Shark And Marine Research Institute

Volunteer To Join a Research Team To See The Great White ...

Help researchers learn more about these mysterious predators
+27 (0)63 680 3063
9 Kus Drive| Kleinbaai Harbour | Gansbaai
Shark & Marine Research Institute

Volunteer To Join a Research Team To See The Great White Shark (Watch)

Unlock the Cape’s most unique conservation adventure of these apex predators

South Africa’s great white shark is one of the most mysterious creatures of the sea. Now, imagine getting close to these majestic predators in their own waters, and at the same time helping to understand and conserve them? 

You can do this – and find adventure and meaning – by joining the expert team from White Shark Diving Company (WSDC) as part of its Volunteer Programme.

What makes the Shark & Marine Research Institute’s volunteer programme unique is it’s doing groundbreaking research in collaboration with Stellenbosch University's world-renowned great white shark expert Dr Sara Andreotti, which means volunteers get to contribute to important programmes. 

The research is on various species of shark and elasmobranchs, and contributes to and supports various universities and scientific journals. All of this is enabled by unique research permits extended by various governmental departments to the institute, run by marine biologist Mary Rowlinson.


Just a short distance from the mainland, there’s an incredibly dynamic ecosystem known as 'Shark Alley', largely thanks to the thousands of seals that live and breed on nearby Dyer Island. This makes Gansbaai one of the best places in the world to study great white shark behaviour and demographics, because you’re almost always guaranteed to spot a shark from the safety of the submerged cage. 

The Shark & Marine Institute (SMRI) offers volunteers a unique opportunity to get first-hand experience of ground-breaking research studying shark behaviour, biology and conservation. Volunteers conduct snorkelling surveys, capture crucial data and contribute to many scientific studies. They play a vital role in data collection and management, as well as gain work experience on the company’s tourism boat and quality dive time with the predators.

Interested? Apply via the following online application form 


  • Get close to great white sharks on cage-diving trips.
  • Experience smaller local sharks on catch-and-release tagging excursions aboard our research vessel.
  • Explore kelp forests and the creatures that inhabit them during snorkelling surveys.
  • Be involved with groundbreaking research focused on shark and marine conservation.
  • Get credits towards your degree or diploma (dependent on approval by your educational institution).
  • Benefit from our unique research permit awarded by the Department of Environmental Affairs – Oceans and Coasts and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

You get plenty of free time to explore Gansbaai and Cape Town. On bad-weather days, you’ll go on organised excursions, which may include hiking in the local area, trips to Cape Agulhas (southernmost tip of Africa) and Betty’s Bay (famous penguin colony), horse-riding outrides and riverboat cruises.

Plus: go on regular boat trips (minimum of four per month) and be trained in boat handling.


  • All accommodation while on the programme, including in Gansbaai and one night’s accommodation in Cape Town.
  • Transport to and from Cape Town International Airport, as well as Gansbaai.
  • Breakfast and lunch on working days.
  • A welcome pack of caps, T-shirt, buff, warm top, bonus DVD with white shark footage and waterproof deck boots for duration of stay.
  • White shark cage dives, behavioural study and data collection.
  • Lectures and practical training in all running projects.
  • Elasmobranch, seal, rocky shores and marine debris surveys.
  • Data analysis.
  • Participating in outreach programmes.

Not included: Flight tickets, visas, medical and travel insurance, meals (other than basic breakfast and lunch) and any additional lodging before or after the programme. White Shark Diving Company is, however, more than happy to help advise you on any of these.

Apply via the following online application form on their website.

Costs: Programme fees are $745 for one week, $1490 for two weeks $1795 for three weeks, $2100 for one month, thereafter the cost is $400 per week, so you may join for as many weeks as you like up to 3 months. Longer stays are subject to additional Visa requirements. They offer a 10% discount to students who are able to provide a copy of their student ID. South African citizens are entitled to a 25% discount as well as the dollar rand exchange being treated as ten 10 to 1.

As WSDC relies on good weather conditions, the company recommends that volunteers stay for a minimum of one month to obtain the full working experience and to ensure that they have adequate sea time. 

Volunteer Programme Dates: Programmes start on the 1st and 15th of each month. The programme closes completely from the 15th December to the 15th January every year. 

For more information about White Shark Diving Company’s shark research experience, contact on +27 (0)63 680 3063 or email or visit

To qualify for a discount, mention when booking. 


Did you know you’ll never see a great white shark in captivity? They can’t be enclosed. Find more cool white shark facts here and even organise yourself a great white breaching tour.

Shark cage diving is one of the all-time ultimate Cape Town bucket list experiences. And if you’ve already done it, consider croc-cage diving at Le Bonheur in Paarl.

Also, see more cool volunteering opportunities in Cape Town as well as super unique things to do here and all the nearby adventure activities.

And take a look at all the exciting things to do in Gansbaai.

Use our events section for an up-to-date overview of happenings in Cape Town. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter and if you have a smartphone, add to your home screen for quick access on the go!

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