I volunteered at SMRI this past summer and absolutely loved my experience! From catching my first shark by hand while snorkelling, to cage diving with the great whites, there was never a dull moment.
Before coming to SMRI, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in marine biology; however, I was still unsure the specific area of marine biology I wanted to go into. After this trip though, I am almost positive that I want to go into the field of shark research and conservation, helping and studying these magnificent maligned creatures.
I’m so glad that I was able to contribute to the research on the many shark species around South Africa. During the programme, I not only learned how to identify different sharks but also how to catch and properly handle them. I also measured and tagged the smaller sharks (which can be really tricky when they’re so small!). Additionally, I learned how to effectively conduct baited remote underwater video system (BRUVs) surveys, which, in addition to the angling and snorkelling data, were also used to monitor shark demographics, diversity, and behaviour. For anyone looking to go into the field of marine biology, the skills developed here are absolutely invaluable!
While the weather conditions when I first arrived in Gansbaai were not ideal to go out on the water, I was never bored. There was always a multitude of on land activities for us to occupy ourselves with. From beach clean-ups, to planting herbs in the local garden, to volunteering at the local animal shelter, where we could walk the dogs and play with the puppies and cats, I felt like I was truly helping out in the small town. We definitely made sure to make the most of our time in South Africa as well. During my stay, I was able to go on a true Safari, visit a wild cat sanctuary, and even walk alongside elephants! I definitely didn’t feel like we wasted any time!
Overall, I am grateful for the valuable skills I learned on this trip, and I sincerely hope that I will be able to return back to SMRI. I highly recommend this programme to anyone interested!