The Shark Research Unit’s great white shark research internship allows people from all walks of life to participate in shark research, education, conservation, and edu-tourism in Mossel Bay, South Africa.

Our great white shark research internship offers a diverse itinerary to suit the expectations of a broad cross-section of participants. Our great white shark internship provides an experiential approach to observing and learning about great white sharks and other species in the area. 

The ultimate goals of the great white shark research internship are education, public awareness, the advancement of shark science, and the conservation of all shark species. We hope you will bring your skills and passion for helping to understand and conserve these incredible animals!

Orcas won’t ruin your internship training program.

The occurrence of orcas attacking great white sharks at Mossel Bay can lead to a temporary displacement of the local shark population. In such an event, our internship program has contingencies in place to ensure that our research and edu-tourism expeditions can continue smoothly. If such an event occurs during your internship, we will relocate to our research facility at Aliwal Shoal, where we will continue conducting expeditions on sand tiger sharks, blacktip sharks, and tiger sharks.

Although the displacement of great white sharks may cause temporary disruptions to our research efforts in Mossel Bay, our base team will continue to monitor and conduct long-term programs in the bay until the white sharks return. This will help us to gather valuable data on the impact of the orcas’ predation on the local shark population and their behavior upon their return.

By having a contingency plan in place, we can ensure that our interns and researchers can continue their work, even in the face of unforeseen events. Our priority is to provide a safe and enriching learning experience for our interns while contributing to the understanding and conservation of marine ecosystems.


The Shark Research Unit’s great white shark research internship allows people from all walks of life to participate in shark research, conservation, edu-tourism and education projects in Mossel Bay, South Africa.

Our great white shark research internship offers a diverse itinerary to suit the expectations of a broad cross-section of participants. Our great white shark internship provides a hands-on approach to observing great white sharks and other species in the area. We offer you the chance to visit and learn with a loyal and dedicated team behind you!

The ultimate goals of the great white shark internship are education, public awareness, the advancement of shark science and the conservation of all shark species. We hope you will bring your skills and passion for helping conserve these incredible animals!


The great white shark research internship program is open to everyone with the time available and the desire to contribute to our great white shark conservation, education and citizen science efforts. If participants want to join the team on recreational SCUBA dives, then an open-water SCUBA certification is required. This can be gained either before or during your participation in the internship.

Enroll in SCUBA Certification course 

Program Highlights
  • Great white shark expeditions in Mossel Bay, South Africa. These expeditions include cage diving, photographic recording, underwater video recordings, and behavioural observation studies; and


  • A three-day expedition to Plettenberg Bay’s Robberg Reserve for a bird-eye scientific survey of great white sharks patrolling and hunting at the seal colony; and


  • SCUBA (or free diving) expeditions with sand tiger (ragged-tooth) sharks and small, shy sharks; and


  • Two days volunteering at SAPREC bird rehabilitation centre, aiding in the rehabilitation of entangled and oiled seabirds; and


  • A two-day expert introduction to free diving course, accompanied by practical sessions.
Program Details

PROGRAM TYPE – great white shark research internship

PROGRAM LOCATION – Mossel Bay and Aliwal Shoal, South Africa

PROGRAM FOCUS – shark research, shark conservation, shark education, shark edutourism

Specific projects conducted subject to permit permissions held at the time of participation

Duration and Price of Program

The program consists of both on-site and off-site work. Prior to arrival in South Africa, participants are required to complete a two – three week online eLearning program aimed at giving your a thoretical grounding in the shark and research skills required to enable you to make a meaningful contribution to the program. Onsite, participants will focus on practical work and can participate for a minimum period of two weeks and a maximum period of three months.

Cost of Program for you

Expedition numbers presented are based on a 4-week participation period on the great white shark research internship program. The real expedition numbers will be proportional to how long you participate on the program. 

    • 2 Week online training course
    • Onsite expert training
    • 8 x Mossel Bay great white shark trips
    • 3Day x Plettenberg Bay white shark expedition (land observations)
    • 6 x SCUBA  / Free diving shark research trips
    • 2 x Seabird rehabilitation conservation trips
    • 2 x Learner awareness trips
    • Introduction to Freediving course
    • Accommodation (dorm)
    • Meals (3/day)
    • Internet
    • Local transport (incl. airport shuttle)
    • International Flights
    • Travel Insurance
    • Laundry
    • Weekend experiences
    • Additional drinks and food
    • Souvenirs
    • Single Accommodation (optional addon)
    • Specialized meal plan (optional addon)

Specific projects conducted subject to permit permissions held at the time of participation

Research Projects

Great White Shark Population. Monitor and determine the local population of great white sharks using photo identification of dorsal fins, pigmentation patterns, and additional measures (e.g. CPUE) collected through citizen science research on white shark cage diving tourism vessel.

Colour change in sharks. Conduct colour change study in great white sharks and other species. utilise colour boards, skin sampling to describe the hormonal control of sharks colours.

Predator prey techniques. Conduct visual observations and utilise behavioral ethograms to describe and assess the predator prey dynamics of great white sharks and Cape fur seals.

eDNA. Contribute to the genetic profiling of the resident great white shark population through environmental DNA sampling.

Diversity assessment. Monitor shark abundance and diversity on local reefs through observation recreational dives.

Tracking. Contribute to ORI shark tracking studies using visual tags. These studies conducted on sharks other than great white sharks under project guidelines of the Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI).

Conservation Projects

Beach & reef clean. Assist in our biweekly efforts to keep the beaches and reef systems of Mossel Bay clean with dedicated cleanups.

Seabird rehabilitation. Contribute biweekly to the husbandry and maintenance of injured and oiled seabirds by volunteer working with the SAPREC foundation

Stop shark fining campaign. Assist in our ongoing online social media awareness campaigns fighting for the cease of unregulated shark fishing and the practice of shark fining.

Save sharks production. Host and produce our monthly podcast and vlog series highlighting conservation needs and efforts of sharks throughout the world.

Education Projects

Tourism educator. Adopt role of educator on great white shark ecotourism expeditions. Ensure that cage diving is presented correctly and guests depart as ambassadors for shark conservation.

Learner educator. Travel with the team as we visit schools throughout South Africa’s garden route and engage with learners on the importance of ocean and shark conservation.

Visitor Education. Join in on our biweekly presentations on shark research and conservation to tourists visiting Mossel Bay. Enjoy these evenings of education and enlightenment at some of the towns top hotels.

Specific projects conducted subject to permit permissions held at the time of participation

Research Facilities and Logistics

Research Vessel

We conduct our primary white shark photo identification research from First Strike. A 36ft retrofitted white shark cage diving vessel licensed to conduct white shark cage diving operations at Mossel Bay, South Africa


A cornerstone of our research effort is conducted through legal drone surveys in permitted areas. Our fleet of DJI drones are used by scientists and interns in collecting vital field data on coastal shark activity. 

eDNA Sampling

Conduct inhous eDNA sampling and filtration using state of art eDNA filteration systems. 

Acoustic Trackers

Where research permits permit, we conduct acoustic telemetry research involving active and passive tracking of sharks


The Shark Research Unit houses over 15 sets of SCUBA and freediving sets to use for various research and conservation projects, as well as, for our in-house SCUBA training courses. 


Extensive selection of photographic, video and underwater cameras for the recording of photo identification and behavioural research

Zodiac Fleet

Three offshore research and dive vessels ranging from 6.8 to 8.8m in length. Utilised  for SCUBA, freediving and underwater photography / videography research 


Scientific Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) rated to depth of 100m. For use by scientists and interns to conduct boat based tracking of sharks and collection of environmental and physical samples. 

Laser System

Custom-built underwater laser system for the measurement of sharks in the field whilst on SCUBA or free diving. 

Specific logistics utilised subject to permission held at the time of participation

Skills Development

Attending the Great White Shark Research Internship Program is an investment in your career. No matter your current expertise, you will be working toward improving your employ-ability by mastering new social skills, gaining further technical expertise, and potentially earning an additional qualifications. We have helped many of our Alumni discover, move toward, and earn their own personal dream jobs, be in in shark research, ecotourism, underwater filmmaking or conservation. Our program includes introductory workshops, ongoing eLearning presentations, as well as on-the-ground support provided by our very own trained scientists. 

Photographic Identification

Master the photographic skills required to produce mark recapture data on a variety of shark species. This includes establishing the camera settings to ensure clean, sharp and valuable identification photographs

Visual Tags

Train in the skills to safely and ethically place visual ‘mark recapture’ tags on ragged tooth sharks and small endemic shy sharks.

Biopsy Sampling

Train in the collection and storage of biological shark samples that will be used in a variety of research projects from genetic analysis to colour manipulation experiments.

Behavioral Ethograms

Develop and employ behavior ethograms to understand the behavior and social interaction of shark species. Including great white sharks, ragged tooth sharks and others.

Baited Remote Underwater Video

Deploy, maintain and analyze footage collected from BRUV’s used in our ongoing research projects.

eDNA Sampling

Learn to conduct and process environmental genetic sampling procedures to detect the diversity and concentration of different shark species in the target area.


Train in crewing on shark ecotourism vessels and handling and attracting great white sharks to vessels.

Education officer

Develop skills to be an effective education communicator who can inform and entertain tourism guests during shark ecotourism expeditions.

Free Diving (Apnea)

Train in the art of free diving to learn to collect data and samples on breath hold. A vital scientific skill for marine scientists.

Seabird Rehabilitation 

Train in providing care and husbandry of oiled and entangled seabirds at the SANPREC seabird rescue center.

Specific training received subject to permission held at the time of participation

Hit the ground running, by compleating our world class eLearning speacality courses prior to your arrival in South Africa. On acceptance you will be granted access to the following eLearning programs

  • Great white shark speciality course
  • Sandtiger speciality course
  • Introduction to freediving
  • Shark and humans course
  • Shark research techniques course


Rating of  Average of 9.77 on a total of 13 Ratings
Lucy Pavlik
November 2022

Nico and Sophu were the most amazing instructors. I learned so much from them and they truly kept such a positive environment. They are both so knowledgeable on their subjects and have a great way of going about teaching.

Quinton Cohen
September 2022

It has been incredible I have had so much fun diving and learning. Nico has an amazing way to teach where he constantly well just start a lesson and explain something we just saw or have herd about but let’s(...)

Robert Hollocher
September 2022

Had an absolute blast with the team and all that we did! Nico was incredible in every way, and made this whole thing just that much better. Not only did he make every day an adventure, but he was so very(...)

Emily Lewis
September 2022

Not only do you work with Great White sharks, but diving in Durban with the blacktips and ragged tooth sharks is amazing. Nico is awesome as an instructor! He is what makes the program fun and educational.(...)

Michell Attal
September 2022

Wonderful experience. More than I ever expected. Nico was fantastic, he always made an effort to involve everyone in tasks and took the time to teach. Going to Scottsburgh was a great idea while the great whites(...)

Ciara Maher
July & August 2022

Had an amazing time here so much so that I’m staying another month!! Nico has been amazing and have definitely learned a lot from him. Looking forward to the next month here 🙂

Jordyne Brown
July & August 2022

Amazing place to be! I learned so much and loved everyone here! Nico was amazing! He was so nice and made this trip so amazing! He made sure everyone had fun and learned a lot.

Jishnu Talukdar
November 2019

Program orientation / pre arrival: Very Satisfied
Research programs: Very Satisfied
Education programs: Neutral
Conservation programs: Very Satisfied
Ecotourism programs: Very Satisfied
Training workshops:(...)

Derrick Wiid
August 2019

If I can explain it in a short sentence. It has been breathtaking. The the crew, management and teacher has made me feel right at home and has gone out of their way to give me the experience of a life(...)

Amica Limosani
September 2019

The Blue Wilderness research program exceeded all my expectations. The entire staff was very welcoming and ready to help me. The volunteer accommodations were amazing and Mama Bo and Marry made it feel like(...)

Maria Hayden-Jones
May 2018

I heard about the Blue Wilderness Research Unit through my advisor who knows the founder of the institute and we have sent other students there. I had spent three years dedicated to learning all I could about(...)

Fiona Everest
August 2017

I was a volunteer with Blue Wilderness in August of 2017 and can honestly say it was the best month of my entire life. Having the opportunity to see Blacktip sharks in the wild, along with Dusky and ragged tooth(...)

John Ross
June 2016

I made an irrational decision to head to South Africa in 2016 to work with the Blue Wilderness Research Unit for two months. I truly had no idea what I was getting into I just knew that I wanted to work with big(...)

Who will you be working with?

Nico Booyens

Research Scientist 

Sophu Qoma

Research Scientist

Ryan Johnson M.Sc.

Research Scientist

Gibbs Kuguru Ph.D. (Cand.)

Associate Researcher

Key Publications

The Shark Research Unit is dedicated to producing tangible scientific result. Be assured that your contribution to our research will benefit the understanding of South Africa’s shark populations.

White Shark Research Interns will stay at our luxury shark center for the duration of the program. The facility offers single sex dorm accommodation or single private accommodation if you request. Catered daily meals will be provided throughout your stay.

Frequently Asked Questions
Visa's - Do I need one?

No. You will not be employed by the Shark Research Unit nor paid. On this internship you are entitled to enter on a temporary visitors permit (e.g. tourism permit). Tourist visiting visas are usually issued for three months/90 days upon entry in South Africa. However, we do recommend that you contact the South African Embassy or Consulate in your country and confirm this fact.  If you plan to travel in South Africa prior or after the course for a period extending 90 days, you will have to apply for a Volunteer VISA application through your home embassy.

Quickly evaluate the visa status of your country when visiting South Africa here 

Medication - Can I get my meds?

South Africa is far from Malaria areas, and there are no strange African diseases which you could pick up (that is if you respect the same safety rules as anywhere else in the world).

Please ensure that you bring any medication required. If you will require medication whist in South Africa, please contact us to ensure that it is available.

Extra money - How much must I bring?

A lot of interns enjoy extra trips and tourism activities when time permits. We recommend you have around USD1000 extra per month if you wish to go on these. Please note you do not have to go on ANY of these extra trips. This is simply for your information should you wish to.

Arrivals - What happens when I arrive?

When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from your initial contact with the Shark Research Unit, all the way through your program, and even after, as you become part of the SRU Alumni Team.

As part of this promise, we will ensure that one of our dedicated staff will be available to meet you at George airport or the Mossel Bay bus station. We also set up a Whatsapp group to help with managing airport arrivals and assist you during your travel. We will arrange with you prior to your departure that, should you arrive in the agreed upon pick up window, a member of our staff will be there to welcome you, easily identifiable in a Shark Research Unit t-shirt and wearing a friendly smile. This means there will be someone there to greet you as you land, and from there you will be transported to the SRU base base to start your adventure and meet the rest of your team.

Packing - What must I bring?

If you are getting ready to pack, here is a rough packing list of items you should consider bringing.


  • Work clothes. Bring what you are comfortable in, but ensure that you have warm, strong work clothing of neutral colours, solid work shoes such as hiking boots or trainers, a good sun hat with a wide brim and a warm hat/beanie. Gloves can be helpful for early mornings. Bring a tracksuit or something similar to lounge around in during the evenings, which can get cold. Also, face buffs help keep off the cold in the evenings.
  • Social clothes. Mossel Bay is a small town, so social clothing should reflect a casual, non-formal style.
  • A swimming costume.

 Video and electronic gear

You are more than welcome to bring any personal videography or photographic equipment, however, this is totally optional. 


  • Covid negative test results
  • Toiletries &  strong sunscreen (there are also plenty of shops to purchase from).
  • Prescription medication.
  • Passport & photocopy of passport.
  • Bank cards (inform your bank of your travels).
  • Spare cash.
  • Phone & cables.


  • Accommodation address – 182 Aalwyn Way, Aalwyndal, Mossel Bay.
Insurance - Do I need extra insurance?

When you are accepted into this internship program, you will have to sign liability, copyright documents, as well an agreement that you are knowingly partaking in potentially dangerous activities. You will not be covered for accidents, breakages, theft or illnesses, so please do organize your own medical and travel insurances. Chances that you will be injured by a shark are very slim if you follow the safety guidelines, and do not try anything foolish of which we would not approve. However, you will be working in an ocean environment which can result in accidents. So it is important to be covered in case of an emergency or accident. Be sure to have an insurance cover for your entire stay in Southern Africa.

Duration - How long can I participate?

The program consists of both on-site and off-site work.

Prior to arrival in South Africa, participants are required to complete a two week online eLearning program aimed at grounding you in the theoretical skills required to enable you to make a meaningful contribution to the program.

Onsite, participants can participate for a minimum period of two weeks and a maximum period of three months.

Covid-19 Safety Protocols

Since our inception, the Shark Research Unit has prioritised the health and safety of our staff, participants, partners and local community members. In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, SRU has created the SRU health and hygiene team to put in place new standards of cleanliness, norms and behaviours that meet international recommendations to ensure the ongoing safety of  participants, staff and the local community. Internationally recommended practices, such as advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the governments Australia, UK and US, continue to be monitored and the standards are likely to change if and when international advice changes.





Is your dream to work with sharks?


The Shark Research Unit is a shark and marine research and conservation institute driven by a passionate team of shark experts. We are located in South Africa and work in two regions of priority – Aliwal Shoal and Mossel Bay. 

Our core purpose is to conduct and support original shark research, conservation and education programs through strategic partnerships with marine scientists, postgraduate students, ecotourism operators and academic institutes. 

Our focus extends to nurturing a new generation (of all ages) of shark scientists, professionals and enthusiasts. We achieve this through our great white shark research internship, learner outreach programs and expert guided shark edu-tours  



  • 182 Aalwyn Way
  • Aalwyndal
  • Mossel Bay 6520
  • South Africa


  • 34 Edgerton Rd
  • Freeland Park
  • Scottburgh 4180
  • South Africa

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