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I was so happy I almost cried

I was so happy I almost cried

Author -  Emma Nevard


After spending the last three weeks in and out of hostels in Thailand and Vietnam, it was nice to have somewhere that I could call home for the next four weeks. And that’s exactly how I’d describe Africa and Marine Big 5 team, the feeling of home.

After an early morning pick up from Cape Town, I was on my way to the small fishing town of Gasbaai on the Western Cape. Now I’ve never been a huge fan of sharks, they scare me a little. But I was open to learning and having my mind changed about these creatures.

Sharks Photo 1.jpeg

The Bronze Whalers, also known as Copper Sharks. Attracted by the chum in the water. They are a schooling species of shark so tolerate one another more than the Great Whites. It's awesome being in the cage with these sharks around, they're so active and hang around for a while.

With the Marine Big 5 program, I had the opportunity to do Shark cage diving, whale watching and eco tours. I met the knowledgeable and welcoming team from the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary,and the intern program.

Feed Penguin Ph 2.jpeg

The volunteers would help in the morning and afternoon with feeding the penguins. They try to rehabilitate most of them back to the wild, with only a few permanent residents. Some penguins come in with injuries that can be healed. Others, like a few I got to help look after, unfortunately won't be going back to the wild. For example, one was completely blind. The penguin chick in the photo was found alone and starving. They now have scheduled a release for the chick once it's waterproof feathers grow in.

At the start of every week was Braai night (South African BBQ) to welcome new volunteers and interns. I was the only newbie when I arrived, there were already five interns, four of them from Ireland and one Aussie, then one other volunteer from Germany. The housing itself is really good. Four cottages with shared rooms. The interns had their own space, just next door. While I was there, the most volunteers at one time was only 10, so we all got our own rooms. There is a huge communal space and kitchen.


Trevor (lab cross), Max (german shepherd) and a cat named Mowgli truly made the cottages feel like home. I’d later come to realize that Mowgli was my roommate as I was living in the cottage he called home and out the four weeks I was there, there was only a handful of nights where he wasn’t on my bed. New forever friends.

Sharks Photo 3.jpeg

Photo credit for this amazing shot goes to Lilly, another volunteer. Even though he looks scary Great White sharks are very much just misunderstood.

 

On day one I was treated to the client experience on the shark cage diving boat, “Slash Fin”.

This was so I could see first hand the high standard of hospitality that the company was wanting on the boat to give the clients. Also it meant I’d definitely have a chance to go in the shark diving cage. As a volunteer, there’s no expectation to be going everyday. Only when there's space in the cage and all the clients have been. I was lucky enough to be able to go in five times over my four weeks. The first time getting in that water was a shock, even with a 7mm wetsuit on, it was cold! But it was worth it getting to see some beautiful Bronze Whaler/Copper Sharks. You get such a high when one comes up close to the cage, or even accidentally swims into it!

The cage diving and majority of the marine biologists themselves are focused on research of Great Whites. The area which the company is based is Shark Ally and anyone that has seen the TV show ‘Shark Week’ would know, there is a high amount of Great White activity within that area. It was a guarantee that you’d see at least one Great White everyday. But as of two years ago everything changed in the area when five bodies of Great Whites, the largest being 4.5 metres, washed up along the western cape, all with their livers missing. Two big male Orca that were hanging out in the bay at that time hand learnt to hunt Great Whites. Ever since then, sightings of the sharks have been less frequent and has thrown the marine biologist a major curve ball while trying to research these already elusive sharks.

Beach 4.jpeg

Helping out the interns. Here I'm learning about the Estuary monitory they do every week. Checking water temperature, depth and pressure. They keep all the data on record and monitor any changes.


There was never a day the same, as weather and swell would dictated what was the days activities. If the ocean was too rough there’d be a ‘no sea day’. As a group, we could organise what we wanted to do for the day, from a wine and cheese tasting to horse riding or biking through the dunes. There wasn’t a shortage of extra activities.


A ‘Sea day’ was what everyone was there for though. I was lucky enough to have one of my childhood dreams come true while out on ‘Dream Catcher’, the whale watching boat. At just about the end of the trip, one of the crew, Eagle Eye Kira he was known as, saw movement on the surface about 500 meters away. The skipper took us in the general direction where he thought he saw something and suddenly the boat was surrounded by a super pod of common dolphins. Dolphins being a favorite of mine, I was so happy I almost cried. I was just standing in awe, not knowing which direction to look next.

I came into this program not knowing a whole lot about sharks, but I learnt so much while I was there.

Just from asking the biologists questions while out on the boat or at the organized talks the co-coordinators set up. I enjoyed being able to be a part of the research as well, be it photo ID of the sharks or being on the beach looking for shark egg cases, which was a whole lot of fun. They’re also big on doing beach clean ups and fishing line removal, everyone within community does their part to help the ocean, and it was amazing to be included for a short while.

The people I met there, crew, scientists, staff, volunteers and interns I can say made a strong impact on my life and a lot have become lifelong friends.

Disclaimer:

To do this project you don’t need any previous experience with diving, I didn’t. I’d only ever put on a wetsuit once my life! They do offer a dive course while you are there. You just have to complete the e-Learning before hand and be there for at least four weeks to complete the course.

To find out more about Emma’s projects check out

https://www.iwh.co.nz/africa-volunteer-programs-for-kiwis/africa-wildlife-volunteer-projects-/dive-with-sharks-south-africa

 

 

Fill out my online form.

I was so happy I almost cried

I came into this program not knowing a whole lot about sharks, but I learnt so much while I was there.


After spending the last three weeks in and out of hostels in Thailand and Vietnam, it was nice to have somewhere that I could call home for the next four weeks. And that’s exactly how I’d describe Africa and Marine Big 5 team, the feeling of home.

After an early morning pick up from Cape Town, I was on my way to the small fishing town of Gasbaai on the Western Cape. Now I’ve never been a huge fan of sharks, they scare me a little. But I was open to learning and having my mind changed about these creatures.

Sharks Photo 1.jpeg

The Bronze Whalers, also known as Copper Sharks. Attracted by the chum in the water. They are a schooling species of shark so tolerate one another more than the Great Whites. It's awesome being in the cage with these sharks around, they're so active and hang around for a while.

With the Marine Big 5 program, I had the opportunity to do Shark cage diving, whale watching and eco tours. I met the knowledgeable and welcoming team from the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary,and the intern program.

Feed Penguin Ph 2.jpeg

The volunteers would help in the morning and afternoon with feeding the penguins. They try to rehabilitate most of them back to the wild, with only a few permanent residents. Some penguins come in with injuries that can be healed. Others, like a few I got to help look after, unfortunately won't be going back to the wild. For example, one was completely blind. The penguin chick in the photo was found alone and starving. They now have scheduled a release for the chick once it's waterproof feathers grow in.

At the start of every week was Braai night (South African BBQ) to welcome new volunteers and interns. I was the only newbie when I arrived, there were already five interns, four of them from Ireland and one Aussie, then one other volunteer from Germany. The housing itself is really good. Four cottages with shared rooms. The interns had their own space, just next door. While I was there, the most volunteers at one time was only 10, so we all got our own rooms. There is a huge communal space and kitchen.


Trevor (lab cross), Max (german shepherd) and a cat named Mowgli truly made the cottages feel like home. I’d later come to realize that Mowgli was my roommate as I was living in the cottage he called home and out the four weeks I was there, there was only a handful of nights where he wasn’t on my bed. New forever friends.

Sharks Photo 3.jpeg

Photo credit for this amazing shot goes to Lilly, another volunteer. Even though he looks scary Great White sharks are very much just misunderstood.

 

On day one I was treated to the client experience on the shark cage diving boat, “Slash Fin”.

This was so I could see first hand the high standard of hospitality that the company was wanting on the boat to give the clients. Also it meant I’d definitely have a chance to go in the shark diving cage. As a volunteer, there’s no expectation to be going everyday. Only when there's space in the cage and all the clients have been. I was lucky enough to be able to go in five times over my four weeks. The first time getting in that water was a shock, even with a 7mm wetsuit on, it was cold! But it was worth it getting to see some beautiful Bronze Whaler/Copper Sharks. You get such a high when one comes up close to the cage, or even accidentally swims into it!

The cage diving and majority of the marine biologists themselves are focused on research of Great Whites. The area which the company is based is Shark Ally and anyone that has seen the TV show ‘Shark Week’ would know, there is a high amount of Great White activity within that area. It was a guarantee that you’d see at least one Great White everyday. But as of two years ago everything changed in the area when five bodies of Great Whites, the largest being 4.5 metres, washed up along the western cape, all with their livers missing. Two big male Orca that were hanging out in the bay at that time hand learnt to hunt Great Whites. Ever since then, sightings of the sharks have been less frequent and has thrown the marine biologist a major curve ball while trying to research these already elusive sharks.

Beach 4.jpeg

Helping out the interns. Here I'm learning about the Estuary monitory they do every week. Checking water temperature, depth and pressure. They keep all the data on record and monitor any changes.


There was never a day the same, as weather and swell would dictated what was the days activities. If the ocean was too rough there’d be a ‘no sea day’. As a group, we could organise what we wanted to do for the day, from a wine and cheese tasting to horse riding or biking through the dunes. There wasn’t a shortage of extra activities.


A ‘Sea day’ was what everyone was there for though. I was lucky enough to have one of my childhood dreams come true while out on ‘Dream Catcher’, the whale watching boat. At just about the end of the trip, one of the crew, Eagle Eye Kira he was known as, saw movement on the surface about 500 meters away. The skipper took us in the general direction where he thought he saw something and suddenly the boat was surrounded by a super pod of common dolphins. Dolphins being a favorite of mine, I was so happy I almost cried. I was just standing in awe, not knowing which direction to look next.

I came into this program not knowing a whole lot about sharks, but I learnt so much while I was there.

Just from asking the biologists questions while out on the boat or at the organized talks the co-coordinators set up. I enjoyed being able to be a part of the research as well, be it photo ID of the sharks or being on the beach looking for shark egg cases, which was a whole lot of fun. They’re also big on doing beach clean ups and fishing line removal, everyone within community does their part to help the ocean, and it was amazing to be included for a short while.

The people I met there, crew, scientists, staff, volunteers and interns I can say made a strong impact on my life and a lot have become lifelong friends.

Disclaimer:

To do this project you don’t need any previous experience with diving, I didn’t. I’d only ever put on a wetsuit once my life! They do offer a dive course while you are there. You just have to complete the e-Learning before hand and be there for at least four weeks to complete the course.

To find out more about Emma’s projects check out

https://www.iwh.co.nz/africa-volunteer-programs-for-kiwis/africa-wildlife-volunteer-projects-/dive-with-sharks-south-africa

 

 

Fill out my online form.
I was so happy I almost cried

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