I had just graduated with a Masters' Degree in Zoology with Marine Zoology, and have always had a keen obsession with sharks! I am originally from Birmingham (UK), and so when I came to volunteer with the White Shark Diving Company, I had no idea what to expect! On arrival at the volunteer house, it was strikingly similar to living in a student house, but with a much better view and sharks plastered on every wall! Sitting on the balcony on that first sunny day, admiring the view of Van Dyk’s Bay and watching the shark boats go out, there wasn’t anywhere I would rather be.
The following 4 weeks were full of crazy adventures and priceless moments with members of the company and local friends we made along the way. Me and another volunteer living in the house enjoyed many excursions together including whale watching, volunteering at the local dog sanctuary (BARC) where we got to play with puppies and take dogs for walks, visiting the Panthera Africa Cat Sanctuary, gin/cider tasting, horseriding, mini golf, fatbiking on sand dunes, trips to Hermanus and also to major hotspots like the Southern-most tip of Africa (Cape Agulhas), the most South-Western tip of Africa (near the Cape of Good Hope) and Cape Town.
We took a 3-day road trip to Mossel Bay to see a multitude of things in the area. On the first day, we went on a safari game drive and stayed in Wilderness at Fairy Knowe Backpackers. The next day, we went cage diving near Seal Island where we were lucky enough to be visited by ‘Joker’, a great white that had a big scar running along its mouth from an attack off another territorial great white. We caught a glimpse of a humpback dolphin which (according to the boat crew) was an extremely rare occurrence.
In between all of these new and exciting experiences, there were mornings where we would go out on the research boat with Mary (Head co-ordinator and marine biologist). On these trips, we were taught how to catch smaller sharks via handlining, take biometric values and tag them before release. I caught my first ever shark; a 3-foot long pyjama shark (Poroderma africanum)! Observations of white shark activity were also recorded during cage diving trips i.e. length, time spent around boat, abundance, swell height, wind direction.
We were free to pick and choose what we wanted to do day-to-day, but some of my best memories were made on spontaneous nights out, meeting the crazy locals and going to crew members houses for dinner. It’s been over two months since I left, and I still haven’t shaken the feeling of being so comfortable in a place 13,000km from home. Each member of the White Shark Diving Company is a delight to be around, and I feel so privileged to have spent so much time with them. Without sounding too cliche, I think I’ve found another home from home and I would recommend this program to anyone who is willing to try new things, is crazy about sharks and most importantly up for a good time!
I am currently in the process of hopefully returning next year as an intern and completing my PhD out there too! I can't thank WSDC enough for all of these opportunities and the contacts I have made so far.
Big Love! *Shark Bait, Hoo Ha Ha*