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,
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 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!
programme provides volunteers
with hands-on, practical experience in working with Great
Cage Diving with Great White
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
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.
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
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
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.
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 will be
given in different aspects of marine conservation and shark research.
Students may be able to obtain university credit for their experience.
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.
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
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
Volunteers receive a
$100 USD discount when joining multiple Enkosini Eco Experience
(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
Please bear in mind that the sooner you
apply, the better your chances of securing your placement!
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.
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.
I need to be scuba (PADI) certified to join the project?
not! The sharks come quickly by the cages so the cage diving often takes place with snorkels or by just holding your breath under
Do I need to bring my own
If available, volunteers should bring a
mask, snorkel and fins/booties. The project will provide wetsuits on the
What type of clothes should I
The sea air can be cool so some
warm clothing is recommended. There is plenty of space on the boat to store
Is seasickness a problem?
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.