Shark Conservation Assistant

You will learn about the behaviors and biology of Great White Sharks and the other species in our seas during this exciting project, situated in Gansbaai.

About the Program

This exciting project is situated in Gansbaai – the shark cage diving capital of the world – and is about a 2 hour drive from Cape Town. The coast around Gansbaai is home to multiple marine species. There are shark sightings all year, peaking in the Southern Hemisphere in winter (May – September). Southern Right Whales including their calves return every year in July and stay around until December, when they return back to Antarctic waters. Other species including seals and penguins are resident all year and we sometimes have sightings of bottlenose, humpback and common dolphins sightings.

Our volunteer programs here offer a limited number of places each year which allows participants to gain the maximum from their time working closely with biologists from our research team on our shark cage diving vessel.

Project Highlights

  • You will work with professionals and clients in a world-class ecotourism environment, learning all about how responsible ecotourism and conservation learning all about how responsible ecotourism and conservation work hand-in-hand
  • You will learn about the behaviors and biology of Great White Sharks and the other species in our seas
  • We will help, support and encourage you to get the most out of your stay
  • Every volunteer gets involved in our eco-tourism (cage diving) and conservation work throughout their stay
  • Everyone spends the majority of time at sea aboard Slashfin – our cage diving vessel – or our newly commissioned research boat Lwazi (“seeking knowledge”). Research trips are fully weather dependent and performance of volunteers are rated on our shark cage diving vessel, for the chance to go on our research boat.  These trips are rare, depending on which project is on the go, so do not assume that you will go out on
  • 2-3 presentations on conservation, research or marine safety every week
  • The opportunity to help out at our African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary which is a world-class centre for the rehabilitation of seabirds in distress, with a particular emphasis on conserving the African penguin

We research the feeding, migrating and behavioural habits as well as various other aspects of the Great Whites by recording sightings, tagging, dorsal fin identification and taking thousands of photos for an ongoing data base in conjunction with various national and international academic and research institutions. Taking a closer look at their superior immune system and wound healing capabilities, their interaction with other marine species, as well as the parasites that are found on sharks is all part of the comprehensive and ongoing research we do.

Research Expectations

Blonde hair, brown skin, sun-kissed cheeks…your typical marine biologist? Not always! Remember for every hour a biologist spends at sea they spend another 15 back in the office punching, verifying and analysing data – so if you help us with research you could also be doing data capture, measuring shark eggs that have washed ashore, weighing and classifying plastic pollution etc. If you feel creative, you could even help us with the daily blog after hours…but remember, your team mates will back at home chilling while you are still working. However, you will have good work experience and go home with the knowledge that you have really contributed to what we are doing!

Please note that you won’t be lobbing tags into sharks all day – only qualified people may do this and if you are really lucky you might be able to see this in action, but the reality is that if the research vessel goes out to track tagged sharks while you are here then you will be following a beeping noise on the hydrophone for hours and you most likely won’t actually see the shark…you will only know that it is there. However, if you are feeling generous and want to buy a tag for us you can even name the shark and come along on the tagging trip…the tags cost a lot though!

You can take turns with other volunteers to assist with data recording, sketching pictures of sharks and taking photo ID shots, but please note that these pictures are of the dorsal fins and scarring, not of the exciting front end of the shark remember that when you are doing data and taking research pix that you will miss out on photographing gaping sharks. So this is why we cycle volunteers’ tasks and you won’t only be doing research every day, you will also be helping clients with their wetsuits, those who are feeling seasick, assisting the crew and so on.

Do you have microscope skills? You might even be able to help us out with looking at blood slides of African Penguins and help with data recording or medicating their fish, but remember that rehabilitation centers are hard work and entail a lot of cleaning, so prepare yourself for that.

Suitable for


Typical day

Programs run for 5-7 days a week, normally from Monday to Sunday as the project is partnered with an ecotourism business.

Off days are granted upon request with a days notice or if there is bad weather.

Typical tasks include:

Great White Sharks

How will you be involved?
Duties will vary depending on each person’s skills set and those involved in the active study of marine biology are likely to be more involved on the research aspects. Volunteers assist with observational data capture and photographic data and may be involved with water sampling, temperature testing etc. If you stay for a minimum of a month and are fortunate enough to go out on the research boat, you may observe tagging of a shark or learn how to track an acoustically tagged shark. On land you can capture data and may learn how to match fins for population counts.

African Penguins

How will you be involved?
You may be involved in cleaning the birds’ pens, crates and living areas, assisting with preparing medicated fish, recording medical records and data and telling visitors about what we do. If you will be staying a minimum of 4 weeks and you want to volunteer at APSS regularly during your time here then you may be able to learn how to handle the birds yourself, if the rehabilitator feels that you show an aptitude for this. There is also the opportunity to read blood slides on the microscope and enter data onto the computer.

Marine Pollution

How will you be involved?
You may have the opportunity to work with children´s groups when we do beach clean-ups. We separate and weigh all the garbage and enter the data into a database. You may also be involved in making up our unique fishing line bins or help by cleaning the fishing line for recycling. By removing fishing line and other litter off our beaches you are quite possibly helping save another bird or animal from injury, as well as helping to prevent plastic from entering the food chain, causing animals to starve or become poisoned.

Marine Animal Strandings

How will you be involved?
You may assist to search for and retrieve animals, record data, assist in dissections, record GPS positions, help with body measurements and if it is a shark or dolphin then you will assist in dissecting it and taking samples for passing on to scientific institutions.

BRUV Studies

How will you be involved?
You may go out to sea to assist in deploying and retrieving equipment. Once back in the office, you could go through the video footage, recording the marine species that swim past the bait station.

Endemic Shark Species Project

How will you be involved?
You will search along the shoreline for egg cases that have washed ashore, collect, measure and identify them and input the information into our database.

Environmental Sampling

How will you be involved?
You will use the YSI to sample locally at the estuary and possibly a few times a week from the whale watching vessel or research vessel. You will help to record data and carefully maintain the highly sensitive equipment.

Whilst on the boat you will be able to do the following:

  • Assist inlaying and retrieving the anchor
  • Assist putting in the cage and attaching it to the boat
  • Help prepare bait
  • Help with the chumming
  • Assist the customers on the boat – answering any questions they have, informing them about the white sharks, helping them with their wet suits, offering help to any people suffering from seasickness
  • Assist divers in getting ready for the cage, and helping them in and out of the cage – providing them with masks, weight belts and towels
  • Collecting data on the sharks
  • Helping prepare the cage if we have a second trip
  • Viewing the sharks and taking pictures

Program Requirements

Minimum Age
16 years
Language Skills
You need to speak English (basic level)
Health Declaration
Criminal Background Check
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Do you have any questions concerning this volunteer opportunity in South Africa? Volunteer World directly connects you with SAVE Foundation

Shark Conservation Assistant Shark Conservation Assistant Shark Conservation Assistant Shark Conservation Assistant Shark Conservation Assistant Shark Conservation Assistant Shark Conservation Assistant

Free-time activities

Area information
Gansbaai is situated 2 hours from Cape Town. 

This former fishing village turned bustling town and tourism Mecca is the business hub that anchors a diverse and colourful community. The main road and side streets are dotted with an array of old and new shops and pubs, diners and deli’s reflecting an exquisite blend of cultures and traditions.

The fishing industry is still the economical heartthrob of the town. The two harbours, fishmeal factory and canning division, as well as the two abalone farms, are abuzz with activity and the main employment generator.

A thriving industrial area, banks, three petrol stations and two trendy shopping centres ensure that the needs of both locals and visitors are met.

We do get you out and about, especially if we have a no sea day when we organise some other educational and fun stuff to do.

Water Sports


What's included?
Airport pick up - 3 nights in Cape Town - Accommodation on project - Cape Town Orientation tour - Transfer Gansbaai back to Cape Town, providing you travel back on a Monday - Breakfast and lunch on working days - 24 hour support and supervision on project from two full-time volunteer coordinators and administrator and an on-site Manager - Donation to the NPO to assist with projects, for all bookings of 4 weeks or more - Certificate of appreciation
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.

No worries, Volunteer World supports you in raising funds, checking your visa regulations and travel insurance. We also assist you in finding the cheapest flights for your journey.
Airport Pickup

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 program?
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.


There are 4 cottages that accommodate up to 6 people per cottage. Each cottage has a bathroom, kitchenette and living area as well as daily living essentials. The main building has a beautiful kitchen, equipped with induction plates, a microwave and oven for cooking and a fully functional recycling system in place. There is also a very spacious living area with satellite TV, DVD player, board games, pool table and foosball. There is an activity hall with some weights and a table tennis table.

Bedroom (Single) Bedroom (Double)
Food & Beverages

Breakfast: eggs, bacon (or veggie sausage), bread, cereal, coffee and tea
Lunch: Only on working days, a sandwich, crisps, fruit juice and fruit.
Evening meals and other entertainment are at your own expense. Our accommodation has a fully equipped kitchen and braai/barbeque area.
Shops are nearby and a self catering kitchen is available. We will transfer you for food shopping on your first day of arrival and some days during the week.

Internet Access
Limited access at the project site
2 weeks (min. stay)
3 weeks
4 weeks
5 weeks
8 weeks
10 weeks
24 weeks (max. stay)

You can volunteer at the project site in Gansbaai/South Africa between 2 weeks and 24 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. SAVE Foundation will tell you your final price during your application process.
Average Fees
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with SAVE Foundation during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Get ready to volunteer in South Africa

Check out first

Visa Regulations
Depending on your nationality, you have to arrange your visa for South Africa. Please check the visa regulations for South Africa.
Travel Seasons
Find out the best time to volunteer in South Africa and receive information on weather and climatic conditions.
Living Costs
Living costs vary with each destination. We give an overview of what you should plan as an estimated budget to volunteer in South Africa.
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in South Africa.

What's next?

The nearest airport is Cape Town International (CPT) in Cape Town. We assist you to find cheap flights to South Africa.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for South Africa provides security and is a plus to have.
Vaccine Checker
If you are intending to volunteer in South Africa you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for South Africa.
What can you do in leisure-time in South Africa while you are not working at your volunteer opportunity?
Packing List
Packing our bags is important to prepare your trip, but often turns into a last minute horror. Make sure you don't forget the essentials by creating a personalised packing list for your volunteer program in South Africa upfront.
20 Briza Road, Tableview, South Africa, 7441 Gansbaai, South Africa