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Great White Shark Conservation Volunteer

Gansbaai, South Africa
from £885 (2 weeks)

Ref: AV025

Are you passionate about the ocean and its conservation?  Are you yearning for adventure?  Then joining this project and becoming a Shark Ambassador and Ocean Defender could be the one for you.  Great Whites are enigmatic and powerful and South Africa is lucky to have these beautiful creatures close to its shores - and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to observe them close-up.  Growing up to seven metres in length and four tons in weight Great White Sharks are undoubtedly the greatest predatory force of the seas but is now a protected species in South Africa. This project is dedicated to the exploration and conservation of the Great Whites, gathering data to correct negative misconceptions about them to help to stop the needless annual slaughter. It offers a unique opportunity to view the Great White Shark in its natural environment, either from a boat or an underwater cage. Volunteers will also have the opportunity to see other wildlife species and will learn a lot about the Great White and then use that knowledge to help in the conservation of this wonderful creature. No previous diving experience is required as full training will be given.  Students may be able to obtain university credit for their experience - depending on university.

Who can join: 17 years and over
Accommodation: Dedicated volunteer house
Transfer time: approx. 2 hours
Pick up Point: Cape Town airport
Meals: Breakfast and lunch only
Volunteer numbers: approx 5 - 8

Duration & Fees

2 weeks£885
3 weeks£1,195
4 weeks£1,555
5 weeks£1,895
6 weeks£2,245
7 weeks£2,595
8 weeks£2,975
10 weeks£3,695

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Please note: The currency conversion is an estimate based on today's exchange rates and is to be used as a guide only. All payments to Amanzi Travel have to be made in Pounds Sterling (GBP)

Start Dates

Project start dates are the 1st and 15th of each month. Volunteers must arrive into Cape Town the day before as transfers to the project are made early in the morning.

The project is closed between 15 December 2018 - 15 January 2019


£180 deposit at time of booking – balance payment of project fee due 12 weeks before departure

What's Included

  • A contribution towards the project itself
  • Transfers from Cape Town airport to you inclusive pre-night accommodation. 
  • One nights accommodation in a backpackers in Cape Town for the night before your project start date
  • Transfer from the backpackers to the project base on your start and end date. 
  • Full orientation on arrival
  • "On-the-job" educational activities and support from local staff
  • Daily transfers to and from the project for the duration of the visit
  • Accommodation at the volunteer house including breakfast and boat lunches

What's not included

  • Travel insurance to cover your placement (to include cover for repatriation)
  • Personal items eg clothes, travel goods
  • Dinner in the evenings (there is facilities for volunteers to prepare their own food)
  • Email/internet and all telephone calls
  • Visas and any trips undertaken other than in the planned programme. eg volunteers may wish to travel along the Garden Route
  • Soft drinks, wines and spirits

Sharks are intelligent and vulnerable, deserving of sympathy and respect. Education helps people to lose the Jaws phenomenon and gain the realisation that sharks are a complex and precious species, living in the water - doing their best to survive.  This project is co-ordinated by a leading organisation focusing on Great White Shark conservation. Founded in 1989 purely as a research centre, it has since grown and broadened its reach and now funds a non-profit organisation, the South African Shark Conservancy. 

The Project

The volunteer programme is primarily focussed on the cage-diving eco-tourism and volunteers will enjoy regular trips to sea to view or cage dive with the Great Whites.  Volunteers are involved in all aspects of the project including tasks such as preparing bait, packing the boat, washing the equipment, working with the eco-tourists, recording data on the sharks and even helping with the dishes!  There are early starts and long days at sea, but then there is time to relax with the crew and other volunteers at night.  The project provides volunteers with hands-on practical experience with the Great White Sharks as follows:

Cage Diving with Great White Sharks
This takes place at the dive site using a specially designed, secure, six man steel cage which floats on the surface.  Volunteers are taught how to get in and out of the cage and how to remain secure and safe within the cage.  The 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 depending on the diver, the number of eco-tourists and the activity of the sharks but it could be up to half an hour per dive.

White Shark Data Collection
Volunteers are taught how to collect date in the field on free-swimming white sharks.  At sea the focus will be on working with the sharks from above and below the water, observing their behaviour and their interactions with each other around the boat.  Teaching will take place in an informal environment and will cover the behaviour of the great whites, their biology and the urgent need for research.  In addition talks and videos may be given or shown in the evenings or on off-sea days on Great White Shark behaviour, shark bite incidents, conservation and research, Cape fur seals, Southern Right Whales and any other topics relevant at the time.

Basic Seamanship
Volunteers will learn basic seaman skills and how to crew and assist on the baot when out at sea.  Tasks will include chumming, wetsuit and cage diving preparation, client well-being and cage and anchor set-up. 

Volunteers will receive frequent lectures, which will be presented by the project's Marine Biologists and other White Shark project crew.  Lectures will be based on basic White Shark biology, White Shark behaviours, shark bite incidents (shark attacks), research and conservation, whales, seals and data capturing, and will cover everything the volunteer needs to know whilst at the project.  Volunteers will also visit SASC (South African Shark Conservancy), a non-profit organisation that is supported through monthly donations as well as contributing to any up-coming research projects with which they need support.  This visit includes a talk given by the founder, Meaghan McCord, and if available, a small species shark dissection or even some tagging.  The SASC shark lab is based in Hermanus, a 40 minute drive from the volunteer house in Kleinbaai.

On arrival all volunteers receive a full induction into the programme, including meeting the team with which they will be working on land and at sea and will take part in a short team-building exercise to get to know everyone.  Sea trips are weather dependent but the aim is for all volunteers to have a minimum of 15 trips out to sea on a four week programme - including one exclusive trip with just the volunteers and crew out in the boat.

The boat trips run out of Kleinbaai which is just outside Gansbaai, South Africa - a seaside village just two hours southeast of Cape Town on the Atlantic Coast.  Shark trips take place off Dyer and Geyser Islands, about 6 nautical miles (11 km) or a 20 minute boat trip offshore.  This is the location during the Winter season (April - August) and Dyer Island (Shark Alley!) is possibly the best place in the world to see Great Whites.  Dyer Island is a breeding ground for African Penguins, Cape Cormorants, Gannets and many other species of seabirds.  Geyser Island (the smaller island) on the other side of Shark Alley from Dyer Island, is a breeding ground for approximately 60,000 Cape Fur Seals.  The bay is a magnet for Great White Sharks due to this seal colony, 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. NB: Volunteers should note that the cage diving location is subject to change depending on the weather conditions and the location of the sharks. 

Finding the Great White Shark is a skill requiring years of practice - the water temperature, depth, visibility, swell height, current and wind direction are all major factors.  Great Whites are surface feeders and lift their heads right out of the water to investigate, and sometimes do a full breach.  Divers will experience the Great Whites from the cage and non-divers from the safety of the boat - great photo opportunities.  It may also be possible to catch a glimpse of a pod of common dolphins as they race past the boat in pursuit of their prey - or perhaps there may be a close-up visit from a Southern Right Whale coming right up to the boat.  These are all educational and life-changing experiences.

Volunteer Duties
This list should be taken as a guide only as duties may change from day to day according to need.  Volunteers will work in conjunction with a qualified crew member at all times.

  • Boat check before each trip, ensuring cleanliness and that necessary equipment for diving, chumming, bait, food etc are on board
  • Assist with anchoring on arriving at dive site
  • Education of eco-tourists/clients, assisting them when required, and general interaction with them
  • Preparation and distribution of wet suits as required
  • Chumming
  • Data capturing and recording
  • Writing for the blog
  • Constant and vigilant shark spotting, pointing them out to crew, clients and fellow volunteers
  • Cleaning the boat after each trip, cleaning and putting away wet suits
  • Assisting in the Tuesday recycle Swop Shop

Non-Sea Days
On days when it is not possibe to go to sea due to weather or sea conditions, alternative activities or excursions may be arranged, at an additional cost.  These days may  also be filled with lectures, blog writing or data entering.  Popular examples of excursions are:

  • Panthera Africa - a wonderful wild cat sanctuary
  • The African Penguin breeding colony at Stony Point, Betty's Bay
  • Cape Agulhas - the most southerly point of Africa, where it is possible to meet a stingray!
  • Wine and craft beer tastings
  • Horse riding or quad biking
  • Boat or land based whale watching
  • Weekly visits to BARC, which is a dog rescue centre supported by the project
  • PADI dive courses
  • The city of Cape Town and all its delights
  • Garden Route Game Lodge

Please note that as this project is also open to tourists, volunteers may be asked to help with this side of things from time to time. However, this won’t deflect from the overall aims of the project.  On completion of the programme volunteers receive a certificate of accomplishment and a set of DVDS encapsulating their memories.

The White Shark Project Recycle Swap Shop

In 2007 the White Shark Project initiated a recycling drive in the Masekhane Township of Gansbaai.  Lots of educational talks were given at the local schools to explain about recycling, what it is and why it should be done.  Many visits were made to the schools and now every Tuesday and children come to the RSS with all the recyclable litter they have collected.  They are then allocated points depending on the type and quantity of the recyclables they have brought and these points can be "spent" in the Recycle Swap Shop.  The shop is stocked with school stationary and supplies, second hand clothing, basic goods such as soap, loo roll and blankets, and a little bit of fun stuff too such as bling for their hair and small toys.  While waiting to enter the Swap Shop each child is given a cup of nutritious vegetable soup.  Most of the stock in the shop is provided by the White Shark Project and no adults are allowed to accompany the children.  It is intended that the children experience the joy of receiving a reward for the work they have done - rather than expect hand-outs.  The shop grows stronger and more popular year on year and last year an astonishing 14,940 kg of recyclables were collected by 6,054 children.  This includes nearly 15 tonnes of plastic which would inevitably have blown into the sea where the damage is causes to marine life is immeasurable.  The project strongly feels that every single person, regardless of age or socio-economic status, has the ability to make an ecological difference.

Optional Excursions

Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and recently came fifth in a survey to find the top 50 "must see" places in the world.  It is in a unique setting - in a natural bowl formed by Devil's Peak, Table Mountain, Lion's Head, Signal Hill and Table Bay.  It has its own floral kingdom with an amazing variety of plants and wildlife and there are some of the world's most beautiful beaches along its shores.  There are many activities to be enjoyed in this beautiful city - at an additional cost. Further details may be obtained from Amanzi Travel.

Volunteers may also want to budget for some of the optional activities on non-sea days or during their free time

Getting There

Volunteers are asked to fly into Cape Town International Airport where they will be met on arrival and transferred to the first night's accommodation in a backpackers in Cape Town.  Volunteers should arrive the day before their start date as transfers to the project take place early the next morning.  Accommodation for this night is in a very comfortable backpackers in Cape Town and the pre-night accommodation and airport transfer is included in the project fee.  Volunteers will be picked up from the backpackers early the following morning and taken to the project base. 

Amanzi Travel holds an ATOL licence and can make any necessary flight arrangements upon request.

A perfect way to explore more of Africa

Before heading straight back home, why not take an Overland Journey through Africa to explore more of the wonderful sights and experiences that this beautiful continent has to offer.  You can take a trip that starts and finishes in the same city (eg Windhoek to Windhoek) or you can use it as an opportunity to get your from one city to another (eg Cape Town to Nairobi).

“This has got to be the best way to see Africa in a short period of time ... brilliant. The guides were fantastic, the campsites great, and the food excellent. The overland trip was excellent - really well run”
Southern Sun 21 days, Cape Town to Victoria Falls - Jennie and Stuart, Sweden, aged 32 and 34.

“I didn’t know I could become such close friends with people in just a week. The trip attracts a great group of people who are so easy to get along with. My group ranged from 20 to 70 and we all sat down with a drink, played cards together and just gathered around the campfire.  It was an experience of a lifetime and I will definitely recommend this to my friends and family”
Tanzanian Game Parks and Zanzibar, 10 Days and Masai Mara Safari, 3 Days - Sara, Canada/Malaysia, aged 20.

 From 3 days to 56 days, take a look at the exciting Overland Trips here.

Support and Orientation

Support and advice is available from Amanzi Travel office staff and project/trip leaders. Upon booking, you will receive a comprehensive pre-departure pack that provides all the details you will need to prepare for your trip.  This document includes information on accommodation, staff, visas, optional activities, packing checklist and medical advice and if you have any questions that are not answered in the pack we are always on hand to help and advise. We will do all we can to ensure that you are well prepared and looking forward to your trip. You will also receive an in country orientation on arrival.

A 24 hours a day, 7 days a week emergency contact number is provided for everyone who travels with us.

Amanzi Travel holds an ATOL licence (9401) and is able to arrange your flights on request giving you financial protection for your flight and trip costs. We also offer advice on personal travel insurance for your trip.

Gansbaai, South Africa, Great White Shark Conservation VolunteerVolunteers will accommodated in a cosy brick house situated just five minutes from the harbour, a busy place with lots of activity as boats and people head out to sea.  The house is comfortable with dorm rooms, an open plan kitchen/dining area, a lounge with TV and a DVD player, board games and an outside braai (barbecue) area for the very hot evenings.  There is a small supermarket nearby where volunteers buy provisions and they usually prepare their meals together.  The house is located in a lovely area which is very safe and pleasant to walk around during the day.  Volunteers are taken into the town of Gansbaai on allocated shopping days.  Couples, friends or family groups volunteering together may, subject to availability, reserve a double room for their stay at an additional cost.

Click here to view the full interactive mapSouth Africa - Help Local Communities Get Started

Why visit South Africa?

Every country in the world displays some diversity, but South Africa, stretching from the hippos in the Limpopo River to the penguins waddling on the Cape, takes some beating. There’s the deserted Kalahari, Namakwa’s springtime symphony of wildflowers, iconic Table Mountain and Cape Point, Africa’s biggest game reserve - Kruger National Park - boasting the most mammal species of any game reserve, and the magnificent peaks and plunging valleys of the escarpment of Drakensberg.

Cape Town is widely described as one of the world's most beautiful cities. Some of its more famous landmarks include Table Mountain, Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for decades), Cape Point, Chapman’s Peak, Kirstenbosch Gardens and the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. A combination of historical coastal charm and urbane sophistication, Cape Town has some of the finest beaches and is also the gateway to the lush Cape Winelands, famous for world-renowned wines. From here, it is an easy journey to the Whale Route, where Southern Right whales can be seen (June - November) and humpback whales, Bryde's whales, Minke whales and bottlenose dolpins can be viewed year round.

The Garden Route is renowned for its beaches, indigenous forests, nature reserves, lakes, mountain ranges, adventure opportunities and hiking trails. Plettenberg Bay is a relaxed beach paradise with spectacular walks and hikes where one can watch dolphins and whales on eco-marine cruises. With some of the world's finest beaches, the Eastern Cape's untouched and pristine coastline also has a rich social, cultural and political history. Port Elizabeth is the gateway to the Eastern Cape, and the perfect complement to the Garden Route. Cape St Francis is situated on the Indian Ocean coastline, in and around Africa's largest man made web of canals and waterways, and is renowned for its long, sandy beaches, surfing, rock fishing and tranquil lifestyle.

Kruger National Park is the flagship of South Africa's game reserves, offering an unrivalled wildlife experience over two million-hectares. Private concessions operating within and alongside Kruger National Park feature luxurious, exclusive game lodges with many exciting safari activities. Some of these lodges are unfenced, allowing for the free movement of wildlife. Madikwe Game Reserve, in the North West province, is one of South Africa's largest private Big Five game reserves and features numerous lodges and camps. The Waterberg area in the northwest is also malaria-free and is aptly named for its strong streams that flow even in dry seasons, making for excellent game viewing. Both reserves are great for those seeking an accessible malaria-free wilderness experience.

Durban is a sub-tropical city and the gateway to KwaZulu-Natal. It offers a unique mix of Zulu, Indian and colonial cultures. Visit the Anglo-Zulu battlefields, take a fascinating glimpse into Zulu culture, hike in the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains, dive the reefs, marine and coastal reserves of Maputaland, as well as experience Big Five game reserves. The Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve is renowned for saving the white rhino from the brink of extinction, and Phinda Private Game Reserve is well known for its award-winning lodges and conservation initiatives.

Johannesburg meaning "Place of Gold", is South Africa's economic powerhouse. This vibrant and cosmopolitan city is home to many attractions including the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill, and also offers shopping from world-class to atmospheric curio markets. Known as the "Jacaranda City", the state capital of Pretoria features beautiful blossoming trees, significant old buildings and fascinating museums, including the Transvaal Museum, home of Mrs Ples, the australopithecine fossil found at the Cradle of Humankind.

Highlights of South Africa

  • Breathtaking scenery, quaint coastal villages, cosmopolitan cities, wine routes and exclusive bush lodges.
  • Exciting Big Five safaris in unspoilt wilderness areas.
  • Malaria-free game viewing and sunshine all year round.
  • See Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held in prison for 27 years.
  • Go up Table Mountain by cable car for stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and beautiful Cape Town.
  • Whale watching and great white shark cage diving.
  • Beautiful, pristine beaches perfect for swimming and sunbathing.
  • The Cradle of Humankind: Sterkfontein is one of the world's most productive and important palaeoanthropological sites.


For Johannesburg:

Seasons Max Min
Summer (September - April) 25 °C 10 °C
Winter (May - August) 19 °C 4 °C
Rainfall: October to March, with November to January heaviest

South Africa has typical seasons of weather for the southern hemisphere, with the coldest days in July-August. The Benguela Current, a cold motion that moves from the lower South Atlantic Ocean, causes moderate temperatures on the West Coast. On the central plateau, which includes Free State and Gauteng provinces, the altitude keeps the average temperatures below 30 °C.In winter, also due to altitude, temperatures drop to freezing point, and in some places, even lower. Heavy snows have fallen recently for the first time in decades in Johannesburg. During winter, it is warmest in the coastal regions, especially on the Eastern Indian Ocean coast and Garden Route, where it has year round mild weather with occasional rain. As winter is cooler and drier, it is more suitable for hiking and outdoor pursuits, and is also a good time for game viewing as vegetation is less dense and thirsty animals congregate around rivers and other permanent water sources.

In summer, South Africa experiences the hottest temperatures and this is generally when most rain falls, October – March. However, there is one exception -  the Western Cape, which is a winter-rain area that enjoys a Mediterranean climate (average 26°C).

Christmas to mid-January, and Easter are the height of the peak season for visitors.
Autumn (April/May) and Spring (mid-Sept to November) are ideal almost everywhere.

Key Facts

Population – 50 million

Capital – Pretoria (executive), Bloemfontein (judicial), Cape Town (legislative)
Currency – Rand (ZAR)

Official Language(s) – Afrikaans, English (South African English), Southern Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu
Time difference – GMT +2 hours

Telephone – country code 27, international access code 00

Great White Shark Conservation Volunteer

It was such a magical time at the White Shark Projects, it's hard to know where to start! The number one reason you go is for the sharks, so rest assured you will have plenty of chances to see them! But the sharks are only half the experience! It's helping out the crew and clients as a volunteer, be it on the boat or before and after trips, which will really make your time worth it. Not a lot makes me want to get out of bed at 5 am, but going out to sea always did! On land, the company are great at making sure that there are excursions or lectures on most no-sea days. Marine biologist Tom is as passionate and knowledgeable about sharks as you can get, so talks by him are always a treat! The volunteer house is lovely, and when sharing it with a fantastic group of other volunteers it can feel like home. Be warned that the friendships you inevitably build with your other volunteers will make leaving all the more heartbreaking! Kleinbaai is a magical place to be based from. There's obviously the buzz of the harbour, but it's also easy to walk 5 minutes and find a peaceful spot to watch amazing sunset skies across the ocean. I valued walks along the coastline with fellow volunteers as much as the boat trips, it's just a magical spot! Likewise, there's the phenomenal White Shark House restaurant a 30 second walk from the volunteer house - here you can get cheap (by UK standards) but absolutely exquisite food and drinks - be it breakfast, lunch or dinner! It became our little social hub. Everything came together for my two weeks, and having already been prior for 3 weeks, I feel very confident to say that you will not be disappointed coming here, volunteering with White Shark Projects has given me countless memories and experiences to cherish - I can't wait to go back!

Jonny, UK aged 24 (Great White Shark Conservation Volunteer)

Great White Shark Conservation Volunteer
Amanzi travel was a unknown company to me but they helped me to finally achieve my life long dream to see Great White sharks. Gemma and her team helped me with any questions I had and looked after me very well from start to finish. As for South Africa it blew my mind. It's a breathtaking country with so much to see and do. We saw so much more than just the sharks and can't wait to go back.


Stephen, UK, aged 37 (Great White Shark Conservation Volunteer)

Great White Shark Conservation Volunteer

I am just finished volunteering with the White Shark Projects and I have to say it was amazing. Being able to view the White sharks in their natural environment was just incredible. I was out at sea on many occasions and even day was different as you began to see each sharks own personality. The staff and crew were very friendly and nothing was to much trouble for them. On the days that the weather was to bad to go out to sea excursions were organised for the volunteers. They also run a swop shop aimed at encouraging the local kids to recycle and in return they are given items that they may need for school and such. I had such an amazing time and met so many friendly people I would have no hesitation in recommending this project to anyone who has an interest in seeing these beautiful animals.


David, UK, aged 31 (Great White Shark Conservation Volunteer)

Great White Shark Conservation Volunteer

What a fantastic experience! This program was wonderful, I was within 2 feet of a white shark within an hour of arriving in the harbour! The work was consistent and very "do-able", there were not too many jobs on the boat I did not do. In addition to the sharks, they run a recycling program for local children. Volunteers spend one afternoon a week sorting recycling and helping the kids exchange their recycling for small toys, pens and candy..... it was great!

Stephanie, USA, aged 41 (Great White Shark Conservation Volunteer)

Great White Shark Conservation Volunteer

I gained so much more from my experience than I ever expected.  Not only did I learn about seamanship skills, biology and behaviour of sharks, and even a little bit of the Afrikaans language, I learned how to step way outside my element into a completely unknown and risky realm. The hardest thing to get used to for me was definitely dealing with seasickness and working in difficult weather conditions. The most amazing aspect was the friendship and support offered by everyone at the project who allowed us this incredible opportunity to share in their passion for Great Whites. Their hospitality and camaraderie is unmatched anywhere else in the world! I can't really say that I felt sadness in leaving Gansbaai and concluding my summer project simply because I knew that I would be back there with the sharks before too long.

Parker, USA, aged 22 (Great White Shark Conservation Volunteer)

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