Founded in 2006 by Wilfred Chivell, the Dyer Island Conservation Trust delivers unique conservation and research programmes in a fragile marine and critically important marine eco-system. We strive to protect the largest surviving colonies of the endangered African Penguin whose numbers are at an all-time low; the globally important breeding and calving grounds of the Southern Right Whale; and the world's densest populations of the vulnerable Great White Shark.


Discover and understand this globally important marine eco-system through world-class scientific research.
Protect the long-term future of the species that live here by translating this knowledge into evidence-based conservation initiatives.
Educate our partners – local communities, legislators and visitors – by informing and actively involving them in achieving our goals for the benefit of all.


Close to the southern tip of Africa, the greater Dyer Island area and the surrounding ocean is a critically important eco-system.

The 20ha Dyer Island - managed by CapeNature - is home to breeding colonies of the endangered African Penguin, Cape Cormorant (60% of the population) and Caspian Tern, as well as other seabirds. Its importance is recognised by Birdlife International and classified an Important Bird Area (IBA)

About 60 000 Cape Fur Seals are resident on Geyser Rock opposite the island and they attract the densest population of Great While Sharks in the world.

Around the island the waters of Kleinbaai in Gansbaai provide the breeding ground for the Southern Right Whales who migrate here from the sub-Antarctic islands between July to December each year while Brydes Whales, Humpback Whales and Orcas visit the bay along with various dolphin species.

African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary
Open every day from 08:00 to 16:00. Feeding time at 08:30 and 15:00. No entrance fee.

The African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary (APSS) is a Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) project based in Gansbaai. A state of the art facility, designed and built by passionate experts, that strives to provide local marine avian species with a local rehabilitative centre where injured, diseased or distressed birds can be treated and rehabilitated.

Although the facility was purpose built for rehabilitation of marine birds, it also caters for creating awareness around the perils marine birds face out in the wild. An Auditorium equipped with a big screen TV, which is linked up to the Rehabilitation area and the Bird Hospital, enables guests who visit the facility to see what is being done behind the scenes. This prevents added stress on the birds in rehabilitation by minimizing the amount of people allowed in the critical areas. The Auditorium has one way glass overlooking the Conditioning Pen - where visitors can watch birds in final preparation for release without any disturbance or interference. The greatest care is taken with cleanliness and special flooring Is used in the rehabilitation area to avoid a condition called bumblefoot that penguins are susceptible to. A curio shop selling penguin curios is on site. Coffee and cake is available. All purchases in this regard help support the sanctuary. Entrance is free. The sanctuary depends heavily on donations and a sponsorship brick can be purchased to contribute to the centre with tiered levels of support.


  • To provide immediate emergency response to reported marine avifauna in distress.
  • To offer rescued avifauna immediate medical attention and treatment if needed.
  • To provide temporary housing, nutrition and management for avifauna in rehabilitative care.
  • To release rehabilitated avifauna back into their natural surrounds.
  • To address the need for minimum stress accumulation through minimum handling.
  • To provide a platform for further research into the release success rate of rehabilitated marine avifauna and the successful return back to their original colonies.


  • For the APSS to run as a self-sustaining conservation initiative that supports, in general, the objectives of biodiversity conservation management and specifically, the vision of the South African Department of Environment’s 2013 Biodiversity Management Plan for the African Penguin.
  • Through adaptive management, to ensure the implementation of innovative and dynamic protocols based on feedback to maintain best practice in achieving optimal rehabilitation success.
  • To contribute towards and participate in a workable Oil Spill Contingency plan to service the Overstrand Coastline
  • To continue networking with all relevant authorities and other bodies in the field of marine bird rehabilitation and conservation.
  • To provide a platform for further research into effective rehabilitation and release of marine birds to ensure the birds’ successful return to their colonies.

APSS is open every day 08:00 to 16:00. Feeding time at 08:30 and 15:00. No entrance fee.

Browse the gallery to view more images of the penguins and the APSS facility. 


It’s not all black and white
Exclusive to the African continent, our African Penguins have a unique story to tell.

Scientific name: Spheniscus Demersus
English names: African Penguin, Blackfooted Penguin, Jackass Penguin
Afrikaans names: Afrika Pikkewyn, Brul Pikkewyn
Xhosa names: Inguza or Unombombiya

Previously known as the Jackass Penguin, but many felt that to have the term “ass” in their name was politically incorrect. For a while thereafter they were known as the Blackfooted Penguins, but seeing as most of the other penguin species have black feet, it caused some confusion. There are 18 penguin species worldwide, but these are the only penguin species that can call Africa home – therefore the preferred name for them is the African penguin. They can be found along the Southwestern African coastline, all the way from Namibia to Algoa Bay in South Africa.

The dorsal or back part of the body is black and the belly is white. The white belly has a thick black stripe curving across the top of the chest and down the flanks towards the legs.

African Penguins have black webbed feet and a black facial mask with distinctive pink patches of skin above the eyes. Each African Penguin has a unique and distinct pattern of black spots on the white chest that can be used to distinguish individuals from one another. The African Penguin has a black bill and shortened tail.

Males and females have the same plumage, making it difficult to differentiate between sexes. However, males can be distinguished from females by a slightly bigger and broader bill. Adults weigh on average 2.2kg - 3.5kg and are 30cm in height, but when they are measured from the tips of their toe nails to the end of their beaks they are between 60-70cm. Juveniles differ from adults in having blue-grey plumage with no white facial markings and no bold, defined markings. They have dark upper-parts lacking both spots and band on the chest. African penguins reach sexual maturity at 4 years old and have an average lifespan of 10-15 years.



Survival 101
Eat, swim and be merry!

African Penguins are flightless, aquatic birds with reduced wings that are modified to form efficient flippers for swimming, they also have heavy bones to enable them to dive. The feathers in adults are specialised to form a thick coat of overlapping layers that assist with waterproofing, wind resistance and insulation.

They are all-star swimmers, swimming up to 20km/hr, travel 20-40km in a day, and have been recorded at 130m in depth!

Once a year the African Penguin goes through a moulting process, this basically means they are replacing their old, worn-out feathers. During this time they need to gain up to 31% of their normal body weight. These fat reserves are very important because as their new feathers slowly push out the old feathers, they are not waterproof, therefore they do not feed for about 18 days. They have to stay on land without food until their new shiny tuxedo has grown out. African Penguins feed on sardines and anchovies.

They communicate by means of vocalisation and displays. Vocalisation includes loud, donkey-like braying noises as well as barking and growling. Chicks can produce a whistling ‘peep’ to request food and a hissing sound. Aggressive displays include an individual pointing its bill directly at another, pecking, bill-slapping and beating one another with flippers. Comfort behaviours include preening of feathers and rubbing and scratching of the head.



An untold love story
It starts with finding the perfect beach pebble and the rest is history.

As the story goes, during mating season penguins gather on the beaches with a pebble in their possession. Each penguin will present his/her perfect pebble to the mate he or she most desires. If the pebble is accepted, they are mates for life.

Breeding season begins in January when males return to their previous nesting areas. They defend their nest while they wait for their female mates to arrive. African Penguins mate with the same partner year after year.

African Penguins typically lay two eggs, if successful, it will hatch in March after incubation of 40 days. They can then lay a second clutch in May/June. If the egg is lost, they may lay another clutch in March and if that clutch is also lost, they may lay again in May/June or even August/September. It is this determination to breed successfully that was exploited by egg harvesters in the 18th and 19th centuries.

African Penguins have an extended breeding season, which enables them to breed throughout the year. The peak of the breeding season in Namibia (November to December) tends to be earlier than the peak for South Africa (March to May). African Penguins breed mainly at offshore islands in colonies.


Help! We’re in trouble
Our penguin friends are staring extinction in the face.

IUCN classification: Endangered (May 2010)

First came the “eggers” – egg collectors. For a while the African Penguins green tinged, fish smelling eggs were considered a delicacy. Up until the 1960’s over 13 million eggs were removed from the breeding islands.

Then came the “scrapers” – guano collectors. Guano is the nutrient-rich bird droppings from bird colony areas. On Dyer Island, the guano layer was 4-6m thick and the penguins used to burrow into the guano layer to form nests. These burrowed nests kept them insulated from heat and cold and protected from predators. The breeding islands are now barren rocks and the penguins now have to nest in shallow pits, exposed to the sun, predators and occasional flooding.

And lastly, the “oilers” – oil spills, whether big or small is bad news for penguins. A spot of oil the size of your thumbprint on their feathers can cause harm. Imagine cutting a hole in a wetsuit – water seeps in. The same happens to the African Penguin, they lose their waterproofing, become waterlogged and can drown, or they try to preen it off, the oil gets ingested and can make them ill.

The African penguins are undergoing very rapid population declines. The initial records of African penguin populations along the Namibia and South African coastline estimated around one million breeding pairs in the 1920s but these populations have rapidly declined to less than 20 000 pairs.

1920: 1 000 000 breeding pairs

1956: 147 000 breeding pairs

1978: 75 000 breeding pairs

2001: 63 000 breeding pairs

2009: 25 000 breeding pairs

2015: 18 000 breeding pairs

Watch out for penguin predators
Our African Penguins are risking their lives to survive.

The African Penguin now faces a contemporary and frightening problem of over-fishing of sardines and anchovies in particular. This dwindling fish stock has resulted in parents being forced to travel increasing distances to feed, placing additional pressure on this already threatened animal. They have their natural enemies but some of them, like the Cape fur seal have learned to make the penguins do the hard work – they go fishing and then get targeted by the seals merely for their stomach contents. This new learned behaviour by some lazy characters is contributing to the demise of their kind.

Home is where the nest is
The African Penguins have lost their natural nesting habitat. DICT to the rescue!

African Penguins nest by digging burrows. Seabirds naturally create a soft layer of guano (bird poop) on colonies over time, and guano is the perfect material for keeping a nest cool when it is hot, warm when it is cold, and self-draining from rain. But guano was scraped off the islands and sold as fertiliser. No guano, no home. Nesting on the hard, rocky surface exposed the penguins to the harsh weather conditions. Predators like Kelp Gulls could not believe their luck when the unprotected surface nests offered them the opportunity to use the penguin eggs and chicks as a fly through take away.

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust in partnership with CapeNature has embarked on a programme to install artificial penguin nests on Dyer Island and Stoney Point.

So far, more than 2 000 artificial nests or penguin homes have been deployed on the island and at other breeding colonies.The nest project is part of the African Penguin Biodiversity Management Plan and is approved by WWF. Artificial is never as good as the real thing, so the Dyer Island Conservation Trust is continuously engaging with other partners to ensure that we address all unintended consequences and reach the best outcome for the African Penguin.

Our own special, safe place
A world-class sanctuary was built to protect and rehabilitate our penguins.

They say “Africa is not for sissies” and as the only penguin species living on the African continent they are not giving up that easily. They are tenacious survivors especially with the assistance from a place where they can rest and recover from injury, exhaustion or oiling.

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) has built a world-class seabird sanctuary in Gansbaai, the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS). The sanctuary serves as a custom-designed, marine bird rehabilitation centre in the Overstrand area, which provides temporary rehabilitative care to diseased, displaced, injured, oiled and abandoned marine birds with special focus on the endangered African Penguin. Marine bird rescue, rehabilitation and release form part of the conservation management plan to conserve and maintain African Penguin populations, and other seabirds. Through continued research, education and awareness programmes, the aim is to mitigate human impacts on the colonies.

Up close and personal
There’s a lot more to our Great Whites than just jagged, sharp teeth.

There are over 500 species of sharks, and together with skates and rays this group of fish are known as ‘Elasmobranchs’. They have cartilage skeletons and first evolved around 4 million years ago, before dinosaurs walked the lands!

While we have 5 senses, sharks and rays have 7. Touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing, water pressure, and they can detect slight electrical fields produced by muscles (as tiny as 0.05 millionth of a volt).

Sharks do not have fish scales, their skin is made of tiny dermal denticles which function to streamline their bodies making them hydrodynamic. These look like small teeth when seen under a microscope.

Water temperature is one of the most important factors driving shark distribution. Most sharks are ectotherms (cold blooded) but some like the Great White Shark can maintain a warmer body temperature than surrounding seawater by up to 14.5°C! This allows them to hunt fast prey in cold waters.

About 40% of sharks are egg laying, the rest are viviparous and give birth to live young either nourished by a yolk sac or a placental attachment. Great White Sharks give live birth, but this has never been witnessed. They could give birth to an estimated six pups although we are not sure. Pups are already 1.5m (5 foot) in length.

Identify the dorsal
Just as human beings have a unique fingerprint, so do our sharks.

Great White Sharks can be identified by their dorsal fins. Two methods of photo identification can be used to identify individual sharks from one another.

Dorsal fin identification: Using the trailing edge of the dorsal fin we can distinguish specific notch marking sequences. These are individual to sharks and can now be recognised accurately by using the latest computer programme technology.

Sub-surface identification: Under water film footage and photography can enable us to identify Great White Sharks even more accurately by matching specific pigmentation markings on three marked areas of each shark by their gills, pelvic fins and tails.

The numbers of sharks found in the Gansbaai area was only half of what was previously assumed to be in the area, this after a long term study of photo ID’s of shark fins was assimilated. The team used a software programme called Darwin (usually used for dolphin fin identification) which enabled them to identify 532 individuals suggesting perhaps an estimated 808 to 1008 sharks that come through the area - based on an open population size estimate. This study was a first for the area and for South Africa, and crucial in establishing a national database and driving conservation decisions at a government level, as is all research Dyer Island Conservation Trust enters into. The Great White Shark reaches sexual maturity late (approx. 20 years) so is a slow breeding species so understanding their population dynamics is critical. The Great White Shark is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, but it is on the cusp of being labelled endangered. The world wide figure is uncertain but estimates have suggested 3 000 to 5 000 remain.

Discover and Protect
The Great White population is at an all time low.

We believe that science saves sharks, therefore our team of experts are doing all they can to prevent further population decline. If we are better able to understand the species we can drive conservation decisions at a government level.

The waters around Dyer Island have one of the densest population of Great White Sharks in the world which is accessible to research scientists.

Attracted by the colony of roughly 60 000 seals on Geyser Rock separated from Dyer Island by the world-famous Shark Alley, and other prey species of smaller sharks, skates, rays, fish and mammals, these mysterious apex predators are regularly sighted by thousands of visitors who come here to cage dive each year.

The work carried out from our dedicated research vessel – Lwazi (meaning seeking knowledge in Xhosa) is complemented by marine biologists abroad the shark cage diving boat of Marine Dynamics who have accumulated photographs and observations of sharks for more than a decade.

As a result of this co-operative effort and, the intensive research programme conducted by the Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT), this has become an internationally recognised centre for exploring the world of the Great White Shark.

Fill in the blanks
These animals appear to be far more interesting and complex than we thought.

Much of the life of the Great White Shark remains a mystery. Our goal has always been to find out more.

Using acoustic tagging our marine biologists explore the movement behaviour of Great White Sharks, studying their interactions with their environment, habitat and prey. This work has revealed that they respond to changes in sea temperature. This information can be used to develop a predictive model of the times when bathers and others are at potentially high risk of shark attacks.

Additionally, our collaborative satellite tracking studies done with Ocearch in 2012 have revealed the larger migratory movement patterns of sharks within the bay and along the South African coast. ‘Our’ Great White Sharks are moving into areas such as Mozambique where they are killed by local fishermen. The shark nets and drumlines in Kwazulu Natal waters off South Africa’s coastline are another hazard they must face. It is important to understand where the sharks go as this could indicate possible breeding regions whereas indicated they face great risks. This is vital information for initiatives to adequately protect the Great White Shark.

Marine Dynamics Shark Tours supports the Dyer Island Conservation Trust with the long-term monitoring and data collection on the White Sharks as well as other key species. From the current research, there is a lot more to these animals than people actually know and we wish to change the public’s perception of these magnificent beasts.

Educating the general public on our research outputs is an important part of marine conservation, as is working with the youth in our local communities, as our future ocean ambassadors.

Out at sea
Our biologists are working around the clock to protect the Great White shark species.

Our programme of boat-based tracking is augmented by a permanent network of 13 receivers, anchored to listening stations across the bay as well as adjacent Walker Bay and Quoin Point. This widens the knowledge the team gains on the Great White Shark without relying on perfect weather for manual tracking. These receivers are part of the African Tracking Platform and incorporates data from all tagged shark species along the coastline.

Big, black and beautiful
Unlike most large whales, these majestic creatures of the sea lack a dorsal fin.

Southern Right Whales are large, black whales. Some adults may reach between 14-16m in length and can weigh between 40-70 tonnes. One of the most unusual features of the Southern Right Whale is the scattering of "callosities" on their head. These callosities are simply rough patches of skin on which thousands of cyamids (a type of crustacean) and a few barnacles live. Each whale has a unique pattern of these callosities on their head, just like our fingerprints, allowing us to identify individuals by examining photos.

When born, Southern Right Whale calves average between 4-6m in length and 1 ton in weight. The whales have large squarish black flippers and a large tail fin that can reach 5m in width. Approximately 4% of Southern Right Whales are born mostly white in colour with numerous black spots. They are not albinos, these animals darken with age and are called grey morphs/brindles. When Southern Right Whales are sighted, either at sea or from the coast, they can be recognised by their V-shaped blow and lack of dorsal fin.

What’s in a name?
Want to know the “right” answer to this question? Well, keep on reading!

Historically, these whales got their name from early whalers, who determined that these were the "right” whales to hunt, both for commercial value, but also for their ease of hunting. Southern Right Whales have a relatively slow average swim speed (4-6 km/hour), they tend to spend a significant amount of their time at the surface of the water, they float when they are dead and many of their calving and mating grounds are close to the coastlines. Now they are considered the "right" whales to watch, again due to their fondness for our coastline and for their slow swimming speed.

Gather round plankton, it’s feeding time!
They do not have teeth, but instead have baleen plates hanging down from their upper jaw.

Southern Right Whales can have more than 200 of these baleen plates (in theory similar to tightly-packed vertical blinds), which range in length up to over 2m. These baleen plates have a fringe of hair running down their sides. The whale swims back and forth through the swarms of plankton with its mouth slightly open, creating a counter current that sucks the water through the hairy baleen plates, which act like a sieve, retaining food in their mouth.

The main food source for Southern Right Whales in South Africa, off our west coast, are minute planktonic animals called copepods. Although each copepod is very small in size, they tend to aggregate in dense groups in areas of upwelling during summertime. Further south in the Southern Ocean, mass feeding opportunities are available for the whales, but here they feed on larger zooplankton, called Euphasiids. Feeding behaviour is rarely observed while in their mating grounds (with the exception of the nursing calves).

Most females have been observed to work on a 3-year cycle (one year of pregnancy, up to one year with the calf, and one year to recover and rebuild food reserves in preparation of a new cycle). The calves nurse from the mother but it is uncertain for how long this nursing lasts

Cosy on the coastline
These migratory whales travel between the Antarctic and the southern coastline of South America, Africa (South Africa) and Australia.

They spend approximately half of the year (roughly December until May/June) in the southern ocean where feeding is their main objective. Following their time spent fattening themselves up; the Southern Right Whales migrate north between 3 000-4 000km to their mating and breeding grounds. These whales are most commonly found along the coastline in South Africa between July and December.

Gentle giants under attack
As strong and mighty as they appear, the Southern Right Whale species is also at risk.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the Southern Right Whale in the category of ‘Least Concern’ (2008). However, these creatures face a number of threats.

Because they were the right whales to catch, the Southern Right Whale population plunged significantly starting in the late 18th century, right into the 20th century. The whales were initially killed via traditional harpooning, but whaling modernised in the early 20th century and boasted steam-powered boats with harpoon cannons, further facilitated the decline of the whales. The Southern Right Whales became internationally protected in 1935, but numbers were at a drastic low prior to this. It is estimated that the global population was reduced from about 80 000 animals down to just a few hundred! The population in South Africa is doing very well, increasing at its biological maximum of 7% per annum. Global numbers are now estimated to be 15 000 individuals, approximately 5 000 of which utilise the southern African coastline. Southern Right Whales are found between 18ºS to 64ºS, migrating between feeding grounds in the colder Antarctic waters where they spend the austral summers and warmer breeding grounds closer to the equator in austral winter months. Important calving and mating grounds are close to shore off the coasts of Australia, South Africa, South America and some oceanic islands.

Threats to Southern Right Whales include ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, and climate change. An emerging threat that has been increasing rapidly in the Peninsula Valdes calving ground and may eventually drive the whales elsewhere is parasitism by kelp gulls, which gouge skin and blubber from the whales' backs, resulting in the whales lying awkwardly in the water while they try to avoid attack from above.

Caught in the net
Juvenile whales seem to be most vulnerable to entanglement due to their more playful, curious nature.

Entanglement occurs when whales get wrapped up in discarded fishing gear, rock lobster trap lines and even diving lines. Some adults show scar evidence of previous entanglement events.

Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) works in partnership with the South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) in conjunction with the relevant department of the Department of Environmental Affairs and CapeNature. Using specifically designed tools and following strict safety protocols, we are able to cut away the ropes and gear from the animal. Since its inception SAWDN has been able to free many whales off the coast of South Africa.

Three of a kind
There are 3 different species of dolphins, which are regular visitors in our waters.

Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphins (Sousa plumbea) are classified as vilnerable and might at first glance be confused with the Bottlenose Dolphin. Humpback Dolphins have a long, slender rostrum (beak), and their body is lighter in colour than that of the Bottlenose Dolphin. Humpback Dolphins have a small, hooked dorsal fin that sits on top of a fleshy hump, hence their name. The belly tends to be white and the calves and juveniles are paler than the adults (very light grey). Like all cetaceans with teeth, they have just one blowhole (nostril). These dolphins often surface at a 45° angle when coming up to breathe and can measure up to almost 2.8m long. They are usually found along the coast where they inhabit the shallows or inshore waters, and sometimes even inside estuaries. They are rarely found in waters deeper than 20m, placing them in frequent contact with human activities.

The Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) is the archetypal dolphin. They are the most commonly seen dolphin on television and in aquaria. They are dark grey above and their bellies tends to be white, with dark spots appearing when they reach sexual maturity. The dorsal fin is large and curved. They usually can measure up to 2.5m in length. They are usually found in coastal waters and are rarely found in waters deeper than 30m. Bottlenose Dolphins are therefore commonly in contact with human activities. This makes them particularly vulnerable to the alteration or loss of their habitat.

Long-beaked Common Dolphins (Delphinus capensis) occur inshore in large groups. These animals are grey with a pale belly and an hourglass-shaped marking on their sides. The anterior part of the hourglass pattern is yellowish, while the posterior part is pale grey. They are often in the company of flocks of diving gannets and Bryde’s whales. They are most well-known as the dolphins associated with the annual sardine run along South Africa’s east coast. Common Dolphins can reach a length of just over 2.5m, are very vocal, whistling loudly as they bow-ride, an activity they find irresistible!

What’s for lunch?
Our three resident dolphin species all have different fish preferences.

Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphins mainly eat fish that can be found in shallow waters such as sardines, mackerel and mullet, but they also eat cuttlefish and small squids.

Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins mainly eat fish and cephalopods (e.g. squid and octopus) that can be found in shallow waters, but they also feed on pelagic and offshore fish species.

Long-beaked Common Dolphins eat many different fish species, but mostly sardines and mackerel.

A closely-knit family
Dolphins are known to live in small groups and are seen in pods ranging from 1 to 12 individuals.

In the Dyer Island area, we most commonly see groups of Humpback Dolphins with only 2 or 3 dolphins. In other areas, the biggest group ever observed was composed of 25 dolphins.

Bottlenose Dolphins live in groups from 5 to 15 individuals, but can sometimes be seen in groups of 100 animals or more. The society of these dolphins is believed to be quite stable, with closely related females living together, and groups of adult males, with strong bonds, coming to visit them for mating or feeding. Common Dolphins occur in schools of several hundreds of individuals.

For all three species, births occur predominantly in summer. Females usually have one calf approximately every three years and they take care of their young for at least 3 to 4 years.

Warning! Dolphins nearby, humans steer clear
Due to their habitat range, these dolphins are endangered through various human activities.

Dolphins are threatened by a number of elements, such as boating, shark nets and also pesticides used on land for farming and agriculture. As they live in shallow waters, they are more likely to be exposed to every type of pollutant coming from the rivers to the seas. The toxins that are entering the marine environment can concentrate in the dolphins' fat (via contaminated fish) and can negatively affect their health. They also get entangled in the nets that are used to prevent the sharks from coming close to the beaches, as well as in fishing nets. Dolphins are known to be curious animals and can also become easily entangled in pieces of marine litter, such as pieces of plastics, ropes, fishing line etc.

Get us out of here!
Dolphins are quite vulnerable to entanglement due to their more playful, curious nature.

Through Dyer Island Conservation Trust’s Fishing Line Bin project we are able to mitigate entanglement by removing line from the environment before it reaches the sea. We also support the Mammal Research Institute and South African Museum by assisting with collecting material from strandings that is used for scientific projects and museum collections. Whilst onboard the vessels of our partner company, Dyer Island Cruises, our marine biologists and guides collect data and ID photographs of inter alia, the Humpback Dolphin, South Africa’s most endangered cetacean.

Fight or flight
Seabirds are considered the most threatened groups of animals by the WWF.

Dyer Island alone hosts over 29 different species of seabirds throughout an entire year, either for resting purposes during their migration routes or for nesting and breeding locality. South Africa is considered the fourth most important coastal state for seabirds. This is because the oceans of South Africa contain lots of food and coastal islands for breeding (like Dyer).

Many seabirds are long-lived, slow to breed, and have delayed sexual maturity. This type of life history makes them very vulnerable to disruptions in human form like pollution, by-catch, and over-fishing. 15 of the 24 endangered albatross and petrel species forage in South Africa's coastal waters.

Catch of the day
Even in the sky these marine animals are endangered.

The biggest threats to seabirds are “by-catch,” or being caught on accident while fishing for a target animal, and marine pollution. Many birds are drawn to the activity of fishing trawlers and end up tangled in nets when diving for fish. One trawling vessel alone can be responsible for hundreds of seabird deaths per trip.

Bird’s eye view
Whether a mammal or a bird we are ready to assist any animal in need.

Whenever a marine animal is in need in the greater Dyer Island area, at sea or on land, the Dyer Island Conservation Trust is called in. Over time, we have established ourselves as the call centre for all marine animals in need. In this way we know what happens to the species in our area and can investigate the causes of injuries to minimise them in the future.

Every piece of trash has a human face behind it
Harmful materials make its way into our oceans on a daily basis. This must stop!

Every day more and more trash is contaminating and polluting our sea. It can drift for thousands of miles into some remote and previously pristine areas. Monofilament fishing line is one of the most destructive. It is not biodegradable and is the cause of death for many seabirds and other marine animals.

STAT: In 1950, 1.7 million tons of plastic were produced. That figure is now over 300 million tons today. 250 million metric tons will make its way into the oceans by 2025. The environmental damage is in the billions, but more importantly are all the animals that are affected by this. Many species – seabirds, turtles, whales, dolphins etc - are ingesting plastic debris. Many of these species are threatened with extinction. So much marine litter ends up on the seabed.

All tied up
Waste material, refuse and litter is killing our sea creatures.

Marine pollution especially fishing line and plastics make their way into the sea and can entangle around the bodies or insides (if eaten) of animals, potentially leading to death.

A community against contamination
Working together to reduce our ecological footprint and save our environment.

We engage in many beach clean ups with local school groups and volunteers. Data is logged to affect changes where problems are identified. We teach the message of where trash originates from and spread the message of reduce, reuse and recycle. We encourage others to reduce, reuse and recycle ultimately reducing their ecological footprint. We recycle our own waste and encourage suppliers to use less plastic. All aspects of the Trust and the associated eco tourism business place a high priority of minimising waste.

By means of the Fishing Line Bin Project the Trust increases public awareness of the negative impacts of fishing line debris and encourages correct disposal by a network of unique fishing line bins strategically placed along the coastline. The Trust helps ensure these bins are emptied, the fishing line cleaned and options for recycling are being looked at.

Environmental Education is a key component for the Trust with dedicated marine lessons and beach clean ups with the eco schools group of Masakhane and the Dibanisa conservation group through Grootbos Foundation.

This programme is supported by the local Overstrand Municipality, WESSA and the Blue Flag beach programme. Material is sponsored by DPI Plastics arranged by Plastics SA. The Trust belongs to the Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee for Marine Pollution.


Volkswagen’s first Think Blue initiative
In 2011 Volkswagen embraced a new way of thinking. They called it Think Blue, and announced Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) as their first official partner.

Volkswagen helps with everything from new wet weather gear, printing brochures to donating fuelled vehicles. In 2015, they helped DICT launch the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary. Today, it’s a world-class facility devoted to the rehabilitation, release and research of SA’s endangered penguins and other threatened marine bird species. A “bluer” future looks bright indeed.

If you’d like to learn more about Think Blue and how small changes can make a big difference, visit http://www.vw.co.za/en/innovation/think-blue-.html.

Now that you have come to the end of your journey with us and caught a glimpse of our world out in the big blue, click on our GIVE TO SAVE button and see how you can help keep us around for years to come.

Browse through our gallery, blog posts and news sections for interesting images and articles. We’ll keep you updated on our latest whereabouts and happenings down in the ocean.

A special thank you to Pierre Zimmermann for his sponsorship towards this website.



Founded in 2006 by Wilfred Chivell, the Dyer Island Conservation Trust delivers unique conservation and research programmes in a fragile marine and critically important marine eco-system. We strive to protect the largest surviving colonies of the endangered African Penguin whose numbers are at an all-time low; the globally important breeding and calving grounds of the Southern Right Whale; and the world's densest populations of the vulnerable Great White Shark.


Discover and understand this globally important marine eco-system through world-class scientific research.
Protect the long-term future of the species that live here by translating this knowledge into evidence-based conservation initiatives.
Educate our partners – local communities, legislators and visitors – by informing and actively involving them in achieving our goals for the benefit of all.


Close to the southern tip of Africa, the greater Dyer Island area and the surrounding ocean is a critically important eco-system.

The 20ha Dyer Island - managed by CapeNature - is home to breeding colonies of the endangered African Penguin, Cape Cormorant (60% of the population) and Caspian Tern, as well as other seabirds. Its importance is recognised by Birdlife International and classified an Important Bird Area (IBA)

About 60 000 Cape Fur Seals are resident on Geyser Rock opposite the island and they attract the densest population of Great While Sharks in the world.

Around the island the waters of Kleinbaai in Gansbaai provide the breeding ground for the Southern Right Whales who migrate here from the sub-Antarctic islands between July to December each year while Brydes Whales, Humpback Whales and Orcas visit the bay along with various dolphin species.