Living with Marine Wildlife

2-4 Week(s)
Sodwana, South Africa
Fully Furnished Accommodation
Start Date
Volunteer Period
Starting From:
$ 000.00

Living with Marine Wildlife

Program Overview

Living with Marine Wildlife

Established in 2005 as a non-profit organization, we work to address the alarming exploitation of both shark populations and ocean fisheries in South African waters. Our marine volunteering and internship programs aim to nurture shark conservation ambassadors through knowledge development, hands-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”

We provide 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.

We have been driving shark conservation initiatives since 2005 and have a wealth of experience to offer enthusiastic volunteers and 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, and not harmful to the animals we study, and there is no catching, handling, or feeding of sharks in 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 your time with us, you will steadily practice freediving, clock up scuba dives, and learn 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 – $350

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


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


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

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 research 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.

Program Videos


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 the 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. Volunteers and interns get the opportunity to develop seamanship and diving skills whilst encountering a wide variety of marine life.


Add Diving Courses

  • $200 Including PADI Deep Speciality Certification and equipment rental.
  • $240 PADI OPEN WATER DIVE COURSE – for non-divers
  • $240 for registered divers add on courses. Advanced or rescure courses.
  • $450 for those wanting to do two dive courses (open water and advanced.
  • $50 per dive thereafter.

Please note these excursions are at an additional cost.

What’s Included

We take care of everything

  • Transfers from Richards Bay Airport.
  • 3 Meals daily
  • Accommodation
  • 4/5 dives per week, weather permitting
  • Wifi
  • Laundry once a week
  • 24-hour emergency contact in the country
  • Working daily with marine researchers

What’s Not Included

  • Flight to Richards Bay
  • Travel Insurance (full travel insurance including dive insurance could be bought through us for $3.50 per day)
  • Refreshments/drinks

Optional Extras

  • Outings
  • Dive Courses


Individual Whales Identified


Sharks fitted with acoustic tags


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