Sharklife Conservation Group

Sharklife Internship

Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa show on map
founded in 2005
Coordinator | Grant
Coordinator | Grant
This one-of-kind internship is suited to ocean enthusiasts and aspiring marine biologists looking for worthwhile field experience with a diverse range of shark species. This volunteer program is especially suitable for:

Established in 2005 as a non-profit organisation, Sharklife addresses the alarming exploitation of both shark populations and ocean fisheries in South African waters. 

The program aims to nurture shark conservation ambassadors through knowledge development, unique hands-on training and up to 30 hours on-the-ocean, encountering a multitude of marine wildlife. 

Sodwana Bay is located in Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal South Africa. The village borders the pristine world heritage site known as the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The park is South Africa's third-largest 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 flora and fauna making it a prime area to view sharks in their natural habitat. 

Key Benefits:

  • Get close to sharks
  • Get an accredited Freediving certification
  • Gain worthwhile marine field experience
  • Develop seamanship skills
  • Examine real shark and ray specimens 
  • Encounter diverse marine mega fauna
  • Dive in warm clear ocean environments
  • Visit nearby Big 5 Game Reserves 
  • Study in a World Heritage Site
  • Support a long standing non-profit shark conservation organisation

The program consists of four main components which build your knowledge and skills through theory, practical exercises and time in the ocean.

  1. Theory Sessions - shark species fundamentals, shark conservation tactics, shark and ray tourism
  2. Lab Practical Sessions - anatomical features of sharks and rays, reproductive modes, sensory organs, form and function
  3. Ocean Practical Sessions - freediving skill development, boating and beach logistics, shark encounter experience, data collection
  4. Assessment Sessions - consolidate and reinforce skill development 

Additional activities are varied depending on current programs at the Sharklife Ocean Center.

  • Assist with educating local school groups
  • Develop displays for the shark museum
  • Maintain research equipment 
  • Catalog museum specimens
  • Collate and input research data

Typical day

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

Typical Land Day:

Theory sessions are given in our auditorium using graphics, videos and models to enhance your theoretical understanding of sharks. Interns use this opportunity to ask questions and discuss prevalent conservation topics. Interns are also tasked with collating research data and developing reports of findings.

We then move to the lab where we conduct various examinations of the specimens we have preserved, either frozen, dried or in solution. which enable interns to get a feel of the various anatomical features.

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. 

Typical Ocean Day:

After preparing the boat and equipment for sea we head to the beach. Interns 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.  We conduct various in water surveys, record sightings data, location and environmental conditions. 

Interns also get the opportunity to drive the boat, develop seamanship skills and encounter a wide variety of marine life.

Details on Arrival

Start Dates:

Although seasonal changes in Sodwana Bay are mild there is a change in the abundance of sharks during the year. The best times are in our summer months  - November to April.

04-17 Sep 2018
06-19 Nov 2018
20-02 Jan 2019
05-18 Feb 2019
05-18 Mar 2019

Please book flights to arrive as early as possible in Durban, we have a 4 hour drive back to Sodwana Bay.

Free-time activities

  1. The most popular free-time activity is a day trip to the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Big 5 Game Reserve. The park is home to Africa's big five game: 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. 
Water Sports

Program 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
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 08:00 - 15:00

Included Services

Extra security layer by Volunteer World
Volunteer World is the world's leading comparison platform for international volunteer opportunities. We guide you through a safe and easy application process - including all necessary payments. Planning your next meaningful trip with Volunteer World gives you free access to our:
Quality Assurance
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
Support & Mediation
We cover your back no matter what happens
Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by Sharklife Conservation Group.

Before your journey

Profound consulting and ongoing support (free)
Sharklife Conservation Group (your host organization) provides consulting and is keen to answer all your questions. Once you reserved your spot, you will receive the contact details of your volunteer project.
Online preparation course (optional, from $49)
Prepare yourself and become a confident and well informed traveler. Global Travel Academy takes you on a journey before you leave home, helping you to become one of the world's greatest travelers. Our trusted partner for online learning offers courses in "International Volunteering", "Travel Health & Safety" and "Travel Safety Abroad".

On-site services

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. 

Cost Areas:
  • Airport transfers 
  • Private room accommodation
  • Lectures, materials, certifications
  • Park entry fees
  • Boating expenses
  • Dive gear
  • Wifi
  • 24hr support

Food and Drinks:
There are daily trips to the local supermarket where all common food and beverages are available. The is a restaurant on site if you prefer to order from there. 
Airport Pickup at King Shaka International Airport

You will be met at the airport by a Sharklife staff member. We have a 4 hour (350km) drive back to Sodwana Bay where you will settle in to your accommodation, so please try arrive at King Shaka Durban airport as early as possible on the start date. 


You will be situated within the guest lodge located next the Sharklife Ocean Center. You will have your own room which is small yet secure and private. Your room is serviced daily and clean linen provided every 3 days. There are three separate ablution blocks shared among 4 interns as well as a communal swimming pool, lounge and kitchen. The lodge has WiFi and satellite TV. There are shops and bars within walking distance of the lodge. 

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 King Shaka International Airport (DUR) in Durban. 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.
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.
Costs: Prices in USD
2 weeks (min. stay)
$ 1,100
3 weeks
$ 1,650
4 weeks (max. stay)
$ 2,200
Average fees
$ 550 /week

You can volunteer at the project site in Kwa-Zulu Natal/South Africa between 2 weeks and 4 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. Sharklife Conservation Group will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Crowdfunding Service
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in South Africa.
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.
  Africa Southern Africa South Africa  Kwa-Zulu Natal, Sharklife Ocean Center
The project site is open in: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

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