Tag Archives: International marine volunteer

International Marine Volunteers Assist at a Humpback Whale Stranding

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) recently responded to a stranding of a humpback whale and the team at International Marine Volunteers was asked to assist.

The carcass was covered in many wounds from having washed in over the sharp rocks and much of the skin was missing.  It came closer and closer to shore over the next few high tides and was eventually lodged on the high water mark, within a few meters of the road.

Volunteers assisted the DICT marine biologist by doing observations and data recording as well as taking measurements and samples.  They were given an in-depth lesson on humpback whales and their biology and were amazed by the sheer size of the whale!

Volunteers comparing ratios of their own body measurements to those of the humpback whale

Some of them had seen this same whale swimming around the bay just a couple of days prior to the stranding.  The identity was matched using photo ID of the dorsal fin.  Humpback whales can also be matched by comparing photos of the underside of the flukes, but this animal only showed its flukes once and only a partial photo could be collected.  The tail was also so damaged during stranding that the patterns would not have been comparable.

Volunteers dwarfed by the stranded humpback whale

It is heart-wrenching to witness such a large animal helpless in the surf but this is Mother Nature’s way and such stranding events have been happening for centuries.  Stranded animals provide scientists with an opportunity to collect samples, like skin for genetics, baleen and parasites for museum collections and anatomical measurements for comparative studies.  It is seldom that one can determine the cause of death but it does provide an incredible educational opportunity for all involved!

Meredith Thornton: IMV Manager

Day tripping with International Marine Volunteers

When the swell’s up or the wind is blowing strongly then the boats can’t go to sea, and volunteers and crew alike get a well-deserved day off!  So in times like these, what is there for a marine volunteer to do?

Firstly we usually take advantage of the opportunity to sleep a little later than normal 😉 but then it’s breakfast time and off we go…road tripping time!

On our most recent trip we started off with a visit to Struisbaai Harbour to check out the local stingrays and the colourful fishing vessels.

A short-tailed stingray at Struisbaai Harbour [Photo credit: Hennie Odendal]

Then we hopped back in the minibus and headed off to L’Gulhas, the southern-most town in Africa!  We visited the spot where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans are said to meet…well, in reality they do mix in this area but, depending on the oceanographic conditions the actual meeting spot fluctuates geographically – but at least we can say “been there done that”!

The spot where the two oceans meet [Photo credit: Hennie Odendal]

While we were there we climbed to the top of the Cape Agulhas lighthouse.  This lighthouse was renovated recently and is looking lovely both inside and out!  It was quite a hectic climb up ladders and stairs but the view and the wind in our hair was definitely worth the effort!  It was an amazing view and we could even see the stone fishtraps that were built by South Africa’s first people – the Strandlopers, or beach walkers, known as the KhoiKhoi.  They were nomadic people who foraged and lived in the coastal zone thousands of years ago.

At the top of the the Cape Agulhas lighthouse – check out the huge prisms for the light that keeps our ships safe at night [Photo credit: Hennie Odendal]

Leaving the southernmost tip of Africa behind us, we headed eastwards towards a picturesque little town called Arniston.  Here we hiked along the beach to visit a huge and beautiful cave called Waenhuiskrans, which means Wagon House Cliff, after the fact that the cave was big enough to park a wagon and a span of oxen in it!

Waenhuiskrans [Photo credit: Hennie Odendal]

We even donned our fins and swam in the Indian Ocean, while back home at the International Marine Volunteer Center when we go kelp diving we actually swim in the Atlantic Ocean 🙂  Kinda fun to know, and for those people who like to tick off lists of cool things they have done, this is definitely one of them!

Meredith Thornton: IMV Manager

Winter is here

The busy season for IMV is here and we are starting it off with 18 volunteers. What more could you ask for? Winter brings bigger sharks, better visibility, some no sea days and great volunteers. Even with the no sea days we are still keeping these guys busy.

14-DSC_1632 03-DSC_1222 Our community projects are on a roll and improving each day, lectures are being held, just to give them that little extra knowledge and some days when they just want to take it easy, wine tasting and some games at the lodge is always great.




The volunteers have been very lucky lately, going on their very own Exclusive trips, with Marine Dynamics Shark cage diving. Still a couple cold months ahead, but we are looking forward to spending it with these amazing people.