Gansabaai, South Africa
Volunteering with GoEco on the Great White shark Conservation Program has been a most rewarding experience! Being able to go out on the ocean almost every day, seeing Great Whites 20cms from your face, and helping manage a commercial shark cage diving vessel is possibly the most exciting thing I have ever done!
In the morning, we would help with boat preparation and making sure the clients feel comfortable. We then get on the boat and enjoy the trip over to our diving site where we drop the cage and start assisting with the preparation for entry. While we work a lot on helping the clients on the boat we also get a lot of time to watch the sharks. The crew is super friendly and helpful! They really make you feel like part of a team.
Being able to get to know the other volunteers makes this opportunity even more enjoyable. The volunteer houses are well-kept and the volunteer coordinators take care of everything. Volunteers join the program from all around the globe and in our house alone we’ve had volunteers from the UK, Canada, USA, Hong Kong, Holland, Switzerland, and Germany (just in the past 3 weeks!!). It’s amazing to come together with a united purpose of discovering and protecting the sharks. We’ve also become great friends and enjoy many evenings eating pizza, playing spoons, watching animal planet, going to the crews’ soccer games, going out, or just chilling at home talking and laughing. There is never a dull moment!
The overall experience is also highly educational as the interns and volunteers participate in research trips, data collection, and lectures. The biologists are great sources of information and love to share what they know! It is great to know that what you are doing is making a positive impact on such a beautiful, majestic species. On the boat, there are many chances to go into the cage and many great opportunities for photos!
One of my favorite experiences was going into the cage with some other volunteers, fighting for the best spot (far left of the cage), and losing. When I got into the cage (third from the left), I turned and went underwater to see a huge Great White swim into the cage RIGHT in front of my face!! It was close enough to have touched it. I had a good laugh at the guy who had taken the spot at the far left!
We have amazing experiences like that all the time. It’s fantastic to stand above the cage and hear the clients come up after a close encounter, screaming and laughing and yelling. It’s a lot of fun to meet the different clients aboard Slashfin (our boat). I’ve even met people who know where I live! It’s great to see so many different nationalities coming together to witness this amazing creature. I highly recommend staying more than 2 weeks! Although no matter how long you go for, you will never want to leave!