Dive into Florian’s captivating shark conservation volunteer experience in South Africa. Explore their contribution to marine preservation, challenges faced, and personal development. Gain insights from an exclusive interview with Florian and discover the extraordinary work done to protect these majestic creatures and their habitats. Get inspired and join the mission to protect our oceans!
- Why should one engage in conservation for sharks?
- Why did you choose the SharkLife organization among all the shark conservation programs on Volunteer World?
- Can you share your first impressions upon arriving at SharkLife in Sodwana Bay?
- Could you describe a typical day during your internship?
- What was your highlight during your volunteer experience?
- How did you spend your free time during weekends?
- Would you recommend volunteering as a SharkLife Research Assistant?
Why should one engage in conservation for sharks?
Florian: “Many people think it would be better for us if there were fewer sharks in the oceans, but the truth is the opposite. Sharks are usually portrayed as mindless killers, which is simply not true. The likelihood of being killed by a shark, for example, is less than being struck by lightning or being struck by a falling coconut. Sharks are one of the most important species in our oceans. As apex predators, they play a critical role in controlling populations of other species and maintaining the natural balance and biodiversity of the oceans. So when sharks die, the marine ecosystem collapses, and with it our largest source of oxygen. However, mainly due to shark finning and bycatch, the number of sharks is drastically decreasing as we humans kill around 100 million sharks every year. So we need sharks to protect the biodiversity of our planet and to fight climate change.”
Why did you choose the SharkLife organization among all the shark conservation programs on Volunteer World?
Florian: “So I started looking for institutions that do this and found several opportunities. I decided to apply to Sharklife first because it was important to me to work for a nonprofit organization that produces scientifically relevant data. I applied in December for a one-month internship from late February to late March. The application process went smoothly and my volunteer experience worked out perfectly.”
Can you share your first impressions upon arriving at SharkLife in Sodwana Bay?
Florian: “Upon my arrival in Durban, a dedicated Sharklife staff member warmly greeted me and accompanied me on a scenic 4-5 hour drive to Sodwana Bay, the home of Sharklife. Despite conducting prior research on South Africa, I was pleasantly surprised by the breathtaking beauty of the natural surroundings, characterized by lush tropical vegetation and vibrant greenery, distinct from the savannah-like landscapes found in the central regions of the country. Sodwana Bay stands out as the most biodiverse place I have ever encountered. Upon reaching our destination, I received a warm introduction to the staff and fellow interns, followed by a comprehensive tour of the camp and office facilities. The office and the camp are on the same property, and it is a very familiar place. The next day was the first boat trip and I got to see my first manta ray ever, which showed me the magical moments to come over the next few weeks.”
Could you describe a typical day during your internship?
Florian: “At Sharklife, we divide our days into shore days and sea days based on the weather, and during my time there, we actively engaged in numerous research projects, resulting in more boat days than shore days. On a typical boat day, we diligently prepare the equipment in advance, ensuring the boat is ready for departure between 7 and 8 am. Once we launch the boat, our trips commence with an underwater visual census (UVC) survey of the quarter-mile reef, where we meticulously count and photograph sharks, rays, and turtles for identification purposes. Subsequently, we proceed with the next survey method, often involving the replacement of an RUV or the deployment of baited remote underwater video (BRUVs). With six BRUVs to deploy, we carefully prepare them on the boat and let them remain submerged for an hour. Following the collection of the first BRUV and the deployment of the last one, we typically have time to practice free diving, as Sharklife predominantly utilizes this technique due to its non-invasive nature compared to scuba diving.”
What was your highlight during your volunteer experience?
Florian: “The biggest highlight of our excursions was visiting an exclusive marine sanctuary that is only accessible to Sharklife. Watching a group of four manta rays feeding on plankton was truly magical. On one dive I had my first encounter with a shark, an unforgettable moment. Gracefully, it hovered over the reef, oblivious to my presence. The deep connection that comes from eye contact with these majestic creatures is incomparable.”
How did you spend your free time during weekends?
Florian: “Weekends are usually days off. You can use your time however you want. I spent most of my time on the weekends diving with one of the local dive centers. I was able to get two more diving licenses during this time. On these dives you can see the beautiful reefs of Sodwana and a wide variety of fish. On many dives you can also see sharks or turtles. You can relax at the beautiful beach or take a turtle tour in Sodwana Bay. During our tour, we found hatched nests and rescued an endangered loggerhead hatchling caught by a crab. It was a beautiful moment to release it and watch it make its way to the sea.”
Would you recommend volunteering as a SharkLife Research Assistant?
Florian: “Absolutely! Working as a SharkLife Research Assistant was one of the best months of my life. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in sharks and the ocean. The experience allowed me to contribute to meaningful conservation efforts and provided unforgettable moments. I would have loved to stay longer if I had the chance.”
Join us in protecting our oceans and preserving the biodiversity that these magnificent creatures bring. Together, we can make a difference – find your project now.
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