Frequently Asked Questions
How many times will I be going on the boat?
Our priority is to give you as much sea time as possible but we are affected by weather, tide, sea conditions and seasonal demand but we aim to ensure you can go to sea as much as possible. If you are not working on Slashfin, you could go on Dream Catcher or possibly on our research boat if they are going out. See here for more on our boats and the duties on board.
How often will I be shark cage diving?
On your first day, you will enjoy the cage diving experience as if you were a client so that you understand the experience. Thereafter you will slot in with the duties of the volunteers on board. As space and time allows, the skipper will let you know if you can get in the cage when we are hosting clients. And if we have been really busy and there has not been a chance for volunteers to dive we try to plan an exclusive trip just for the volunteers, again depending on weather/time etc.
When is the best time of the year for sharks?
We are very lucky that we have sharks all year round so you can join us anytime of the year. There are some pros and cons to both seasons: Summer (Dec to Feb) is warm weather but we do struggle with visibility some of the time due to algal blooms in the water. The sharks spend time in the shallows during summer and we can see some big females this time of the year. By winter (June to August) they head out to the islands where they begin hunting more actively on the seals of Geyser Rock. We have better visibility then, and believe it or not slightly warmer water, but we also get some rough winter storms which can keep us off the sea. Either way, we will keep you busy with everything else we offer on the programme if we have a no-sea day. So come whenever suits you!
What will I be doing on the boat?
Assisting the crew in the dive operations, helping clients, data recording, observation, getting the boat ready before launch and helping operations when the boat returns to land, which includes cleaning of wetsuits and preparing equipment for the next day. Some of the tasks can be quite physical so a healthy degree of fitness is required…. as are sea legs!
How many hours will I be working?
This depends on the number of trips and number of volunteers to assist. So you could work one trip for the day and possibly a second. Some volunteers like to pick up on the second trip if possible when space allows to get more sea time, so anything from half a day to a full day’s work. We fit in presentations and other activities when you are not at sea.
Will I be receiving presentations?
Presentations are part of the programme. Presentations will be done by our skipper, deckhand, conservation trust, our marine biologists and visiting scientists/students. Depending on the length of your time here you will learn about shark biology and behaviour, our research, conservation projects, whale and dolphin research and biology, basic seamanship, knot tying and more. We also host some marine evenings with an outside speaker so hopefully you will be here when that happens too.
Will I have time off?
You can take time off when you need to. We work 7 days a week, weather depending. We do not expect volunteers to work these hours, so taking the day off is easy. You just need to inform your volunteer coordinator, but don’t miss out on valuable time at sea with the sharks.
What time will I be picked up in Cape Town?
Our collection times are generally between 5am and 8am every Monday. We have our own shuttle service coming through with clients so they will collect you. Please note the time can change depending on weather, trip timing etc. and we will communicate the time to you (or the place you are staying) the evening before. We do not do airport collection so you will have to take a shuttle to your accommodation the day before we collect you. Usually your accommodation will sort this out for you.
How will I get back to Cape Town after my programme?
On Mondays, our same shuttle service will return you to the place you are staying in Cape Town. On return trips we can drop you off at the airport but your flight needs to leave no earlier than 7pm so please plan this well. We will sort out your return trip when you are with us.
What happens if I can’t book the programme from Monday-Monday?
We understand that this is not always possible but we do not recommend it as you may miss out on presentations that brief you about the accommodation and the work on the boat. Please note that if you start or end the programme on any other day than a Monday that you might need to pay for private transport if our shuttle bus is not running.
Do I need any vaccinations?
No, South Africa is a malaria free area. If you are coming from South America or travelling in Africa before you join our programme, you might need to have a Yellow Fever vaccination and certificate.
Do I need to bring any medication?
If you need to take medication, then we recommend that you bring your own. We do have a pharmacy in Gansbaai and very good doctors. Our nearest hospital is forty minutes drive away. We would suggest you bring seasickness tablets or patches with you - these should be taken the evening before the dive and in the morning before the dive. Please remember to bring good sun block as the South African sun is very harsh. Very important: if you do suffer from any illness or epilepsy and need to take medication daily, please inform your coordinator. If you have any chronic condition, we would require a doctor’s confirmation that you are fit to be on this programme.
How do the meals work?
We provide ingredients for a help-yourself breakfast at the International Marine Volunteer Center (tea, coffee, eggs, bacon, bread, cereals and milk) If you are on the boat then a light lunch is available such as a cheese and tomato bread roll and fruit. If not at sea, then lunch is your own responsibility. Dinner is for your own account. We have a fully-equipped kitchen, so many of the volunteers buy and make food at the lodge. On some occasions the group goes out to a restaurant to eat. Our sister company, the Great White House restaurant is the hub of our activities and is situated nearby. Alcohol is at your own cost.
What are the living conditions like?
You will be sharing accommodation with other volunteers at the International Marine Volunteer Center. This lodge is equipped with 4 cottages that house between 4 and 6 persons per cottage, with a shared bathroom, kitchenette and living area as well as daily living essentials.
Will I be having internet access?
We have wireless internet at the International Marine Volunteer Center and at the Great White House. We also have a desktop computer at the Center for communal use. Downloading of movies, games and music is strictly prohibited.
Do I need a visa?
Finding out about, and complying with, visa requirements is entirely your responsibility. Nationals from the European Union, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand: At present you do not need a visa to enter South Africa and will be granted a temporary Visitors Permit valid for up to 90 days on presenting your Passport on arrival. PLEASE NOTE: If you do not fall under one of these countries, then you need to have a visa. It is very important if you fall under European Union, to check with your embassy prior to your trip, because in some cases or Countries in the European Union, you will need to have a visa. We will not be held accountable for any persons entering South Africa and then being deported due to incorrect paper work.
Do I need to bring dive gear?
You do not need to bring scuba diving gear as the cage diving is a breath-hold dive and we provide all gear for shark cage diving.
What is important to bring?
Seasickness tablets or patches
Warm jacket, clothes and beanie, especially in winter time – South African buildings are not heated inside!
Old clothes and shoes
Regular clothes and shoes - sneakers recommended
Driver’s license if you are planning on renting a car while in South Africa
An open mind and love for marine animals
I want to make the most of my programme so what length of time is the best?
2 weeks – this is good…you will get sea time even if there is bad weather, you will receive some presentations and you can help on some conservation and social projects.
3 weeks – this is even better ? You will have a great time! We will also arrange for some excursions, and wine tasting, or visits to surrounding towns so that you can see more of our area. A lot more boat time, presentations and conservation/social projects.
4 weeks + is the best period to book for! You will be able to do all that our programme has to offer, and maybe even get the chance to be a part of our research team alongside our marine biologists, going on the research vessel. There could be a chance to tracking of the great white shark (this is a bonus and should not be expected).
How do things work with laundry?
Personal laundry is not included but can be taken to a commercial laundry twice weekly. They charge R15/kg. Your bedding will be washed by us once a week at no charge.