Sharklife Research Assistant

Non-profit
·
founded in 2005
Candice
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Coordinator | Candice
Coordinator | Candice
Book with Flex Option! Choose new departure dates or change to a different volunteer program at no extra costs.

High­lights

Get close to sharks
Get Freediving training
Examine real shark and ray specimens
Study in a World Heritage Site
Encounter diverse marine mega fauna and dive in warm clear ocean environments
Sharklife has been driving shark conservation initiatives since 2005 and has a wealth of experience to offer enthusiastic research assistants. This volunteer program is especially suitable for:
Age 18+
Singles
Couples
Groups

Established in 2005 as a non-profit organization, Sharklife works to address the alarming exploitation of both shark populations and ocean fisheries in South African waters. Our marine internship programs aim to nurture shark conservation ambassadors through knowledge developmenthands-on training, and many hours on the ocean encountering a multitude of marine wildlife. 

"The overall goal of the program is to imprint a deeper understanding of the shark species in the minds of participants" 

The Sharklife Research Assistant program provides a unique platform for students and volunteers to gain field experience working on shark research projects in South Africa's largest coastal Marine Protected Area. With direct involvement in all the research components, you will build your skill base through knowledge developmentpractical training, and many hours on the ocean. 

There is a maximum of 6 research assistants at any time allowing for more valuable experiences in the field and increased personal development. 

Sharklife has been driving shark conservation initiatives since 2005 and has a wealth of experience to offer enthusiastic research assistants. So whether you are an early career marine biologist, student, or passionate volunteer we need you to help drive our shark research projects!

Please note: All our data collection methods are non-invasive, not harmful to the animals we study, there is no catching, handling, or feeding of sharks on this program. In addition, we dive in small groups to limit the disturbance of marine wildlife. 

The core goal of this program is to develop your fieldwork experience and watermanship skills. During this month you will steadily practice freediving, clock-up scuba dives, and learn the routine boating tasks. A series of workshops focused on shark ID, behavior and biology are given during this month to enhance your understanding of the animals you are researching. You will also be introduced to the data collection, input, and analysis methods used in the projects we are conducting at the time.  

Scuba Diver Training: Optional extra, completed in the first week of your stay.

If you would like to complete one of the following courses whilst you are here, please specify it in the inquiry form.

  • PADI Open Water Course - $350
  • PADI Advanced Diver Course - $250

 These courses are delivered through our PADI 5 Star scuba training partner.

 Highlights:

  • 10 - 20 boat-based research trips
  • Shark encounters
  • 30 - 60hrs in the field 
  • Research freediver training (5 - 10m)
  • 5 -10 research scuba dives (if certified)
  • Shark workshops

 Duties:

  • Prepare the boat and dive gear
  • Prepare research equipment
  • Assist with crewing the boat
  • Perform in water data collection tasks
  • Maintain dive gear and boating equipment
  • Data collection, input, and analysis

 Deliverables:

  • 1 page (500 words) blog article on a relevant conservation topic
  • A 10-minute presentation on an elasmobranch species you encountered here
  • Short structured report on research findings for the month 

Sodwana Bay is a small rural town that borders the pristine world heritage site known as the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

The park includes South Africa's largest coastal Marine Protected Area, spanning 280 km of coastline, and is one of the top ten dive destinations in the world. The coral reefs contain over 1 200 species of fish as well as a variety of underwater seascapes and marine megafauna. The warm tropical waters (20-27C, 60-80F) year-round and good visibility make for awesome researching conditions! 

Sodwana Bay is also a short drive from a selection of Big 5 Game Reserves which you will visit on your days off.

“The wetland park must be the only place on the globe where the world’s oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world’s biggest land mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world’s oldest fish (the coelacanth) and the world’s biggest marine mammal (the whale).” Nelson Mandela 2001.

Typical day

Your days will be divided into land days and ocean days, depending on weather conditions.

Typical Day: 07:00 - 15:00 On returning we rinse, de-kit the boat and diving equipment, and break for lunch. 

After lunch, we meet in the research office where interns and volunteers are tasked with the daily data management functions or maintenance tasks. 

We end off with a debrief and planning session for the next day's research activities. 

If we are unable to go to sea due to inclement weather we conduct theory sessions in our auditorium using graphics, videos, and models to enhance your theoretical understanding of sharks. Interns and volunteers use this opportunity to ask questions and discuss prevalent conservation topics. 

We also use this time to conduct various examinations of the shark and ray specimens we have preserved, either frozen, dried, or in solution. These specimens enable participants to get a feel of the various anatomical features of each animal. 

The rest of the day may be allocated to extra activities happening in the center at the time such as; assisting with school groups, museum display development, boat maintenance, etc.

After preparing the boat and equipment for sea we head to the beach. Interns and volunteers are an integral part of the team and assist directly with all beach and boating logistics.  We launch through the surf and make our way along the coastline to the designated study area where we conduct in-water surveys, record sightings data, and change out equipment. Interns get the opportunity to develop seamanship and diving skills whilst encountering a wide variety of marine life. 


Free-time activities

  1. The most popular free-time activity is a day trip to the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve. The park is home to Africa's big five: elephant, rhinoceros (black/hook-lipped and white/square-lipped), Cape buffalo, lion, and leopard.
  2. You can just relax on the pristine beaches of Sodwana Bay.
  3. For the more adventurous, you can embark on a microlight flight over the coastline
  4. There are also quad bike tours of the local lake systems and forests. 
  5. You can scuba dive on the world-renowned reefs of Sodwana Bay. 
Swimming
Sightseeing
Diving/
Snorkling
Safari/
Zoo

Require­ments

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (intermediate level)
Education Requirements
Marine Sciences, Biology & Conservation (not essential) at High school level
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
Being able to swim is a requirement.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 07:00 - 16:00

What's Included

Services by Sharklife Conservation Group
As the project is based in a remote rural area there are extra expenses involved in providing similar services to those found in developed countries. Nonetheless, we have tried our best to balance the costs to make your trip both affordable and comfortable. 

Costs Include:

The majority of your program cost goes towards the implementation of research projects.

  • Research expense contribution
  • Airport transfers 
  • Private room  
  • Lectures, materials, freediving certification
  • Dive gear
  • Wifi
  • 24hr support  

Excluded:

  • Scuba Courses: (PADI OW or PADI ADV, EFR, Rescue, DM, and any specialties) 
  • Game Park tours
  • Flights 
  • Travel Insurance
  • Meals *
  • Vaccinations 
  • Weekend Activities: These can be scuba diving or field trips

* Meals - The research camp has a fully equipped kitchen where you can prepare your meals and there are daily trips to the local supermarket where you can purchase food.  Alternatively, there is a restaurant on site where you can order lunch and dinner from a large menu. 

Airport Pickup at Richards Bay Airport

You will be met at the airport by a Sharklife staff member. 

If your program starts on the 1st of January you need to arrive at the airport on the 1st of January, not before. If your program's last day is the 2nd of December you need to book your flight for departure on the 2nd of December.

You need to fly into Richards Bay Airport (RCB) via Johannesburg O.R Tambo Airport. Please try to arrive early as it's a 2hr drive back to Sodwana Bay.

We are aware however that due to the current Pandemic restrictions Richards Bay Airport may still be closed. If you cannot find any flights to Richards Bay please fly into King Shaka International - Durban (DUR). Please note that you need to arrive as early as possible in the morning or early afternoon as it's a 4hr drive back to Sodwana Bay.

Accommodation

You will be situated within the intern camp located next to the Sharklife Ocean Center. 

We have a total of five rooms.

Five rooms which are small yet secure and private which share 2 toilet/shower rooms.

One room is en-suite.

The kitchen and communal areas are spacious and well equip. We do have a washing machine in the common area for you to do some laundry.

Restaurant on-site.

Bedroom (Single)
Internet Access
Good access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees. Food, snacks or beverages are at extra costs.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Richards Bay Airport (RCB) in Richards Bay. We assist you to find cheap flights to South Africa.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for South Africa provides security and is a plus to have.
Vaccines
If you are intending to volunteer in South Africa you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for South Africa.

Dates & Fees

NO CREDIT CARD FEES

Details on arrival

Start Dates:
1-Month Shark research assistant dates: 
28th March - 25th April 2022
25th April - 23rd May 2022
23rd May - 20th June 2022
20th June - 18th July 2022
18th July - 15th Aug 2022
15th Aug - 12th Sep 2022
12th Sep - 10th Oct 2022
10th Oct - 7th Nov 2022

2-Month Shark research assistant dates:
28th March - 23rd May 2022
25th April - 20th June 2022
23rd May - 18th July 2022
20th June - 15th Aug 2022
18th July - 12th Sep 2022
15th Aug - 10th Oct 2022
12th Sep - 7th Nov 2022
10th Oct - 5th Dec 2022
7th Nov - 2nd Jan 2023
5th Dec - 30th Jan 2023
2nd Jan - 27th Feb 2023
30th Jan - 27th March 2023

3-Month Shark research assistant dates: 
28th March - 20th June 2022
25th April - 18th July 2022
23rd May - 15th Aug 2022
20th June - 12th Sep 2022
18th July - 10th Oct 2022
15th Aug - 7th Nov 2022
12th Sep - 5th Dec 2022
10th Oct - 2nd Jan 2023
7th Nov - 30th Jan 2023
5th Dec - 27th Feb 2023
2nd Jan - 27th March 2023
27th Feb - 22nd May 2023
27th March - 19th June 2023
 
If your program starts on the 1st of January you need to arrive at the airport on the 1st of January, not before. If your program's last day is the 2nd of December you need to book your flight for departure on the 2nd of December.

You need to fly into Richards Bay Airport (RCB) via Johannesburg O.R Tambo Airport. Please try to arrive early as it's a 2hr drive back to Sodwana Bay.

We are aware however that due to the current Pandemic restrictions Richards Bay Airport may still be closed. If you cannot find any flights to Richards Bay please fly into King Shaka International - Durban (DUR). Please note that you need to arrive as early as possible in the morning or early afternoon as it's a 4hr drive back to Sodwana Bay.

If you need assistance with travel arrangements we offer a travel consultant service for an additional $ 100. The service includes the following:

  • Booking flights and securing travel insurance
  • Advice on travel arrangements e.g. visas and passports
  • Up to date changes on flight details
  • Up to date COVID travel regulations
  • Complaints or refunds on flight tickets/travel insurance
  • Lost baggage claims and returns
  • 24hr support on-route to and from Sharklife

A Sharklife staff member will pick you up from the airport on your arrival day.

If you are unsure please do not hesitate to ask for help.

Availability
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Duration
4 - 12 weeks

Program fees

Costs: Prices in USD
4 weeks (min. stay)
$1,995
8 weeks
$2,995
12 weeks (max. stay)
$3,995
Average fees
$416 /week

Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated. Sharklife Conservation Group will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with Sharklife Conservation Group during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Why book with Volunteer World

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High ethical standards & transparent social impact
Flex Option
Change your reservation at no extra costs
Refund Guarantee
We refund your fees if Sharklife Conservation Group cancels your trip
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Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by Sharklife Conservation Group.

What are people saying about Volunteer World?

Sharklife Research Assistant

Sharklife has been driving shark conservation initiatives since 2005 and has a wealth of experience to offer enthusiastic research assistants.

$416/week

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