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The Shark Research Unit’s – Shark Development Program allows people from all walks of life to develop practical skills for a career working and interacting with tropical shark species, including tiger sharks, blacktip sharks and sand tiger (ragged-tooth) sharks.

As a team member at the Shark Research Unit, you will be the driving force in our education and conservation programs and ensure the ongoing success of our dedicated shark and ecosystem-level research programs. In addition to shark diving and snorkelling with up to five species of sharks, participants will be working in the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area, one of South Africa’s most pristine and crucial marine biodiversity hotspots. The Shark Research Unit is a subsidiary of the renowned shark diving and adventure company Blue Wilderness. We set up the unit as a distinct division with a core mission of contributing to the health of the marine ecosystems in general and sharks in particular. The SRU houses a small but dedicated team consisting of biologists, conservationists and educators.


The Shark Research Unit’s – Shark Development Program allows people from all walks of life to develop practical skills for a career working and interacting with tropical shark species, including tiger sharks, blacktip sharks and sand tiger (ragged-tooth) sharks.

Program Details

PROGRAM TYPE – Shark Development Program PROGRAM LOCATION – Scottburgh, South Africa PROGRAM FOCUS – Career training to work/dive professionally with tropical shark species

Program Highlights
  • Six dedicated tiger/blacktip shark snorkelling and diving expeditions at Aliwal Shoal, South Africa; and
  • Six dedicated SCUBA diving expeditions looking for sand tiger sharks for shark research, diving techniques; and
  • Two student education outreach expeditions to local schools and learners; and
  • A two-day expert introduction to freediving course, accompanied by practical sessions.
Duration and Price of Program

The program consists of both on-site and off-site work. Prior to arrival in South Africa, participants will gain access to a three week series of online eLearning programs 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
Indicate which month you would be interested in begining your participation in 2022
Indicate which month you would be interested in begining your participation in 2023

The shark development program is open to everyone with the time available and desire to develop a career working with sharks in the fields of shark research, conservation, education, ecotourism or media. If participants want to join the team on SCUBA dives (second half of the each month), then a open-water SCUBA certification is required. This can be gained either before or during your participation on the program. Enroll in SCUBA Certification course 

Expedition numbers are estimates based on a 4-week participation period on the shark development program. The real expedition numbers will be proportional to how long you participate on the program. 

  • 3 Week online training courses
  • Onsite expert training
  • 6 x Tiger shark / blacktip shark snorkels / SCUBA dives
  • 6 Sandtiger Shark SCUBA dives.
  • 2Day introduction to freediving course
  • 2 x Learner awareness trips
  • 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)
Skills Development

Attending the Shark Development program is an investment in your career. No matter your current expertise, you will be working toward improving your employability 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 shark experts. 

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. Behavioural Ethograms Develop and employ behaviour ethograms to understand the behaviour and social interaction of shark species. Including great white sharks, ragged tooth sharks and others. Baited Remove Underwater Video Deploy, maintain and analyze footage collected from BRUV’s used in our ongoing research projects.

Crewing 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.

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

  • Tiger shark speciality course
  • Blacktip shark speciality course
  • Sandtiger speciality course
  • Shark Diving speciality course
  • Introduction to Freediving
  • Shark and humans
  • Introduction to Citizen Science


Rating of  Average of 9.78 on a total of 9 Ratings
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?

Jessica Escobar Ph.D.

Research Scientist 

Ryan Johnson M.Sc.

Research Scientist

Accomodation and full catering is offered throughout the duration of the Shark Development Program. Accommodation is typically in single sex dorms. Although the shark centre does offer a couple of single rooms if requested. 

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.

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.

What do participants get out of the program?

The primary purpose of the program is to offer you extensive real world training and experience in driving shark research, conservation, education and ecotourism operations and campaigns. We believe that shark ecotourism operations also have a duty to drive education, conservation and research initiatives. As such, our participants drive many of these programs. So in addition to becoming an expert shark diver, many of your experiences will empower you in the fields of shark education, research and conservation.

When is the program and for how long?

Our program runs from March to November annually. Participants typically book onto the program from 2weeks up to 3 months. Longer than 3 months, requires a special visa to South Africa, and thus we limit participation to the three month period.

Packing - What must I bring?

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

  • 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.  Miscellaneous 

  • 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 three 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.

Schedule - What do we do daily?

On the program, we are flexible with our daily activities, and the Shark Research Unit works out a daily program the night before – using the general schedule as a guide. This works great, as it is difficult to predict weather conditions many days in advance. We try to work 5 days a week (which often covers weekends) with a couple of days break during the week.

Do I need SCUBA qualification?

No – Many of our adventures are snorkel based, so you will be able to participate in all activities even if you cant SCUBA dive. But many of our students choose this as a time to get qualified with a SCUBA qualification.

What does my fee cover?
  • Research / conservation expeditions
  • eLearning courses
  • Practical training tuition 
  • Local transfers – Transfer to and from the airport to Blue Wilderness on arrival and departure (only on the 1st of each month)
  • Local transport – Every day transport from the Blue wilderness to launch site, or days activity location
  • Dorm accommodation – (2-4 students/room, gender separated).
  • Meals – three standard meals per day
  • Equipment – SCUBA and snorkeling equipment for Blue Wilderness expeditions
  • Internet –  (10mb/sec speed)

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 Egerton Rd
  • Freeland Park
  • Schottburgh 4180
  • South Africa

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