Shark conservation in South Africa

Departure information

Trips run anytime throughout the year
Vacation type

Volunteer travel - what's it all about

Are you looking for an adventurous trip with a purpose, or on a gap year or career break? If you want to make a difference in some of the world’s most important conservation areas - and in community projects - then volunteer trips are for you! Volunteers tend to have a sense of adventure, and come from a range of different backgrounds and from all over the world.
Edward Abbey said 'sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul'.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Shark conservation in South Africa

Our placements are designed to immerse you in a different culture, living and working with local people. There is plenty to gain personally from this trip. But we make sure that local people benefit too, choosing projects that bring tangible improvements to their lives.

The marine organisation we work with on this project is making a recognised contribution to research work on sharks, whilst providing much-needed employment in the local area. Its responsible approach has been recognised through Fair Trade certification and a Responsible Tourism award, so you can be sure that you will be contributing to something worthwhile. More details are set out below.

Research work:
The research trust is well-respected in the field and includes expert scientists and entrepreneurs among its trustees. It has worked in partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs; CapeNature; SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Care of Coastal Birds); research units at the University of Cape Town and the University of Pretoria; the WWF and various local conservation organisations.
The work includes taking hundreds of thousands of photographs, allowing sharks to be identified and tracked for research work on global shark populations. They have also contributed to the latest scientific information on the incredible wound healing of the great white shark. They are currently looking at how environmental conditions affect shark behaviour as well as studying the activity of parasites on sharks

A note on observing sharks:
All operators use chum to attract sharks by creating a scent trail. Research suggests that this does not have an adverse effect on the natural behaviour of sharks, as long as the chum is only dispersed where the sharks are already active (following their seasonal behaviours) and the sharks are not fed. This organisation follows strict protocols to that effect and has been at the forefront of campaigns to ensure shark products are not included in chum.

Meeting local needs:
This conservation project plays an active role in supporting the local community. It provides jobs for 39 local people, with a focus on recruiting from disadvantaged groups and offering them training, support and educational sponsorship. Three previously disadvantaged people now own a 27% share in the business. It promotes local crafts through its craft shop and uses unskilled local people to manufacture nesting boxes. It works closely with schools, financing an eco-schools co-ordinator, organising beach clean ups and providing work experience opportunities. It even sponsors the local football team. It has Fair Trade in Tourism certification covering aspects such as fair wages and working conditions, equitable distribution of benefits and respect for human rights, culture and environment.

All whale and shark watching trips provide an important boost to the tourist industry, drawing people to the area for day trips and longer stays. However, while some cruise businesses operate just for profit, this particular cruise business has been used as a case study on sustainable eco-tourism and received a First Choice Responsible Tourism Award – 2006 - Highly Commended in a Marine Environment.

As a volunteer, you can help local people in direct ways too. It helps local staff to get exposure to people from other countries and cultures. Also you will contribute directly to the local economy by staying there and spending your money.

Cultural sensitivity:
We emphasise the importance of showing respect for local people and their customs in our briefing material. Participants will work alongside permanent staff, forming close bonds and getting an insight into real life in rural South Africa. Our policy is to send people out in small groups or individually. This minimises the environmental and social impact that the participants have on the destination and helps them to integrate into the local community.

At the project, there is a strong commitment to the environment, with low impact emission engines; solar geyser; low energy light bulbs; growing vegetables for use in the restaurant; recycling, including organic waste; reduction of paper use; no longer using plastic containers for butter and jams.

At head office we also promote a responsible attitude to the environment. Participants are briefed to protect the local environment while they are abroad. We recommend they avoid unnecessary washing, using hand wash gel where they can. We also instruct them on how to dispose of waste properly, not to litter and, where possible, to avoid using plastic water bottles which are not easy to dispose of environmentally. Those going trekking are advised to keep to marked footpaths so as to prevent further erosion of the landscape.

Our company is an environmentally responsible one that operates recycling and reusing of waste products. We offset carbon emissions in our office (gas, electricity, business mileage) and encourage all participants to offset their flight emissions via a carbon offset scheme run in conjunction with Tree Aid.

Reviews of Shark conservation in South Africa

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 04 Sep 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

My last cage dive. We had one large female shark who did a slow pass right next
to the cage. You could see her blue eye moving and focusing as she had a good
look at what was going on inside our cage.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

I would recommend adding a few extra days on either side of the project so that
you can explore Cape Town and do any additional activities that you haven't yet
had the chance to fit in. The longer you are there, the longer your "to do" list
will get.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

The whole project was focused on helping local wildlife and local communities. I
helped with research, eco-tourism, beach cleans, put out fishing line bins,
cleared alien vegetation and delivered the resulting wood to the local townships,
traveled back to Cape Town with an oiled penguin to deliver it to a rescue and
rehabilitation centre... The list goes on.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

I planned to stay for 4 weeks, extended to 6 weeks and still didn't want to come
home. Need I say more?

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