Delve into a world of ocean beauty, sharks and other marine creatures on your gap year! Have the chance to see the magnificent great white shark in its natural habitat and come face-to-face with bronze whalers on our cage diving trips, as well as meet the beautiful smaller shark species that inhabit our coastline.
We started the Shark & Marine Institute in 2015 to realise our dream of contributing to marine conservation and particularly protecting our sharks—beautiful and misunderstood creatures that play such a vital role in maintaining the health of our oceans. Our programme is based in the coastal town of Gansbaai in South Africa, roughly two hours from the city of Cape Town. Our participants stay in a secure, comfortable home that has spectacular ocean views!
A new adventure every day
Each day, we will introduce you to a new marine (or on off-sea days, terrestrial) adventure. When we are not out on the cage diving boat coming face-to-face with larger species, we take trips on our six-metre research vessel. This allows us to get up-close and personal with the little sharks, such as shy sharks, leopard catsharks, and pyjama sharks with their trademark black stripes. Sometimes we even have great whites circling our boat—an unforgettable and thrilling experience! We also frequently encounter other marine life such as seals, rays, octopus, dolphins and aquatic birds.
Our permit is awarded by the South African government’s Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). It allows us to carry out catch-and-release tagging and genetic sample collection on smaller shark species on our research boat. Our tagging data contributes to a database compiled by the Oceanographic Research Institute, as well as our own ongoing research. We are also working with Stellenbosch University on a shark genetic study and dorsal fin ID study.
During snorkelling surveys in coastal bays, you will experience the beauty of our kelp forests and rocky shores. We catch sharks by hand during these studies to carry out the same tagging and genetic sampling process.
On off-sea days you have the choice of a wide array of land-based activities. You can visit a penguin colony or big cat sanctuary, go hiking, wine or cheese-tasting, zip lining, fat biking, or simply relax at a spa. If we have more than one off-sea day in a row, there is also the chance to spend some time in Cape Town or visit Cape Agulhas—the most southerly point in Africa, where two oceans meet. The possibilities are endless…
Make your gap year count
Joining our team will give you the opportunity to contribute towards shark and marine conservation in our beautiful country. It will allow you the chance to broaden your knowledge, gain exciting experience in the field and get involved with meaningful projects. You will study and work with various shark species—including the incredible but unfortunately diminishing great white shark. Some of our participants have even been able to earn credits towards their degrees through our programme.*
Come and join us and make a positive difference to our oceans!
*Dependent upon approval by your educational institution.
This article was in partnership with Shark and Marine Research Institute.