Shark & Marine Research Institute

Shark & Marine Research Institute

What we do…

Our volunteer programme offers a unique opportunity to get involved with meaningful research studying Great White Sharks and other shark species near Cape Town, South Africa, as well as contribute towards shark conservation.

Since the Great White Shark population in South Africa is at potential risk of extinction with numbers believed to be around 300-500, our White Shark research focuses primarily on monitoring the numbers of these apex predators in our waters, with the aim of obtaining another population estimate within the next two to three years. We are using dorsal fin identification to identify and closely monitor the different individuals we are observing each day, and building a comprehensive database of fins photographed.

With other shark species also threatened or vulnerable due to over exploitation, we are also conducting studies to learn about these species in particular the endemic shark species we have in South Africa. We currently know little about these species; hence the aims of our research are to obtain baseline data on sharks in our area, including their diversity, abundance, movement patterns, habitat use and growth rates. Secondly, in the long-term we will be assessing the health of their populations and determining whether local fishermen play a role in shark population decline.


Daily activities include cage-diving trips, shark tagging trips (from our research boat and from the shoreline), snorkelling for sharks in the kelp forests, beach clean ups, equipment maintenance, video analysis, data entry and dorsal fin ID analysis. Volunteers will get to interact daily with our scientists and learn all about Great White Sharks and other marine wildlife in our area. Participants will also have the opportunity to interact with the local community by supporting our shark conservation, education and outreach projects.

We endeavour to make your time with us a personal and career building experience, providing extensive training in all projects and tailoring the volunteer programme to meet your individual needs. Included in the programme are several chances to be involved with cage-diving activities and come face to face with the magnificent Great White Shark in an unforgettable diving experience!

Our beautiful, comfortable volunteer house is located in Kleinbaai roughly a two-minute drive or a ten-minute walk from the harbour where we launch. It is a home away from home with all necessary amenities. There are magnificent coastal and mountain views and a host of marine and mountain outdoor activities for you to explore in your free time.

Our accommodation is:

  • Fully furnished
  • Linen provided
  • Emergency numbers provided
  • TV + DSTV
  • Wireless Internet
  • Domestic worker
  • Laundry service provided
  • Volunteer host and/or programme manager always available
  • Volunteer vehicle with all safety permits and regulations for transport of volunteers to all work-related activities and also for excursions organized on no sea days


If we have a number of consecutive bad weather days and if we have time we may organize other educational activities or excursions as an alternative to conducting onshore research projects.

These possible excursions include a trip to Cape Agulhas – the Southernmost point of Africa; a visit to Betty’s Bay to see the Stony Point penguin colony; wine tasting tours; kelp diving at Stanford Cove; hikes and horse riding trips in the local area; quad biking, ziplining;  a visit to the Two Oceans Aquarium and the Waterfront in Cape Town; seal snorkelling in Cape Town; a trip up the East Coast to visit one of the Elephant Parks; Bloukrans bungee jump on the East Coast; safari trips; and more!

Contact details: | Tel: +(27)74 550 6654


“My life will never be the same after this. If there is one thing that I have to stress to anyone interested in volunteering, it’s this – don’t be afraid to do something that challenges every part of you, to do something you’ve never done before – dive head first into this experience and soak in every second of it – learn everything you possibly can – it is once in a lifetime and I promise, it’ll be worth it.” – Erin Moreira

“I have been immersed in the family at WSDC and have enjoyed every day to the fullest. Even on no-sea days there is always something to do or a new place to explore. Thank you again to Mary and Imke for being family away from home. Already planning my next trip here so I can continue living in this amazing community.” – Kathryn Frankcom-Burgess

“All we need to do is ignite a flame within people in order to start making a difference and taking a stand for our environment. It only takes one person to start a fire.” – Andrea Murchie

“You simply can’t pay for that kind of experience.” – Laura Wozniak

“One of the best experiences of my life.” – Nicholas Chesnik

Return to Marine Research Expeditions

Please don’t forget to mention WiseOceans when booking your expedition!