursued, hunted and indiscriminately slaughtered, to the point where many species are endangered. Unsustainable fishing practices, dorsal fin poaching and environmental degradation compounded by a relatively slow Great White breeding cycle are all factors contributing to the potential demise of this amazing creature.

 

The Great White Shark Project is dedicated to the exploration and conservation of the world’s greatest predator, the Great White Shark, and its environment. The project works with students, eco-tourists, scientists, conservation organizations and marine resource users (subsistence fishermen, sport divers and dive operators) to gather data on Great White Sharks, correct negative misconceptions about sharks, and stop the needless slaughter of over 100 million sharks annually. Current programs involve eco-tourism, public education, environmental advocacy, visual tracking, and behavioral studies of sharks.

 

The Great White Shark Project runs out of Klein Bay, which is just outside of Gansbaai, South Africa – a seaside village located approximately two hours southeast of Cape Town on the Indian Ocean coast. The shark trips primarily take place off Dyer and Geyser Islands, about 6 nautical miles (11 km) or a 20 minute boat trip offshore. The boats anchor in the 6 meter deep channel (“Shark Alley”) between Dyer and Geyser Islands. Dyer Island (larger island) is a breeding ground of Jackass Penguins, Cape Cormorants and Gannets, while Geyser Rock (smaller island) is a breeding ground for approximately 60,000 Cape Fur Seals. Shark Alley is a magnet for Great White Sharks due to this breeding colony of seals, their favorite prey, and is a wonderful area for cage diving as there are reefs, islands and huge kelp beds which all provide protection from the open sea swell and wind.  Please note that the cage diving location is subject to change depending on the weather conditions and location of the sharks.

 

Finding the Great White Shark is a skill, involving years of practice - the water temperature, depth, visibility, swell height, current and wind direction are all major factors. Over the years, the project has successfully “tagged” over 400 sharks, allowing them to track and record shark activity. Great White Sharks are surface feeders, so volunteers will be spellbound when seeing the Great White lift its head right out of the water to take the bait, and sometimes breach completely. Divers will get to experience Great Whites from the safety of cages, while non-divers have a great opportunity to view the sharks from the safety of the boat, where exhilarating photographs and video footage may be captured at close range. In Shark Alley, you will likely also see seals, penguins and the occasional dolphins frolicking near the islands, as well as magnificent southern right whales coming up from Antarctica to breed from May to November. These expeditions are more than just thrill-seeking adventures, they are educational experiences.

 

Volunteer Work

The volunteer programme is primarily focused on the project's cage diving eco-tourism and volunteers will enjoy regular trips to sea to view / cage dive with the Great Whites.

 

The Great White Shark Project does its best to involve volunteers in all aspects of the project, including tasks such as preparing baits, packing the boat, washing the equipment, working with the eco-tourists, recording data on the sharks and even helping with the dishes. The expeditions encompass getting up early, working with great white sharks during long days at sea, and then relaxing with the crew or other volunteers at night!

 

The programme provides volunteers with hands-on, practical experience in working with Great White Sharks:

 

Cage Diving with Great White Sharks: Once anchored in the channel, the project makes use of a specially designed, secure, two man steel cage, which floats on the surface, with divers no more than 1m 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.

 

White Shark Field Research Data Collection: Volunteers will 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.

 

Basic Seamanship: Volunteers will also be taught basic seaman skills including boat handling, welding, trailer reversing, equipment maintenance and repairs.

 

In addition, talks and videos may be given in the evenings or off-sea days on Great White Shark biology, research, behaviour, conservation, changing attitudes, attacks, basic seamanship, underwater filming, still photography and tourism. 

 

Upon completion of the program, the project provides volunteers with a certificate of accomplishment. The program is designed to train and educate volunteers to a level of competence of a field assistant. 

 

Project Staff

Viewing the Great White Shark is a serious activity which should only be done with the right people, equipment and approach. The Great White Shark Project is one of the top shark organizations in the world and has the most experienced shark team in Africa. They have worked on and featured in over 30 white shark documentaries, including BBC, Discovery Channel and National Geographic; written articles for African Indigo, Outdoor Adventure, Dive Style, Peak Performances, Surf Magazine and Immersed; and lectured at institutions such as Cambridge University, the Royal Geographic Society, London University and the University of Stockholm. This background and knowledge, combined with an enthusiastic staff and excellent infrastructure, has resulted in an organization that produces high quality and successful Great White Shark expeditions.

 

Field Conditions

Volunteers stay in a delightful red brick house situated five minutes from the harbour, which bustles with action and boats as people head out to sea. Overlooking the Indian Ocean, the house is very comfortable with dorm rooms, five bathrooms, a nice kitchen, a dining area, a lounge with television and video/board games, and an outside patio for those hot evenings. There is a small supermarket nearby (volunteers usually buy provisions and prepare meals together) and the house is located is a very safe and beautiful area, where you can freely walk around anytime of day or night.

 

Training / Qualifications

Training will be given in different aspects of marine conservation and shark research.  Students may be able to obtain university credit for their experience.

 

Age Requirement

The Shark team accept volunteers of 16+ years of age.  Volunteers under 16 years old are only considered when accompanied by a parent/guardian.  There isn't a maximum age limit, though a reasonable fitness level is necessary.

 

Costs

Volunteer Contribution:

1 week: GB£545 / US$895

2 weeks: GB£745 / US$1295

3 weeks: GB£945 / US$1595

4 weeks: GB£1095 / US$1895

Extra weeks: GB£195 / US$295 per week

 

Important Note:

Due to currency fluctuations, Enkosini uses USD rates as our standard. The GBP rates are indications of approximate recent values (1GBP:1.67USD). Please visit www.xe.com to convert from USD to your currency.

 

Volunteers receive a $100 USD discount when joining multiple Enkosini Eco Experience programs (one discount only).

 

The volunteer contribution covers accommodation, transport to/from Gaansbaai from Cape Town, training, boat lunches, daily coffee and tea, and donation to the project. Dinner/breakfast, flights and travel/medical insurance are NOT included.

 

Please bear in mind that the sooner you apply, the better your chances of securing your placement!

 

Dates

The project prefers that volunteers start together on the 1st and 15th of every month. Volunteers just need to inform Enkosini Eco Experience of the date they are planning to arrive.  Volunteers are required to sign an indemnity form acknowledging and accepting the consequences of working in close contact with wildlife. Applicants must be over 18 years old.  

 

Transport

The closest town to the Great White Shark Project is GANSBAAI - approximately 160kms from Cape Town.  Arrangements will be made to collect incoming volunteers from Cape Town.  We recommend that volunteers stay at The Backpack in Cape Town (www.backpackers.co.za) for inexpensive accommodation and "meet and greet" airport pickups.

 

FAQs

Do I need to be scuba (PADI) certified to join the project?

Absolutely not!  The sharks come quickly by the cages so the cage diving often takes place with snorkels or by just holding your breath under water.  

 

Do I need to bring my own diving equipment?

If available, volunteers should bring a mask, snorkel and fins/booties. The project will provide wetsuits on the boats.

 

What type of clothes should I bring?

The sea air can be cool so some warm clothing is recommended. There is plenty of space on the boat to store clothing.

 

Is seasickness a problem?

Seasickness is generally not a problem on the boats as the project tries to find the calmest water in which to work. However, if you suffer from motion sickness at all, you MUST take sea-sickness tablets/patches ahead of time!

 

How warm is the water?

The water temperature ranges from 14 to 18° C.

 

How is the water visibility?

Water visibility is quite volatile in this area with visibility ranging from two meters to forty meters. Over the months November to March, the visibility averages around 5 to 12 meters, and over the months April to October the average visibility is 10 to 20 meters.

 

What are the boats like?

Your days will be spent on Shark Team, an 11-meter, 4-ton catamaran with all the latest electronic and safety equipment. The boat was custom-built for shark diving, so there is plenty of space for everyone to view the sharks in comfort. The vessels are equipped with radios, radar equipment, navigation equipment, depth finder, echo sounder, medical first aid kit (including oxygen and fluid replacement), current safety equipment life jackets, and waterproof jackets for all passengers. Our vessel and cages are inspected on an annual basis, ensuring maximum safety for all our passengers. A step-by-step emergency flow chart is available inside the cabin of our vessel. The boats also have a dive master and medical officer on board, as well as a captain who knows the area like the back of his hand. You are assured that you are in very capable, safe and considerate hands when you join the team.

 

 

 

To contact our South African office:

Enkosini Eco Experience

P.O. Box 1197, Lydenburg 1120, South Africa

E-mail: info@enkosini.com, Web: www.enkosini.com

 

To contact our US office:

Enkosini Eco Experience

4111 East Madison Street, Suite 76, Seattle, WA 98112, USA

Tel: +1.206.604.2664, Fax: +1.310.359.0269

E-mail: info@enkosini.com, Web: www.enkosini.com

 


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