Great white sharks tend to get a lot of bad press, but according to the experts they are really calm and relaxed creatures — most of the time. Becoming a shark volunteer in South Africa gives the best insights into this amazing shark species.
Becoming a shark volunteer allows people to get to know the misunderstood great white shark, to understand their nature, help to protect these fascinating creatures and learn more about marine conservation as a whole.
— Kimberley DiamondCup (@KDiamondCup) October 17, 2015
One of the best locations to become a shark volunteer is South Africa, in an area considered to the “great white shark capital of the world,” located on the beautiful and rugged Western Cape coastline. Volunteering involves getting to know what has been dubbed the “marine Big 5,” which comprises great white sharks, dolphins, whales, the African penguin, and the Cape fur seals.
According to a blog by Oyster Worldwide, a shark volunteer becomes part of a scientific research team, recording data and monitoring the great white shark in its natural habitat. Volunteers not only view the sharks from on board the eco-tourism boat, but also climb into shark cages, to get an upfront and personal look at those terrifying teeth first-hand.
Great white shark Gansbaai image via Flickr by Ed
During their research, the shark volunteer also collects detailed data about the sharks and assists in educating tourists about the great white shark and marine conservation in general.
Volunteers are first fully trained, attending lectures on the sharks and their habits and then go out on the boat on a daily basis, collecting the necessary data, preparing the shark cages, looking after the tourists on board and helping with photography. The data collected by the researchers helps to identify the movements of the great white sharks throughout the year, which is vital information, needed to stop the decline of shark populations worldwide.
While involved as a shark volunteer, they will also get involved in other conservation initiatives, including bird surveys, shark egg collection and even the occasional beach cleanup. In season, whale watching is also the order of the day.
Comfortable accommodation is offered to the shark volunteers including meals, and the location is perfect for exploring the rest of the Western Cape coastline, including the gorgeous beaches and the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town.
One such shark volunteer is Amanda Brewer, a Whitman Elementary School teacher. She volunteered with the charity White Shark Africa back in August 2014.
Brewer spent some time in South Africa with a foundation that she helped to form, dubbed “Sharkservation.” That organization offers trips abroad to teenagers, so they can spend time working with the various shark conservation companies.
While cage-diving off Seal Island along the Mossel Bay coast in South Africa, the Gloucester County teacher snapped an amazing photo of a great white shark with her GoPro. After posting the shark image to Twitter, the photo (included below) went viral and has recently been selected to appear in the 2016 Guinness Book of World Records.
— Kirk (@SoulKirk) August 26, 2015
According to Philly Voice, Brewer was interviewed by Time Magazine and they asked her if they “could have the folks from the Guinness Book of World Records reach out” to her.
Brewer agreed to the terms, but as she supports the shark volunteer movement, was adamant the photo be connected to a conservation-based record, as she knows great white sharks are in trouble and need all the help they can get. The officials agreed and the photo will appear under the world record category of “largest predatory fish.”
“Kids love these books. I wanted them to know that, yes, sharks are cool, but they are also in trouble.”
A video included below gives an idea of the daily life of the shark volunteer and the various duties involved. The video explains that the shark volunteers are a vital part of the shark conservation efforts in South Africa. While some volunteers mention that getting up so early can be difficult, all volunteers thoroughly enjoyed the experience and learned much about the endangered great white shark in the process.
While many of the stories and controversy in the media are about great white shark attacks, there is so much more to know about the necessary preservation of this amazing species.
[Photo by Ben via Flickr]