|What Rima Jabado had to say about her experience as a White Shark Trust Field Research Assistant:
After obsessing about white sharks for the last 22 years, I finally got the opportunity to realize my dream of seeing, and working with them when Michael Scholl accepted me as a research assistant!!
When I found out I was going, I was scared and excited at the same time!! I had no idea what to expect from this whole experience but I was impatient for it to start!!
After a long and never ending trip from Montreal, I finally made it!!! Michael welcomed me at the airport with Christiane and Jamie, the two other assistants. And the adventure began!!!
Even though all three of us were exhausted, the weather was gorgeous and Michael offered to take us to Table Mountain in Cape Town!! What a gorgeous place with breathtaking and picture perfect views! I have travelled a lot, but I found South Africa one of the most beautiful countries I have been to because of the diversity in the landscape, as well as the animals that you encounter. On a daily basis, you see sharks, cape fur seals, southern right whales as well as penguins!!!
Gansbaai is a small village where Michael and his wife Tracey live in a cosy, nice and most importantly clean house! They are a very welcoming and friendly couple and living with them is really great! The assistants get the upper floor of the house that is furnished with all the necessary equipment such as a kitchen, a bathroom, and your own living room, so that you can enjoy your privacy as well.
The only thing to be weary off is the fact that South Africa has not discovered central heating yet!!! So if you are planning on visiting in the winter months, make sure you bring loads of warm clothing!!
The days are spent out on Lamnidae (the boat) working with the sharks, learning how to collect data, analyse their behaviour, and taking pictures for photo identification purposes. Michael assigns the tasks that each person is responsible for everyday, but you really end up working in a team rather than alone, and that makes it all the more fun!
You can immediately see the love and respect that Michael has for the sharks and it is a feeling that he passes on to you as well. As much as you love sharks before going there, you will gain a greater appreciation for them and truly understand that their reputation is highly undeserved. They are absolutely magnificent creatures!
Dinner is a pleasant time where everyone gets together after a long day out at sea and just relaxes! The sunsets are incredible from their house that overlooks the harbour and you will never forget them!! Tracey is a great cook and she makes sure everyone eats well whether you are a vegetarian or a full carnivore!! I sure miss those dinners!
You will also get the opportunity on some occasions to mingle with the locals either at a pub or at the famous South African braais (barbecues). You get to meet people from all over the world that really have the same interests as you: SHARKS!!
Your days off depend on the weather! On the days you don't go out to sea, you can either make your own plans, or Michael and Tracey are always ready to take you places and just show you a good time. They really want you to enjoy your time with them, and they try to make it as memorable as possible (which it definitely was).
I found that this was a great experience for me and I'm glad I had the opportunity to live it. Not only did I get the chance to see my sharks, but it also allowed me to built lasting friendships. Needless to say I was very sad to have to leave!! One thing for sure is that I will definitely be visiting Michael, Tracey, and the sharks in the near future!!