Sharklife Research Assistant Program

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Notice: South Africa is OPEN to ALL international travel, book early to avoid disappointment. 


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 development, practical training, and many hours on the ocean. 

There is a maximum of 8 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, nor 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. 



Program Dates: 2021-2022

If you can't make these exact dates let us know and we can discuss the options.

CAL 30.11.2021


Some FAQ's

  • What do I get from the program?
    1. Through the program you will gain bona-fide field experience with sharks and their environments.
    2. You will receive freediver training and gain water confidence
    3. Examining real shark and ray specimens is a rare opportunity and will greatly enhance your understanding of elasmobranch anatomy.
    4. By being involved in our research projects you will be exposed to varied research processes and methodologies. 
    5. Sodwana Bay is a remote rural town alongside South Africa's first world Heritage site and has some of the best diving in the world.
    6. Optional Big 5 Game Park tours. 
    7. Your participation in our program directly supports the shark conservation efforts of the organization. 

  • Who is the program for?

    Over 18’s, in good health, good swimming ability and an affinity for the ocean. If you are considering a career that involves being in the ocean or are just passionate about marine conservation, then this program will benefit you.


  • Do I need a Scuba qualification?

    No, but it would be beneficial. Many of the research trips are all snorkel based but some projects do include scuba surveys.  

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

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

    You will receive basic freediver training from an accredited freediving instructor. This will enable you to dive comfortably between 5-10m. 

  • Arrival & Departure Day - Flight Details?

    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 King Shaka Durban via Johannesburg O.R Tambo Airport. Please try to arrive no later than 2pm as it's a 4hr drive back to Sodwana Bay.

    If you need assistance with travel arrangements please let us know in the booking form.

    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.

    Sharklife World Flights

  • What is available in Sodwana Bay?

    There are most products and services available within walking distance of the accommodation.

  • Do I need a Visa?

    Nationals of the following 48 countries/territories who hold valid national passports are not required to obtain South African visas for visits of up to 90 days:

    But please double check this as changes can occur at anytime. visit http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/immigration-services/exempt-countries

    African Union Laissez PasserAfrican Union Laissez Passer
    Angola (ordinary passports 90 days per annum  visits not to exceed 30 days)
    Chile (only ordinary passport holders)
    Czech Republic
    Germany (except in diplomatic staff due to assume duty at the Embassy and Consulates of Germany in SA)
    Namibia (only ordinary passport holders 90 days per annum)
    Russian Federation     
    San Marino
    St Vincent & the Grenadines
    Tanzania (90 days per annum)
    Trinidad & Tobago (only ordinary passport holders)
    United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (only ordinary passport holders) 
    British Islands Bailiwick of Guernsey and Jersey, Isle of Man. British Oversees Territories namely: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, St Helena and Dependencies (Ascension Island, Gough Island and Tristan da Cunha), Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, the Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the Turks and Caicos Island.
    United States of America (except in respect of diplomatic staff due to assume duty at the Embassy and Consulates of the USA in SA, as well as service passport holders)
    Zambia (90 days per annum)

  • Deposit and Cancellation?
    • A non-refundable 50% deposit needs to be paid within one week of being accepted into the program.
    • The remaining fee must be paid in full 3 weeks prior to arrival date.
    • All cancellations within 3 weeks of arrival are non-refundable.

    Note: All Covid related cancellations will receive a full refund. ie. travel is restricted, unforeseen regulations or restrictions that cause flight cancellations etc.

  • When is the best time?

    Although seasonal changes in Sodwana Bay are mild there is a change in the sea conditions and shark abundance during the year.

    Generally the best months are between Jan-July, but its not imperative.

  • A typical day?

    Typical Day: 07:00 - 15:00 

    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. 

    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 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 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.

  • Typical day off?
    • 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. 

    lion umfolozi

    • You can just relax on the pristine beaches of Sodwana Bay.
    • For the more adventurous, you can embark on a microlight flight over the coastline.
    • There are also quad bike tours of the local lake systems and forests.
    • You can scuba dive on the world renowned reefs of Sodwana Bay.

    sodwana beach

  • Do I need vaccinations?

    Depending on where you are coming from there are a few vaccinations that you may need. Check the link below for more information.




  • Tino Sonnenschein - 2021 - DEU

    Sharklife is a magnet for interesting and fun people. Whether you got a specific project in mind or just want to gain some extra research experience, you are in for a good time. There are lots of challenges to tackle but with an open-minded approach, you are going to learn how to solve problems and if you are stuck, the awesome team will always be happy to lend a hand. Feel free to leave a message to @sunshine_t_l on Instagram if you have got any questions!

  • Hana Baldwin - 2021 - USA

    When I first got to Sharklife, I mentioned that I had never done anything like this before and Grant threw me a tool and said “just dive into the deep end”. I think that’s a perfect description of this experience. I came in knowing nothing about diving or boats but I was eager to learn, and I came out with knowledge and confidence in the skills I had built here. As long as you’re willing to try and learn, you will enjoy this experience. Sharklife is the perfect place to learn new skills and is filled with very welcoming and supportive people. If you have any questions and would like to talk about Sharklife, feel free to reach out to me! @hanabaldwin on Instagram or +1-551-214-9392 on WhatsApp

  • Sarah Anderson - 2021 - USA

    Sharklife is an awesome organization that is really trying to bring awareness to shark conservation and why they are so important to the planet. All the staff are knowledgeable, and there is a lot of opportunity to grow and learn through this program.

  • Craig Hutchings - 2021 - UK

    My name is Craig Hutchings, and I was a research assistant at Sharklife from February 2021 to July 2021. I cannot put into words what an amazing experience I had during that time but I'll do my best! To start with, Candice and Grant are just the best; if you need anything or have trouble with something they are more than happy to help you out when you need it. From organising dives on your days off, giving you lifts to the local town for groceries or taking you to safari parks they go above and beyond to make sure their interns are having the best possible experience. They both also have a great sense of humour.

    The best part of working for Sharklife is the boat trips; the early morning starts are a small price to pay when you get to go out and see so many amazing creatures, like sharks and dolphins and, if you are lucky, even Manta Rays! The first time I saw one it was breathtaking. The work you do as an intern is very rewarding, especially when you're going through footage taken with the underwater cameras as you never knew what you'd see. I think my favorite thing that we managed to capture on those cameras were the baby Tiger Sharks, truly adorable. On top of seeing these amazing things, you're also gathering vital data that will be used to help these wonderful creatures so scrubbing down the boat to get all the salt water off of it is a small price to pay in my book if you ask me!

    In my down time I enjoyed scuba diving and safari park excursions, which were incredible. If you don't have a scuba qualification, not to worry, as you'll be given time off to go get your open water and even advanced dive certs at the local dive centre, which is a really nice thing for the guys at sharklife to do. It's definitely worth learning to scuba out there if you don't already know how, as once you do you'll be able to dive on Raggie, which is where you'll encounter sharks most often. The encounters I had there were out of this world!

    It's hard to condense five brilliant months into just a few paragraphs, but I can honestly say that I really enjoyed my time there and that I am definitely going to go again someday in the future :)

  • Kristin Russell - 2021 - RSA

    My internship at Sharklife was life changing. I was meant to go for two weeks but I pushed it to three weeks because I didn't want to leave.

    I have always loved and respected the ocean and sharks, I thought I knew quite a bit, but I still learnt soo much whilst I was there. Saw the most amazing animals on our daily trips into the sea including bull and tiger sharks, so many rays and even more dolphins! The museum is so interesting and the people working there are amazing!

    I would recommend this to anyone looking for a new personal challenge (it can get quite physical), an educational experience or students interested in marine biology. They need so much help and support, please get involved!

  • Tiago Lima - 2020 - PRT

    I did a month-long internship at Sharklife, in February 2020.
    I am a physicist and a diver, so I was both curious to learn about different research strategies, involving being in contact with the sea and its fascinating underwater world.
    I quickly learned that I barely knew anything about sharks and ocean conservation, and that there is so much that I can do now to make a difference.

    I had an incredible experience, not only learning about sharks and rays and other sea creatures, but also about everything else Sharklife does: from preparing every research trip (seamanship, weather conditions, research objectives/parameters/equipment), to research methods (which includes free diving training  <3), to conservation activities and even personal well-being development.
    Plus I got to see WAY more sharks than I ever thought. Raggies are the best!

    While my experience with Sharklife was purely personal (I can even say it has changed my life, opening new perspectives and lifestyle choices), it also turned out to be a fantastic opportunity to further develop my professional skills (used my programming to help with the research, learning about machine learning on the way). I believe this to be true in any other area, as Sharklife motivates you to go further and find your best contribution to the cause.
    Not my case, but I also believe Sharklife to be a perfect start for anyone who wants to pursue a career in Marine Biology.

    Now some personal references:
    Grant and Candice were lovely, always positively supporting you and your choices. I was amazed by how trustful Grant was towards me, particularly when it seemed that he should be more "expert" than me when carrying out some tasks.
    Greg was the first Sharklife member I met, as he picked me up from the airport. He was very friendly and always passionate about teaching about different things: from sharks to personal well-being.
    Myriam and Emma were neck-deep into the research at Sharklife. Myriam was super passionate about her project and always eager to go one step further, while overwhelmed by copious amounts of data. A true scientist.
    Emma was just getting started with her project, but was already greatly involved with its cause. Very conservation oriented, exploring an underdeveloped topic, I am very curious of where this project will take you and to learn a lot about the rays of the world!
    There were also additional hands, who helped in our ocean trips, be it being top man or a dive guide. Both Ayonda and Dennis did a fantastic job! I have to say, I had some amazing shark encounters in the company of Dennis. Thank you for that!
    Finally, there were the other interns. I think we made a great team. Of varied nationalities, different languages, backgrounds and expertises, we spent almost all the time together, be it in the kitchen chatting and cooking meals together (satee nights, chili nights, pasta nights, you name it, we made it), preparing the equipment and boat, or just free diving training in the sea. It was refreshing to be with them!

    And that's all! I would highly recommend Sharklife to anyone who can relate with my experience - wishing to learn more about sharks, whilst making a difference not only in your life.

  • Zoe Townsley - 2020 - UK

    I absolutely loved my two week internship with Sharklife and would totally recommend it to anyone who has an interest in sharks (not just for students - for anyone). I can't believe how much the team packed into two weeks: lectures, studying specimens, practical boatwork (safety checks and preparation), ocean days, free dive training (theory and practice), and helping process real scientific data for use in the Raggie study. Before I joined, I was interested in sharks but didn't have any particular knowledge. Now I feel like I have more than a good grounding on them and the threats facing them - so much so that I feel equipped to present to my work colleagues on shark conservation and try and break down some of the standard prejudices most people have about sharks. The internship was not only a really valuable experience for me but also super fun too: cracking! I met some truly wonderful people at Sharklife (big shout out to the Team: Grant, Greg, Candice, Miriam, Emma - thank you for the hard work you do) and the other lovely interns too. I would have no hesitation in doing this all again and hope to stay in touch and continue to support Sharklife and its important work.

  • Clinton Peters - 2020 - RSA

    I've just completed the Jan 2020, 2 week internship at Sharklife.

    As an active member of Sharklife, and a real fan of what the brand stands for, it was an honour to be among the most knowledgeable, enthusiastic and passionate staff who are amazing at Marine conservation and research.

    A real dream come true for me. Meeting Grant was a real pleasure and I admire the amount of work he and Candice put in to make the internship, a memorable one. The experience is is made better by the superb lecturers, Greg, Miriam and Emma, one can feel the passion and dedication that they have when it comes to preserving life in the seas.

    The intern experience is humbling and I'm definitely able to use my Shark knowledge to have factual discussions about the importance of conservation.

    The freedive experience, as a first timer was an unbelievable one. I was able to get down to a few meters, under the watchful eye of the experienced instructor, Greg, with Grant offering advice from his vantage point on the boat. Ayanda was also very helpful on the boat.

    The surf launch, also a first time experience for me, was exhilarating, and hats off to the skipper, Grant for his amazing ability behind the wheel.

    Whichever internship you choose to do with Sharklife, you most definitely will not be disappointed. Rest assured you'll be in good hands.

    Thank you all at Sharklife. Hope to see you soon again.

  • Bella Aitkenhead - 2019 - AUZ

    The Sharklife internship experience was like no other! I learnt so much about sharks and shark conservation, my head was just filled with exciting new information for the two weeks. Not only did I learn a lot of valuable skills and information, the staff at Sharklife have inspired me to become a shark ambassador wherever I go, and have given me the confidence to do so!

    The Sharklife team makes it easy to feel comfortable and settle right into the life as a Sharklife intern and the intern camp felt like a home throughout the two weeks. I had never been freediving before, and was unsure how comfortable I would be in the water, but now, after freediving comfortably in such a beautiful place like Sodwana Bay, all I want to do is take more freediving courses and increase my level.

    I would recommend the Sharklife internship to everyone! I can’t wait until I can go back!!!

  • Michaela Leyva - 2019 - USA

    One of the best experiences of my life! Greg, Miriam and Grant are amazing people with such a passion for sharks. Free diving in such beautiful water and being able to see some amazing wildlife along with in depth learning of sharks was perfect. I would love to go back and stay for longer.

  • Mikala Haptonstall - 2019 - USA

    Amazing people to be surrounded by learning how to free dive in absolutely beautiful water with the chance to see breathtaking wildlife. The passion that Grant, Greg, and Miriam exude is so contagious, I didn't want to leave!

  • Pim de Boer - 2019 - NLD

    Had 2 great weeks at Sharklife with Grant, Greg, and Meriam. A really passionate group of people who do so much with little resources. Would highly recommend the internship to any ocean enthusiast! Learned so much about sharks and the ocean in general. The shark museum and brand new intern camp are an awesome learning environment. But most amazing of all is the time you get to spend in the water with the sharks. They really know where to find them and you get the opportunity to see some special shark species that you would never get to see without expert knowledge. Really hope that more and more people start supporting Sharklife to allow them to make a change!

  • Ângela Sabino - 2019 - PRT

    Very dedicated team, learned so much ? Awesome internship ? Keep up the great work guys ?

  • Emma Williams - 2019 - UK

    I had the most amazing time interning with sharklife. It was so good i stayed for 10 weeks and am heading back in September. There's a great balance between academic learning and time in the ocean. I learnt so much about sharks as well as other marine issues and animals and had plenty of opportunities to improve my freediving skills which I'm going to continue to work on when I get back, as well as loads more to learn. I would recommend this to any one interested in the marine environment. Sodwana is a beautiful place to live and explore, Sharklife has incredible learning resources and Grant and Candice were so much fun to work with and learn from. Thank you for the great experience guys

  • Karolina Nszcm - 2019 - POL
    • What an amazing program , great two weeks with great learning path connected with a lots of hours in the ocean. - you got to be in it to win it ?❤️shark lover!
  • Alex Melson - 2019 - UK

    “Got to be in it to win it” ?

    Nothing more perfectly summarises what the Sharklife Internship is all about, than the quote above! We got close to sharks, rays, rays and even dolphins, learnt about the critters of the sea, looked into shark biology and learnt how to free dive, all of this is just two weeks. For someone who had an abject fear of the ocean and a misunderstanding about sharks, this internship turned me from someone who was nervous to even go knee deep into the ocean, to someone who didn’t want to get back into the boat. Grant’s passion and determination for sharks is truly inspirational and I would highly recommend this internship for anyone looking to learn more about sharks, advance their career or learn new skills.

    I cannot wait until I get the opportunity to return in the future.

  • Chris Taklis - 2019 - GRC

    Those 2 weeks were perfect and so much educated (the most times with a fun way, so we didn't get bored).

    We learned so many stuff. Sure i recommend it for everyone to go. To see by yourself how conservation works in the field.

    And don't believe any legend or myth until you go there and freedive with sharks.

    Sure i will come again. I hope in the near future.

  • Mieke Buys - 2019 - RSA

    The Sharklife Internship is one of, if not the best thing I have done so far. Shark Conservation is so important and more people need to be aware of that to help make a change and that is what Sharklife is doing, they are working to make a change and help these beautiful creatures. Don't let the media and stereotypes influence the way you look at sharks, these animals are so misunderstood and in need of our help to save them.

    I can't thank everyone at Sharklife enough for these past two weeks. It was an incredible experience and I am so lucky that I was able to learn about these amazing animals and to have been able to get in the water with them. These two weeks have been unforgettable and I am definitely going to be back for more!!

  • Jae Kelly - 2019 - USA

    Interning at Sharklife was the most incredible experience. The internship exceeded all my expectations. Grant, Candice and Dennis are three amazing human beings who have so much knowledge to share. Grant truly went above and beyond to make sure that every minute of the day was spent growing our understanding of sharks, and the whole marine world overall. Between the labs, time in the ocean and other unique excursions the two weeks flew by and I cannot wait to return someday in the near future. Anyone considering an internship or just wanting to know what Sharklife is all about should not hesitate to get in contact with Grant. I flew all the way from WA state in the US for this internship and the long travel was worth it ten-fold. 1000000% recommend the people, the place and the program.

  • Androniki Thirion - 2018 - RSA

    Sharklife and the internship run by Grant is where one can put passion and hobbies in 1 place! Very hands on and very informative in every aspect... The museum is full of information about the ocean life and mainly focusing on one of the most misunderstood creatures (Sharks). Would highly recommend it to young and old who love the ocean.. And to learn to freedive, and get close and personal with the creatures of the ocean... Thank you Grant for a wonderful experience! Keep it up ??


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    Sharklife Ocean Center

    Sodwana Bay, KwaZulu Natal
    South Africa 3974

    Email: info@sharklife.co.za
    Ph/WhatsApp: +27 (0) 82 935 9427