Location: South Africa
Duration: Minimum 4 weeks, maximum 12 weeks
Start Dates: Start dates are each month, enquire with us when applying.
Cost: $2,200 USD per month. See Costs section for more details.
Includes: all food, accommodation, airport pickup & drop-off, orientation, training, all equipment hire and all project related travel
Does not Include: Flights, travel insurance, visas and vaccinations
- Gain knowledge and practical skills in shark research, education and conservation.
- Ideal for volunteers with an interest in science, getting their feet wet, assisting with a dive centre and spreading the word about shark conservation, and there is also a chance to learn how to get GoPro footage of sharks under the water.
- Cage-less snorkeling with upto 5 species of shark
- Keywords: Scuba, free diving , shark conservation, SCUBA centre, science, research, education
Participants will become crucial members of our teams as we strive to complete our mission of shark ecotourism, research, conservation and education. The program is jammed with shark activities from conducting ongoing research programs into the health of shark populations on Aliwal Shoal, to assisting and supporting tourists as we introduce them to the underwater world for the first time. The program is located at the world famous Aliwal Shoal, where volunteers will be working with unto five different species of sharks and a host of other marine life.
The program is divided into four sections, on which volunteers will work on a daily basis. These include (a) shark research, (b) awareness and outreach, (c) shark and marine conservation and (d) shark ecotourism. The program is designed to cover a broad range of fields, so as to allow volunteers to discover their passion and build towards a career working with sharks and marine life. If students are not SCUBA qualified, then the first week of the program can be used to gain a PADI open water SCUBA certification. SCUBA qualified volunteers can expect between 4 and 8 research SCUBA dives per month.
Blacktip sharks (throughout the year)
This part of the project involves taking part in ocean safaris to snorkel with black-tip sharks as well as taking underwater photographs for identifying the sharks and recording ecological information. The type of information collected include date, GPS location, surface and underwater conditions, size, sex, distinctive features, behaviour of the sharks. The ID photographs help identify each shark and record re-sightings. In addition, volunteers will be an integral part of the ecotourism trips, aiding, photographing and videoing clients during our shark snorkels.
Ragged tooth sharks (May – September)
Our research project is open to SCUBA qualified volunteers (as raggedtooths are a benthic species). You will be collecting similar data which allows their numbers and behaviour to be recorded and uploaded into databases to determine intern annual variations. Furthermore, shark behaviour and movements is of particular interest as it relates to tourism and the diving industry in South Africa.
Tiger Shark (February – April)
Tiger shark monitoring involves joining scuba diving and carrying out underwater data collection on this shy species. On occasion film crews will require working with Tiger sharks, and volunteers may be called on to aid in these expeditions.
Humpback Whales (June – October)
You may help with monitoring the numbers of humpback whales during their seasonal migration. You will participate in sand dune based observations with binoculars, boat based observations to record the number of whales, observing their behaviour.
General environment (throughout the year)
A more general environmental awareness and clean-up activities include collecting information during field work, collating it in a computer database on-site and online, uploading some data onto an international database where international contributors can access it and use for scientific journals and theses. Your work will also include biodiversity assessments and environmental monitoring. Oceans user surveys are occasionally undertaken.
General Education ( throughout the year )
Participants will assist with our central conservation and awareness campaigns that range from raising awareness to social activism. There are school outreach programs; shark diving-guest education and social media awareness campaigns.
General Crewing ( throughout the year )
Participants will assist with preparing the equipment for the daily ocean outings.They will also be able to learn how to video and photograph guests interacting with the sharks. Most satisfying however is that participants will engage directly with guests, teaching them about sharks and ensuring that the guests are comfortable throughout the activity and leave having learned a great deal about the importance of sharks.
a. You do not need to take antimalarials or special vaccines
b. Accredited divers must bring their dive cards (listing their last logged dive) with them as proof
c. Dive accredited volunteers not requiring/wanting a dive course but who have not logged a dive within the last 6 months will need to complete a Scuba Review (R600) before they can participate in research dives.
d. The course price includes 4 to 8 research or ecotourism SCUBA dives and all gear for volunteers. Ocean going trips and snorkeling are unlimited and happen regularly.
Our staff will welcome you at Durban Airport and transfer you to your accommodation. Your second day will start with a presentation by the co-ordinating scientist and this which will prepare you for the various projects. After that you will get an introduction to Scottburgh town, a small coastal holiday town that is opposite the Aliwal Shoal.
You may start your open water scuba diving course ( if you aren’t already certified), which will last between 3 and 5 days depending on the conditions. Volunteers not involved in SCUBA training will begin the program activities immediately.
Daily life will be centre around early morning sea expeditions. Many of this will be ecotourism trips with clients to snorkel or SCUBA dive with sharks. On these morning trips, volunteers will be allocated roles, including collecting research data, assisting clients, crew assistance, videography or photography. After the morning trips, volunteers will engage with clients on our outreach program to ensure that all guests leave as aware shark ambassadors. Afternoons will be spent entering research data, conducting training classes (e.g. boat maintenance, SCUBA maintenance, briefing training, editing training, etc.) or partaking in further education (school visits) or conservation (beach cleanups, awareness drives) programs.
Throughout the month, dedicated days to research, education and conservation programs will also take place. Where volunteers and the coordinating scientist will conduct exclusive trips to drive these programs. These can include biodiversity assessments, shark research SCUBA dives, school trips, conservation campaigns. Volunteers will also have between one and two days a week off. During these off days volunteers are welcome to relax, swim, surf, or participate in organized trips to experience adventures throughout the region.
Travel & Accommodation
During your experience you will be staying at the house nestled at the top of the hills above Scottburgh. The accommodation is dorm style (with bunk beds) in the house and there is an open living area and ample room to relax outside. All bedding is provided but you’ll need to bring towels. There is electricity and running drinkable water. The toilets and showers are shared. There’s, a relaxation area and a swimming pool where many wonderful moments can be shared.
The house is a short walk, or taxi drive, from Scottburgh where you can find a shops, restaurants and bars. While on the project, you will enjoy three meals a day (six days a week – Sundays volunteers eat out or cook for themselves) overlooking the swimming pool. For breakfast you can choose from cereals, bread, fruit, yogurt, and spreads. Lunch includes sandwiches, salads, omelettes and pasta. Dinner is a cooked meal which may be pasta, a local dish, chicken or stew. Vegetarian diets and most food allergies can be taken into consideration.
- Minimum 4 weeks commitment
- Be able to communicate in English
- Be open minded, patient, adaptable and willing to embrace the challenges of the project
- Have a positive attitude towards living and working in a team
- Good mental and physical health – an appropriate level of fitness
- Necessary flights & visas
- Full travel & medical insurance – full assistance will be providing in arranging everything should you choose our Premium Support Upgrade.
The cost is $2,200 USD per month.
*$750 deposit to confirm your place
**All payments incur a 5% bank transfer fee
*** For the latest currency conversions, check out xe.com
- All food and accommodation
- All program SCUBA and snorkeling expeditions including ecotourism trips and research trips
- Training workshops in (a) free diving, (b) boat and SCUBA maintenance, (c) videography and editing, (d) research methodologies.
- Food and soft drinks ( juice )/ water for your entire stay
- Accommodation: the rooms will be shared with other students (genders will be separated) from the 1st (arrival day) to the 30th (departure day).
- Transfer from airport to your residence when you arrive, and again back to the Airport upon departure
- Hard and soft SCUBA / snorkeling equipment
- SCUBA airfills
- Internet fees (moderate usage)
What’s Not Included
- Laptop computer (please bring your own)
- Laundry service
- Non-program excursions
- Extra food and beverages
- All Flights, Travel Insurance and Vaccinations
- Recreational SCUBA diving
- Staff Tips
- Private accommodation (available upon request)
Depending on your habits and lifestyle, it is usually suggested to add between 4,000 and 6,000 South African Rand (approx. $300-500 USD) to your monthly budget. This would be for souvenirs, excursions, entertainment and other personal daily needs. A PADI Openwater diver course will cost USD500. Due to the number of applications received and limited places, the owners unfortunately cannot accept all applying volunteers. Therefore, they do not welcome cancellations or date changes after the final confirmation and deposit has been paid. They request that a non-refundable USD750 deposit is paid within a week of booking into the program as confirmation (foreign and local bank fees are for your own account). The remaining fee must be paid in full 21 days prior to your arrival in South Africa. In case of cancellation, they will attempt to move you to a preferred month that you are able to attend, however, they cannot offer refunds on deposits. If you would like to stay with us outside of the program dates (1st to the 30th) then they ask R600/day to cover food and accommodation.
Note: Map coordinates are approximate