Gansbaai, South Africa
Volunteering with GoEco has been an unforgettable experience. I knew I wanted to do the Great White Shark Conservation project as soon as I read the description online a year ago. I’ll admit I was a little skeptical seeing as how I found it online and had never previously heard of GoEco. However, it turned out to be even better than the description had depicted.
Being a huge shark fan, this was a real dream come true. Having the opportunity to photograph and be in the water with great whites on a daily basis was unreal. A typical day started off by the organization of wet suits sizes for the clients coming on the shark tour boat and helping them out with their life jackets. Once on the boat, volunteers would answer any questions clients may have and help them get ready to go into the cage. Once everyone is ready, groups of seven would be given facemasks and a weight belt and we’d help them into the cage. This would basically leave us volunteers free to take pictures and admire the great white sharks surrounding the boat until they need to come out of the water!
On lucky days, we’d get to go out twice! Provided the swell is appropriate and that there are enough tourists. Volunteers have the chance to get into the water themselves on days where the boat isn’t completely full, provided they want to. I think I went nearly every day for the month I volunteered for!
On days when the swell was too big to go to sea or if you just wanted a break, you could go horseback riding, kayaking, bungee jumping or even take a mini trip to Cape Town!
The marine biologists on the boat were so friendly and informative. They really made me want to switch professions! Some days, when they had research to get done, we would be given the opportunity to accompany them on a smaller boat and see how they work.
Sometimes after trips we would do pre-organized activities. We’d watch shark documentaries, play rugby or indulge in traditional South African dinners. One thing that stood out for me was the beach clean up we did with local school children. It was so rewarding. The kids got so into it and we informed them about the importance of recycling and keeping garbage in the bin!
While I was volunteering in South Africa, I met so many amazing people. The staff, the biologists, the other volunteers and everyone who worked at the Great White House was so friendly. I actually did not want to leave and extended my stay from 3 weeks to a full month! I really hope to one-day return for a visit and definitely recommend this program.