Daniel Sokolnikoff

P8080202.JPG“My time volunteering with the White Shark Diving Co has now come to an end, and to say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every moment would be an understatement.

In my last week we took every opportunity to see white sharks, either from the cage or on the boat. We spent a couple of our days on the smaller fishing boat. We caught and tagged a number of Puffadder and Dark shysharks, as well as Pyjama catsharks and Smooth-hound sharks. The last shark I caught was a large female Pyjama catshark, just over a meter long.

For the final nights, we celebrated all the great times we had in the last month. We enjoyed dinner and drinks at some of our favourite restaurants and held one last braai.

My time spent researching sharks over the last month will definitely not be forgotten. I’ve met amazing people, seen some of South Africa’s best scenery and pursued dreams of my own.

A special thank you to Mary for organising and running the volunteer program, and to all the staff of White Shark Diving Co! I have loved every minute and I’m taking away memories I will treasure. I highly recommend the program to anyone studying marine science or anyone with a passion for the marine environment!”

Taylor Smith

P7130246.JPG“Over the past two months this volunteer program has allowed me to live my dream of being a shark researcher. There is no way to describe what it is like to be nose to nose with great whites in the cage and watch them breach from above. Having the ability to go on the cage diving boat every week and watch these breathtaking animals was one of my favourite parts of this program. Being out at sea almost every day, whether we saw sharks or not, is unparalleled.

Beyond just the great whites being exceptional, I learnt how to catch and tag various species of sharks, both from the fishing boat and by hand in the kelp – I don’t think I have seen anything cuter than a leopard catshark pup. I also had the rare opportunity to witness a dead white shark being brought onto shore, which was both sad and extraordinary seeing this fascinating animal up close. It has been an absolutely incredible learning experience to be involved in this research!

Aside from the research aspect, I feel so lucky to have been a part of this program. Specifically, for the people I’ve met while living here, I hope to be friends with for life. The amount of care that has been put into making sure that we, as volunteers, are having the experience that we want, is beyond words.

Mary and Imke continually come up with amazing ideas of what to do when we don’t have sea days, such as bungee jumping (which I stood and watched Dan do, for my fear of heights could in no way handle jumping 216m), go to the elephant sanctuary to take elephants on a walk, dive in kelp forests, go wine tasting, walk to town along the cliff path in Hermanus and anything else we had an interest in! I have had so much fun spending time with everyone that we work with and becoming a part of this shark family for we can nerd out about shark facts and catching new species, but also relax at home and watch Mary become a real braai master.

I have not had a single negative experience since I arrived two months ago, except for the fact that it has ended too soon, but I have fallen in love with South Africa and everyone at WSDC so much that I am planning on coming back to do my masters here. So even though my indescribable volunteer experience may have finished, it is not yet the end.”