I am currently in Gansbaai, South Africa, on a shark conservation project with the company International Marine Volunteers working with Marine Dynamics.
Gansbaai is a beautiful small town located in the Western Cape, about an hour away from Hermanus and three hours from Cape Town. Gansbaai is famous for the most successful area to go shark cage diving with only a 15 minute trip out to see the Great White Sharks!
Whilst here I am volunteering on the Marine Dynamics shark cage diving boat, helping out clients on the boat whilst also preparing and cleaning wet suits and sorting out life jackets and other clothing. I also help out on the Dyer Island Cruises whale watching boat which gives clients the opportunity to see the Marine Big 5 (seals, whales, dolphins, African penguins and the great white shark.)
Working on both boats is a fantastic opportunity as not only do I get to see amazing wild life but there is always a marine biologist on board to ask questions and find out more information on the variety of animals.
I have been here for over a week now and am completely settled in, and already seen so many amazing things! I have seen an abundance of Southern Right Whales, who are in the area to mate and give birth, and even seen them breaching! Humpback whales are also in the area on their migration route further up the coast line which is where they will give birth and mate.
However, the main thing that I came here for was the sharks, having always found them to be a fascinating animal. To finally see them in real life feels so surreal having watched them on the discovery channel for so many years! The sharks are attracted to the boat by channeling their different senses, a chum is put in the sea (made of excess fish parts and diluted with sea water) to act as the scent, a decoy seal is put in the water to look like the prey at the water surface, and final there is a bait line made of fish heads, this is not to feed to the sharks only to attract them closer to the cage. All of this is done in order to give the clients the chance to see a shark underwater, as without this sharks would tend to not come to the boat as they are actually uninterested in humans!
Whilst being here we also get the chance to help out at the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS), helping to feed the injured penguins, some of which injured by seal or shark attacks and sadly fishing boats. The sanctuary aims to rehabilitate the penguins and get them back to health so that they can be released back in to the wild, due to the diminishing population of African penguins due to oil spills and the collection of the eggs in the 1960s leading to a reduction in the species. Their motto is ‘every bird counts’, as the penguin may be extinct within the next 15 years if action is not taken.
With only one week left on the project I feel like time has flown by! I am so excited to see what the next few days hold as everyday here is so different!
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever’ – Jacques-Yves Cousteau