Saving Great Whites in South Africa

Get up-close and personal with Great White Sharks in this unique conservation project focussed on researching the ocean’s greatest predator. South Africa’s Gansbaai coast, and the nearby Dyer Island reserve have the densest population of Great White Sharks in the world. This beautiful but much maligned creature has been hunted to near extinction, and the efforts of the marine biologists working on this projects are helping the world to better understand why it is important to save the species, and how it can be done.

Changing perceptions from ‘man-eater’ to fascinating king of the seas is central to the project and volunteers work across both the research vessels and tour boats in support of the work carried out here. For 6 months of the year the area also forms a corridor for the migration of humpback and Southern Right whale, and marine researchers turn their focus to documenting the movement of these magnificent mammals.


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What to Expect?

As a volunteer, you will spend some time each day onboard the shark diving boats run by the projects to help educate tourists on the shark and provide encounters in the safety of a cage. Volunteers assist tourists, preparing wetsuits and aiding with organising the dives. With a marine biologist on every trip, volunteers will be taught to identify and document shark features and behaviours, which they will later input to databases. This will include time in the cage viewing the sharks from under the water.

On research-only trips, those with previous marine-biology experience can become more involved with collection of samples from the fish and some bespoke research, while others help with water sampling, environment monitoring and shark-tagging projects. Back on land volunteers help with aspects from cleaning equipment to constructing penguin houses and litter -collection points in wider eco-system conservation initiatives, or helping prepare materials for marine expos. Volunteers can choose a whale or shark focus for their stay during whale season (August-February).

Everyone is welcome on this project, but the ability to swim is a pre-requisite. Those with marine- biology backgrounds will work closely with the researchers and marine biologists on additional projects, where all volunteers will work onboard the tourist boats. Afternoon activities can include work on other conservations initiatives, such as building penguin houses, and work with local communities on environmental education programmes, as well as paying with the children from the local football team.

Scientists believe that populations of Great White Sharks have declined in several areas by up to 90 percent over the last 40 to 100 years. Films like Jaws have turned public perception to fear the presence of sharks in the seas, when in truth fewer than 60 shark attacks occur each year, with less than 10 people in the world dying from their injuries in that time. Conversely, over 6.5 million sharks are killed by man every year, placing many species on the vulnerable and endangered list. Only education and a better understanding of their role in the marine ecosystem can turn the tide of interest and support for these creatures, and your help is invaluable.

Project Location

: Gansbaai is a small town 3 hours east of Cape Town. Regularly considered a weekend-retreat fro Capetonians, the waters team with whales and sharks, that can often be seen very close to shore - and sunset whale-watching evenings are a favourite pastime for locals and visitors alike.

The volunteer house (shown in images) is short walk from the harbour of Kleinsbaai, the suburb of Gansbaai where the project takes place. Evening can be spend relaxing after long, exhausting days, but volunteers also like to opt for visit the local bars and restaurants of the town.


  • Program ID: # 2505
  • duration:
    2 Weeks to 1 Month
    1 to 3 Months
  • location:
    South Africa
    34° 34' 37.1748" S, 19° 20' 47.1948" E
  • Fitness level:
    Moderately Fit
    Very Fit
  • Closest Airport:
    Cape Town (CPT)
  • Costs From:
    $1500 to $3000
    Over $3000
  • Program Type:
    Environmental & Wildlife Programs
  • Click Here for More Info

Map Location

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