By: Angie Goody
My ambition in life before I was 30 was to either be married or to have dived with the Great White Shark, feared by most but loved by me! Well my 30th came and went and I had failed on both so the goal post’s was moved to 40 years old! In July 2008 at the age of 33 I had achieved my ambition … To dive with the Great White and it was actually with the White Shark project I managed to for fill this, and even way back then the one person who I never forgot was Gerald our skipper and to this day he hasn’t changed one bit. After dealing with the dark side of life and battling depression I realised life was far too short and life is what you make it. It was time for a change and to start being selfish and doing what I WANTED TO DO! Thankfully though I have very understanding parents who have never stopped me doing anything and they knew with my next ambition there was going to be no changing my mind! Sod marriage, I wanted to work with White Sharks! I was fortunate enough that I am self employed except for the fact that actually I run quite a productive Beef and Sheep farm back home in the Isle of Man.
Once I had someone in place to look after that, as well as my 4 horses it was time to start preparing to live that dream!!! I booked a month with the White Shark Project and it has certainly been the best experience of my life so far and believe you me a month is not long enough! I arrived on the Saturday afternoon and by the Sunday morning I was a member of a team of volunteers and staff of the WSP. Now anyone thinking of coming along don’t look at this as a holiday, it’s early mornings, a lot of hard work preparing for trips, etc. Smelling like dead tuna and anchovy oil, BUT it is worth every bit of it because when you get out there and see those awesome predititors face to face it’s the best reward you could ever have. It’s not just the sharks that are fantastic it’s the staff and crew as well who all make you feel very welcome and at home. Jule’s, she is a woman after my own heart! Currently having to work in the office due to the fact she is pregnant but you can tell the moment that baby is born she will be back on the boat with the video recorder in her hand. Don’t mess with her though! – boy can she shout and you do not want a roasting from her … you only get it though if you deserve it, which is fare enough! (I only witnessed it and thank Christ I wasn’t on the receiving end of it) Then you have Frank. Frank is probably one of the nicest guys I have ever met. He is passionate about his sharks and marine conservation and is extremely knowledgeable on anything that involves the sharks, ocean, research and photography. Frank also gives us lectures on non sea days. Then there is Andy. Andy does all the Steven Spielberg movies each trip for clients he is the one that gets them even more nerves by calling them his victims … of course you are completely safe … as long as you listen to your skippers Gerald and Grant and boy what a pair they are! Both fantastic guys who have seen and heard it all. Grant has a dry sense of humour that will have you laughing every trip! I am so tempted when I am back to right a book on “Gerald’s quips” As in “Madam you have paid a lot of money to come and see these Great Whites and the only Great white you are seeing is your Great White Toe … now look where I say” or “Too slow the shark has gone back to Australia” Gerald your commentary makes my days … as well as the sharks of course. We cannot forget the crew Bee, Maoli, Mandala and Moos without them we wouldn’t see the sharks. The last person I mustn’t forget to mention is Rene. Rene is one of the owners of the company and works in the office at the back of our Vol’s house. She likes her coffee strong, a little milk and no sugar, she appreciates one every now and then!
On no sea days we have been to Strainsbaai to swim with the sting rays (That was un real, great experience) Cape Agulus the most southerly point of South Africa … be warned it is extremely windy and if you go up the light house and they say the steps are steep believe you me they are. Vertical maybe a good way to describe them!! Also done quad biking, seen the penguins at Betty’s bay, trips to Hermanus and plus being a scuba diver and passionate about sharks I paid to do the Blue, Mako and 7 Gill dive with Shark Explorers. And I can safely say that was the best money I have ever spent on a dive. It’s not cheap, but worth every penny. Something else you get involved in every Tuesday is swop shop! It is the most rewarding part of your stay here I think. It’s in the local township of Masacasi just outside Gansbaai. There, the children collect recyclable rubbish like cans, glass and plastic bottles and then they are given points for what they have collected that can be swapped for Toy’s, Stationary and Clothes. They rely on donations and are grateful with anything. There is a Crazy Store shop in Gansbaai where for a ZAR 100.00(S.A Rand) you can buy so much that could be used in the swop shop. It’s a really good project and the kids are awesome.
I came to volunteer in February which normally is a quiet month for sharks but there has been nothing quiet about this month. I have been fortunate to have gone on most of the trips throughout the month and each time we have seen between 5 and 9 sharks the smallest being a 1.8m baby to several 3.5m plus feisty females. I’ve seen spy hoppers, semi breaches, aggression between big and small sharks, huge sting rays feeding on the bait and a shark circling it. You get to know the characters of individual sharks, some just want to be nosy and seem to put a display on for you and others just merely want the bait and claim the boat theirs. I am keen on my photography anyway and managed to get some half decent shots! “The trick is keep your camera on the bait and be ready to snap when you hear them shout “BAIT” cause it normally means it’s a split second away from the sharks jaws! This of course is not their intention but occasionally it happens especially in the poor Vis. The other nice part of going out on the boat is you meet some great clients from all walks of life and they are full of questions about the sharks so make sure your shark knowledge is up to date! I’ve learnt so much in a month it’s un-real. It especially helps with the lectures you get from Frank on shark biology and behaviour etc you can relate all the info you have learnt from him. In my mind the best part of the job is chumming! Despite having a new perfume all the time called “Rotting Tuna” and is hated by most it is the one place where you get to see the shark full on. Beware though some sharks like to take a closer look and can occasionally try and get on the back with you, it’s absolutely breath taking though … I love it!