For many, traveling to Africa to work with sharks is an exciting but daunting undertaking! Here we answer all questions that we commonly receive from prospective participants.

What do I need to know about travelling to South Africa during covid?

We have put all the information you need to be prepared in this blog.

How are our daily activities scheduled?

On the program, we are flexible with our daily activities, and the Blue Wilderness team works out a daily program the night before. This works great, as it is difficult to predict how many clients we will be working with on a given day, or what the weather will be like. We try to work 5 days a week (which often covers weekends) with a couple of days break during the week.

What will I, as a participant, 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.

Do I need a SCUBA certification to join the program?

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 the program fee cover?

  • 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
  • Training / expeditions – All practical and theoretical training instruction. Up to 25 ocean expeditions for shark research and ecotourism purposes.
  • Internet –  (10mb/sec speed)

How long is the program?

Our program runs from February to November annually. Participants typically book onto the program for 1, 2 or 3 months. Longer time on the program requires a special visa to South Africa, and thus we limit participation to the three month period.

Do I need my own photographic equipment or SCUBA gear

This is your personal preference. There are many opportunities to collect footage and photographs of sharks and the marine life of Aliwal Shoal, and we welcome participants taking such images when work allows. SCUBA or snorkeling equipment is provided. Unless you have personal gear that is suitable for travel, e.g. a mask, it is not advised to bring personal SCUBA equipment.

Do I need travel / medical insurance?

Yes. When you are accepted into this 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 or illnesses, so please do organize your own medical and health insurances. You may apply for a normal travel insurance policy. Chances that you will be injured by a marine predator 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 on a boat in conditions which can, on occasions, be less than comfortable. Accidents may occur, 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. For SCUBA divers, you also need to be insured by the Divers Alert Network (DAN)

How much work with sharks will we be doing?

There is no set number of expeditions, but the team will head to sea whenever we have clients or conducting a dedicated research trip. In total, you can expect between 15 and 20 trips to sea each month, during which you will either be snorkeling or SCUBA diving with sharks.

How old must I be to participate?

This program is open to anyone who is 18 years or older.

Is there any strange diseases to worry about?

No – Durban and Scottburgh is far South of the Malaria belt where this virus becomes an issue.

Where do we stay whilst on the program?

Students stay at the Blue Wilderness Shark Center, located at 34 Egerton Road, Freeland Park on Durban’s South Coast. The Shark Center is a purpose built facility that is a hub for marine research and conservation in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Learn more about the Shark Center here: Shark Center

What are the arrival and pickup arrangements?

Participants should arrive on the 1st of each month and plan to depart on the 28th of the month. We will ask you to submit your flight / travel plans and then arrange to pick you up and drop you off a the airport. You should plan to arrive at ‘King Shaka Airport – Durban’.

If you require to arrive earlier or depart later, then you will be asked a food and accommodation fee of R400/night

What does the program fee not cover?

Not included in the cost for either month, as most are optional :

  • International flights/transport
  • Additional days accommodation & food
  • Optional photographic / tourism expeditions (including travel, entry fees, etc.)
  • SCUBA diving training
  • Laundry
  • Laundry service
  • Non-work excursions
  • Extra food and beverages

Will I require a VISA to travel to South Africa?

Not usually! You will not be employed by the Shark Research Unit nor paid. As a participant you are entitled to enter on a temporary visitors permit (e.g. tourism permit). Tourist visiting visas are usually (for most countries) 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 check the below list of visa exempt countries to confirm this: Immigration-services/exempt-countries

NB: If you arrive on the program prior to the 1st of the month (or staying longer), you will be required to pay additional daily accommodation and meals fee of R400/day

Where must I fly to?

You must arrange your air travel to and from ‘King Shaka International Airport – Durban‘.

What must I bring - The Packing List

The program runs year around (apart from December and January), so students need to be aware of seasonal changes in water temperature and weather conditions. View monthly averages here: Weather in Durban


  • Peaked or wide-brim hat
  • Sunglasses with a safety strap
  • Rock walking shoes
  • Light waterproof jacket
  • Day pack
  • 1 set throw away shorts and shirts (dedicated to working with chum and boat grease)


  • Warm sweater / jumper – keep core body temperature up
  • Shorts / shirts
  • Jeans / long pants
  • Casual evening clothes (Scottburgh is a small surfing town – nothing formal)
  • Sandals
  • Evening casual shoes
  • Beach towel & swimming costume


  • Laptop (optional)
  • Camera / Gopro – (optional, but recommended) if you want personal photographs and video
  • Cell phone and charger
  • International adapters to plug into SA wall sockets


  • SCUBA certification card (if applicable)
  • Mask and Snorkel (Optional)
  • Finns (Optional)
  • Wetsuit (Optional)
  • No other SCUBA / Snorkeling equipment is recommended


  • Passport & certified copy of passport (valid for at least six months)
  • VISA (If required)
  • Return flight ticket
  • Medical and Travel Insurance proof
  • List of Shark Research Unit contacts


  • Debit / Credit card (ensure you communicate to bank on travel plans)
  • Personal medication
  • Toiletries – (optional – can be readily purchased at Scottburgh)
  • Sun screen

Can I cancel or change the dates of my program

To confirm your booking, you will be required to pay a $500 non-refundable deposit. The remainder of the payment is due one month before you arrive in country. You are welcome to change the dates of your program if space permits, but we do not refund deposits.

How do I get more information?

Chat to one of our program specialists. We are available to email, skype or whatsapp at any time. Connect here – Connect with program specialist.

Is your dream to work with sharks?

Can our shark development program help achieve this dream.


The Shark Research Unit is a subsidiary of Blue Wilderness. Our core purpose is to conduct original shark research, conservation and education programs at Aliwal Shoal, South Africa.  We achieve these goals through collaborating with affiliated scientists and postgraduate students. 



  • 34 Egerton Road
  • Freeland Park
  • Scottburgh 4180
  • South Africa





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