Please note that these activities may change from day to day, especially as the daily activities are subject to weather conditions, however, you will always be working in conjunction with a qualified crew member of the project.
Arguably the most exciting part of your time spent volunteering, you will have the opportunity (weather permitting) to go cage diving! Using a specially designed cage, you will be submerged no deeper than one metre into the water, taking observations of the great whites and recording information about their size, sex, markings and behaviour.
You will be taught how to collect data on free-swimming white sharks, focusing on work both above and below the water. You will record data on shark behaviours and their interactions around the boat, learning how to do this in an informal environment and gaining an understanding of the need for shark research.
During the project, you will work alongside tourists – meaning you need to have good knowledge on boat safety and maintenance! Learn about cage deployment, anchor deployment, packing and cleaning, as well as general safety/crew practices. Once you’ve proven yourself to be an excellent shipmate, you’ll receive a certificate of accomplishment!
Assisting At The Swop-Shop
Once a week, you will assist at the local ‘Swop Shop’, a project which promotes recycling and environmental awareness of the local children. Teach them how to collect and recycle rubbish, exchanging their rubbish for ‘points’ which they can then spend in the local shop on supplies and clothing. Not only does this instil a sense of responsibility in their young minds, but they’ll also gain a sense of pride in their own actions.
Your itinerary will be dependant on sea and weather conditions, so on days where the waters are too treacherous, you will instead go on an excursion with your group. Go wine tasting, visit the penguins at Betty’s Bay, or take a trip to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of South Africa. You may even be able to go dog walking with local rescues, or see/hand-feed the stingrays at Cape Agulhas! (Please note that while some of these excursions are available at no extra cost, some of the other activities in the area do involve an additional cost. Volunteers do get a heavily discounted rate compared to standard tourist rates; the in-country team will be happy to help you organise your preferred activities. Each excursion is subject to availability.)
Please note that itineraries are subject to change, and what follows is simply a rough guideline.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
Your first night will be spent staying in the Atlantic Point Hostel, so once you arrive into Cape Town International Airport, you will be transferred to your accommodation. Get to know your fellow volunteers but be sure to rest up – the real adventure starts tomorrow at 4am!
Day 2 - Transfer to Project Site:
A project representative will meet you in the morning before transferring you to the project site at Kleinbaai, 3km from Gansbaai town. Kleinbaai is responsible for putting Gansbaai on the nature tourism map, so enjoy a boat trip out to see some sharks! After your trip, you’ll return to the volunteer house to spend the evening at leisure.
Day 3-14 - Project Days:
The project is focussed on eco-tourism, so you will spend your project days educating visitors about the need for shark conservation. Enjoy cave diving activities, take part in shark research, get involved at the Swop Shop! Please note that your itinerary is not fixed and may change depending on the day’s weather.
Day 15 - Final Day:
Today is, unfortunately, your last day, so bid farewell to your new friends and transfer back to Cape Town for your return flight home, or to commence your independent travel plans.
Dates, Availability & Price
To secure a place on this project a deposit of £195 is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date.
Select a duration below to see the available start dates. All dates shown are currently available for you to join this project!
Updates & Outcomes
The Great White Shark Project is a world-leading organisation focusing on the great white shark. Founded in 1989 purely as a research centre, it is now a large commercial operation establishing shark ecotourism as an educational experience helping to promote Great White shark conservation. The projects motto is 'misconception, education and preservation'. The projects' aim is to educate as many people as possible in the misconception of this apex predator and in turn help to preserve and conserve the species - as well as countless other species of sharks which are unfairly feared and maligned.
Finding the Great White shark is a skill involving years of practice. Water temperature, depth, visibility, swell height, current, and wind directions are all major factors. Great White sharks are surface feeders, so shark diving volunteers and will be spellbound when seeing the sharks lift their heads right out of the water to investigate an object (known as spy hopping), and if they're really lucky they may even sometimes see a full breach! Volunteering here is a fantastic experience and one which you certainly will not forget in a hurry!
Every year, the staff and volunteers on The Great White Shark Project take part in the '21 Days For The Ocean' event which helps to raise awareness of environmental issues in the local community. On each of the 21 days, a different event takes place to help raise awareness, and these activities may include beach clean ups, tree planting, and giving out water to the runners and cyclists in the local race.
The future goal of the project is to expand the community work into different townships to continue educating the next generation about the importance of marine conservation, and it will do this through talks at schools and involving the youth in activities such as beach clean ups where they can see the first hand impact marine debris has on the environment.
Have you ever wondered what it is like for volunteers on the incredible Great White Shark Project in South Africa? Well wonder no more as we talk you through a day in the life of a Great White Shark Volunteer! If youy've been thinking of volunteering with us on this project, take a read and see if this is the trip for you!
Take a look at our volunteer experience video showcasing what you could be getting up to if you paid a visit to the Great White Shark Project in South Africa!
We received an update from the Great White Shark Project in South Africa, so take a look at what has been going on!
Is this trip for you?
During your time on this project, you will stay in either one of two volunteer houses located just a few minutes from the harbour. Each house can accommodate guests on either a 2-per-room or 4-per-room basis; the rooms are of a dormitory style. Guests will be sharing with members of the same sex/ If you are travelling as a couple or as friends, a private double room is available at an additional cost. Please speak to a member of our travel team for more information.
The houses are also equipped with a kitchen, a dining area, and a lounge with television. There is a small supermarket nearby (volunteers usually buy provisions and prepare meals together) and the house is located in a very safe and beautiful area where you can freely walk around during the day.
Cereals, bread, and yoghurt are all provided at the volunteer house, as are milk, teas, juices, and coffee. When you are out on the boat, you will be provided with a packed lunch consisting of sandwiches, crisps, fruit and a drink. If you have any dietary requirements, do please let us know in advance.
Your other meals (dinner in the evening and any lunches taken off the boat) will be of the volunteer’s own cost, and you will also prepare your own meals. You can visit the local supermarket with your team to collect provisions; we recommend bringing around R3000 with you if you plan to stay for a month, and slightly less cash if you volunteer for a shorter period of time.
We recommend that you come with a moderate level of fitness, as volunteers will be involved with all aspects of work during their time here, including bait preparation and cage deployment. No specific skills are required - all we ask is that you come with a strong work ethic and have a love and passion for sharks and the ocean. You will be taught the rest!
The vaccinations required will depend on your medical history. We recommend that you consult with your GP regarding your own immunisation needs. In conjunction with this, we would recommend that you check Fit for Travel’s website.
When Is The Best Time To Volunteer?
Since Gansbaai is a hotspot for Great Whites, it is possible to see the animals year-round – no matter what the season. That said, each season does vary in terms of visibility and ‘no-sea’ days; you can read more about this below.
Peak season: April-October
Visibility is at its best during the peak season, averaging between 2-5 metres. This is as opposed to 1.5-2.5 metres elsewhere in the year. The feeding pattern of Gansbaai’s sharks is also most active during this season, which can make for fantastic viewing! That said, this is also the winter season, which means that stormy weather may arrive during your time on the project. Poor weather conditions can prevent volunteers from going out to sea, as safety is a top priority – however, in these instances, the team will provide volunteers with alternate activities, such as a visit to the penguins at Betty’s Bay!
High season: November-December
The high season sees decent visibility, and the weather can be somewhat changeable. Volunteers during this season may be lucky enough to go out to sea more often than those who choose to volunteer during the peak season, however there may be fewer sharks per viewing – though this unpredictability is part of the adventure, and that first glimpse of a shark is made all the more exciting!
Intermediate season: January-March
The weather is at its best during this season, and time spent out at sea can be glorious: clear skies, steady seas, and a low chance of rain make for an enjoyable time on the water. Shark sightings during this time are somewhat variable, but as with all wild encounters, nothing is ever guaranteed.
Finally, it is important to point out that there are numerous factors for shark visibility. For example, the presence of other marine species can impact the number of sharks seen around Gansbaai’s waters, and instances such as an influx of orcas can keep fearful sharks at bay. While this project does focus primarily on sharks, there are some volunteers who are interested in seeing other species during their time in South Africa. In this case, June-December is a brilliant time to volunteer as Southern Right whales congregate in the area to mate and to calve, making for an unforgettable experience should you be lucky enough to witness them!
You will need to arrive into Cape Town Airport on the start date of your project where you will be met and taken to a backpacker's hostel for the first night. The next morning, you will be transferred to the project location in Kleinbaai, about a two-hour drive away. Transfers to and from Cape Town are included in the project cost, however if you are not travelling back to Cape Town after the project you will need to arrange and pay for your own transfer.
The return transfer is a group transfer, as volunteers are returned to Cape Town on the client bus which usually leaves around 9am. This is subject to the boat being able to return in time to do so, so we recommend that volunteers book flights from 5pm onwards to ensure that they do not miss a flight as a result of delay. If you do book a late flight on the finish date of the project, it is possible to leave your luggage at the hostel whilst exploring Cape Town for the afternoon.
If you would like help booking your flights, please visit our flights page and fill out the form. A member of our team will get back in touch as soon as possible with a suitable quote.
UK passport holders (as well as holders of Australian, American, Canadian, and most other EU passports) do not require a visa for South Africa. You will be issued a 3-month permit upon your arrival at no cost but do ensure that the correct arrival date and length of time in the country is entered onto your visa at immigration. Please note that visas are of the volunteer's own responsibility, and that requirements specific to your own country need to be checked. Please consult your South African embassy.
Currency and Exchange Rates
The currency in South Africa is the Rand. The exchange rate is around 1 ZAR = 0.06 GBP, 0.1 USD, 0.07 EUR. Please note exchange rates are subject to change.
What's included in the price of the project?
- Project activities
- Airport transfers
- Project uniform
- Supplies for breakfast (eg cereals) and packed lunches on boat days
What's not included?
- Personal transfers if not included within the project
- Travel insurance
- Food for evening meals and any other additional snacks