Auditing Sharks in South Africa

Be among the first to research shysharks, catsharks, pajama sharks, and other small shark species, some of which live nowhere else in the world. They could disappear before humans get to learn much about them: 25 percent of the world’s shark and ray species (their relatives) face extinction.

That’s why scientists want your help. Very little is known about the sharks in Walker Bay. To better protect them, scientists urgently need to understand the diversity of species and how they are distributed throughout the bay. Then, they can determine which particular habitats and areas need year-round protected status.

Get to know these overlooked sharks from the shore or a research boat. You’ll survey the bay to fish for them, record the environment where they are caught, and safely release them. You’ll get up close and personal with the sharks as you measure them, photograph them, take tissues samples for genetic analysis, and tag them.

You’ll also see other marine animals: your team will setup underwater video cameras and analyze the footage. Walker Bay is rated one of the world’s best places to spot whales from land, so if you join the program while the migratory southern right whales happen to be in town, you’re likely to get an amazing view.

Trips are 7 days in length, and cost approximately $2275 USD per person (may fluctuate with exchange rate). Fees include all scientist-led training & research costs, local accommodation and all meals.

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What to Expect?

When most people think of sharks and South Africa, they think of great whites. But the real story of sharks in this incredibly wildlife-rich country is much more complex. Katie Gledhill, the lead scientist, wants to discover and tell this story, and needs your help to do it.

While there's plenty of research on great whites and other well-known species like bull sharks and whale sharks, very few people have studied the species you'll work with. No one has yet taken a comprehensive look at where in Walker Bay these sharks like to feed and rest, how they move around the bay, and how big their populations are.

You'll be among the first people to ever uncover this information, which will reveal which areas are most crucial to these sharks’ survival and if current seasonal fishing bans work. The research won't only benefit sharks: while you analyze underwater video footage, you'll count rays, fish, octopuses, lobsters, and other species to help create a picture of the entire Walker Bay ecosystem.

Sharks, as top predators, play an important role in maintaining the health and diversity of the species populations around them—so if sharks disappear, everything changes. Help researchers understand the critical role these overlooked sharks play in Walker Bay.

Days will start early with breakfast and a daily briefing. Teams usually split into two groups: one will head out to fish for sharks or set out underwater video cameras, while the second will remain at the seaside field station to analyze data and maintain equipment. After lunch, the groups will swap roles. The day will close with dinner and time to hear casual talks on the research or simply relax.

Teams will focus on four main research tasks:

•    Shark angling. From the shore or a boat under the South African sky, fish with a rod and reel for sharks.

•    Shark work-ups. After a shark is caught, the team will measure it, take a small fin sample for genetic analysis, tag it, photograph it, and record the habitat and ocean conditions where the it was caught.

•    Underwater video surveys. Set out and collect underwater remote video cameras and analyze the footage to determine the abundance and diversity of the creatures in Walker Bay’s different habitats. You'll also map the surface of the ocean floor when deploying and collecting the video cameras.

•    Photo identification. Upload photos of all the sharks your team catches and compare them with photos already logged to identify individual sharks and estimate the size of shark populations. You’ll also help the scientists test new software for this task; if it works well, divers and fisherman along the South African shore will have the chance to contribute their photos to the research.

Accepted participants will stay in a private house in the town of Hermanus, South Africa, with all the conveniences of modern living, including nearby shops and restaurants. Each team member will have a roommate, and sleep in either single beds or bunk beds.

A cook will prepare breakfast and dinner at the house. Expect continental breakfasts of fruit, cereal, yogurt, and other favorites, and dinners that showcase both Western and traditional South African food. You’ll bring packed lunches to the research station or out on the boat each day, and the house will be stocked with snacks.

On the final night of the expedition, the research staff will organize a farewell traditional South African braai (barbecue) with local meats and sides.

  • Program ID: # 2581
  • duration:
    1 to 2 Weeks
  • location:
    Walker Bay
    South Africa
    34° 27' 45.2196" S, 19° 20' 50.9028" E
  • Fitness level:
    Light Impact
    Moderately Fit
    Very Fit
  • Closest Airport:
    Cape Town
  • Costs From:
    $1500 to $3000
  • Program Type:
    Environmental & Wildlife Programs
  • Click Here for More Info

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