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Internships at Sodwana Bay Marine National Park

Marine Biology & Reef Conservation Internships in Sodwana Bay

If you’re passionate about marine conservation and diving - or if you’ve always wanted to learn - this is the opportunity for you! Sodwana Bay is a World Heritage site with renowned natural beauty and coral reefs that are home to turtles, whales and manta rays. Learn about Indian Ocean reef conservation, gain marine ecology training and scuba experience in one of the world’s prime marine habitats.

Internship Highlights:
  • Regular scuba diving in a world-renowned dive site
  • Encounters with a wide range of marine life, which can include whale, turtle and manta ray sightings
  • Get real understanding about conservation efforts in a rich marine environment
Type of host organizations:
  • Marine research camp
Fully hosted experience from $2089
Includes accommodation & meals
Start dates every Monday
Minimum duration 2 weeks, up to 12 weeks maximum
Go on safari & discover wildlife
Get job-ready with our Experiential Learning Curriculum
Internships align with UN Sustainable Development Goals
Eligibility requirements and Associated career paths
Eligibility requirement

Marine Biology & Reef Conservation internships are suitable for students and recent graduates with an interest in marine biology and conservation. This program requires scuba diving and you can achieve PADI qualifications onsite, as training is included in the fee. All interns must be competent swimmers and will be required to complete the PADI Medical Questionnaire & Statement to determine their fitness and ability to participate in scuba diving activities. Depending on responses to the PADI Medical Questionnaire, it may be necessary to complete an examination with a Physician, to obtain medical approval for diving activities.

Language requirements

This internship is conducted in English.

Associated career paths

Environmental Scientist (Policy/Planning/Law), Environmental Impact Assessment Specialist, Research Scientist, Ecologist, Biologist, Geologist, Ranger, Education and Outreach Program Coordinator, Climatologist, Eco-Tourism Guide, Marine Oceanographer, Diving Instructor

Internship details

If you’re passionate about marine conservation and diving - or if you’ve always wanted to learn - this is the opportunity for you! Learn about Indian Ocean Reef Conservation, gain marine ecology training and scuba experience in one of the world’s prime marine habitats.

This is an in-country internship, with accommodation and meals provided. Click here to view remote Environmental & Marine Sciences internships, which you can undertake from home.

Marine Biology and Reef Conservation at Sodwana Bay

This internship is tailored towards providing young people with 5 star PADI dive tuition, along with an excellent introduction to Indian Ocean marine ecology (via online training presentations).

Sodwana Bay is South Africa’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, with world-renowned dive sites and coral reefs. It’s home to some of the world’s most diverse fish communities, including turtles, manta rays and sharks, and is a main highway on the seasonal migration routes of humpback whales. It’s also the base for this Marine Biology and Reef Conservation internship, where interns assist with a wide range of marine conservation and research tasks.

Interns are based in a marine camp, where they learn and utilize scuba diving skills to aid research into the health of the marine ecosystem and effectiveness of reef conservation methods in the area. The internship endeavors to include 20 dives per month, or 10 dives every two weeks (subject to weather conditions).

  • If not already dive certified, you will be trained as a PADI Open Water Diver. Following successful completion of the training, you will receive your PADI Open Water certification. This certification qualifies a diver for open water dives to 18m (with a dive buddy).

  • Already qualified divers will get the chance to complete further advanced dive training, allowing them to dive to 30m and experience some of Sodwana’s deeper reefs. You can also choose from a range of dive specialty courses, which may be available at an additional cost (e.g. Deep, Nitrox, Peak Performance Buoyancy, etc) or the Rescue Diver course.

Interns contribute to creating marine conservation awareness for Sodwana Bay through interpretive sea dives. This can involve the capture of underwater photographs for the iNaturalist citizen science database, to support awareness around the keystone species inside the marine protected area. Such species include sea turtles (Green, Hawksbill and Loggerhead), potato bass grouper and nudibranchs.

Please note that on this particular internship, there are limited research opportunities and no specimen collection or lab work being conducted. General activities include underwater scuba surveys, collecting data on the population of species such as turtles, manta rays and sharks, species photography, and data entry into global or regional databases.

Interns help to use underwater cameras, add to photographic databases and assist with species identification. Interns can learn a range of data collection methods, using various techniques to contribute to databases of fish, coral and invertebrates. Monitoring populations, densities, locations and behaviour of different species helps to provide feedback on the health of the marine environment and the effectiveness of conservation strategies.

Not only does your internship offer incredible opportunities to enjoy your unique natural surroundings, but you’ll have plenty of spare time to explore too. No trip to South Africa is complete without doing a safari, and you’ll be able to glimpse incredible wildlife up close in an ethical, responsible way. Internships in South Africa are perfect for nature-lovers, or anyone looking for a digital detox.

Typical Schedule

  • Internship activities are usually full time (up to 8 hours a day), though this is subject to weather and seasonal conditions. You’ll be expected to assist 5 days a week most weeks, but some weekend activities may sometimes be available. Your schedule will be arranged with your supervisor.

Career Benefits

Marine Biology & Reef Conservation interns learn from a qualified and experienced supervisor, and can be involved in:
  • Scuba surveys

  • Collecting population data for turtles, manta ray or sharks

  • Underwater photography

  • Research data entry

  • Different data collection techniques for different marine species

  • Providing feedback on different conservation techniques

Professional development opportunities:
  • Learn to scuba dive or upskill your certification

  • Gain experience and understanding about one of the world’s best and most diverse marine environments

  • Learn and use practical research techniques

  • Gain scuba diving abilities for research purposes

  • Gain experience working with underwater cameras

  • Gain practical skills and boost your employability, with guidance from Intern Abroad HQ’s Experiential Learning Curriculum to support your learning and cultural intelligence

South Africa photo gallery

What recent interns said about their experience

Dream Goodman
October 2023

It was great being able to get my diving qualifications from open water to rescue diver very easily, doing the lessons as well as the beach clean up after diving. I made new friends from all over the world and dived with them and it was fun. The food was very nutritious, plentiful and quite impressive. I lived the life I never thought I could and didn't regret a single thing.

Emily Jenson
September 2023

My internship and stay at Sodwana Bay exceeded any expectations that I had. The people are amazing and so is the diving! I built some wonderful relationships with the people around me and it was the best experience of my life!

Chance Guest
July 2023

The more time I spent on this program, the more I looked forward to my studies and the idea of enrolling in university. My most memorable moment was snorkeling at Kosi Bay and seeing Lionfish, Moray Eels and a Stonefish. I completed my first deep dive, had a whale swim next to the boat I was on, snorkeled with dolphins, and swam with manta rays. It would be impossible to top an experience like that! I hope to have a life and/or career in marine biology, so this internship was the perfect choice for me. Having completed my internship, I'm now a qualified scuba diver and I can dive all over the world. This will assist my personal and professional future, depending on the marine biology path I choose to take.

Riley Williams
May 2023

This internship was a life changing experience for me in many ways. I met some of the most amazing and authentic people in my life through this program. There was truly never a dull moment when surrounded by all the staff and interns. I grew my cultural awareness significantly during my time in this placement through interactions with locals and even simple, everyday experiences. I gained useful skills for my desired career field, such as species identification and proper scuba diving techniques, that will allow me to build a strong resume as I move forward with my career. With all of these aspects combined, my internship was an incredibly valuable experience that provided me with memories, skills, and a new outlook that will last me a lifetime.

Riley Williams
May 2023

This internship was a life changing experience for me in many ways. I met some of the most amazing and most authentic people in my life through this program. There was truly never a dull moment when surrounded by all the staff and interns. I feel that I grew my cultural awareness significantly during my time in this placement through interactions with locals and even simple, everyday experiences. I gained useful skills for my desired career field, such as species identification and proper scuba diving techniques, that will allow me to build a strong resume as I move forward with my career. With all of these aspects combined, my internship was an incredibly valuable experience that provided me with memories, skills, and a new outlook that will last me a lifetime.

Stephanie Williams
January 2023

I am so grateful to say that I had an experience of a lifetime! It’s difficult to put into words just how impactful this experience has been for me. I was blown away by how much my experience exceeded my expectations, and I am so grateful for the choices that led me here! The lessons I learned about teamwork, communication, and adaptability will undoubtedly benefit me in the future, both in and out of the field of marine biology and conservation. For anyone looking to step out of their comfort zone and explore a new culture while also gaining valuable work experience, I highly recommend looking into the programs offered by Intern Abroad HQ! My experience with them was truly life-changing, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Marine Conservation Internship in Sodwana Bay, South Africa.


To read all reviews, visit our reviews page.

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Academic credit available for all internships

Gain course credit from your college or university and meet your academic requirements when completing an internship abroad or remote internship program with Intern Abroad HQ.

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Program fees

It’s free to apply for this internship. Once we have reviewed your suitability and accepted you onto this program, you’ll need to pay a deposit of US$499 to confirm your place. The remaining balance of your Program Fee (less your initial US$499 deposit payment) will be due no less than 60 days before your internship start date.

Program Fee (USD)
2 weeks $2,089 Equivalent to $149 /day
4 weeks $3,049 Equivalent to $108 /day
6 weeks $3,984 Equivalent to $94 /day
8 weeks $4,894 Equivalent to $87 /day
10 weeks $5,859 Equivalent to $83 /day
12 weeks $6,769 Equivalent to $80 /day
  • Airport pick-up
  • Accommodation
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • Program orientation
  • Dedicated support before, during, and after your internship
  • In-country guidance for social and tourist activities
  • Sourcing and securing your internship placement
  • Personalization of your internship plan
  • Coaching from your supervisor
  • Documented portfolio of your experiential learnings
  • Academic credit facilitation
  • International reference letter
  • Certificate of Internship Completion
  • Return transportation to the airport at program conclusion
  • Visa (if required), flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check
  • Transfer back to the airport at the end of your internship program
  • Personal spending money for snacks, drinks, public transport, laundry, and leisure activities during your free time.
  • A deposit of $499 (approximately 499) is required to secure your internship
  • Please note that program fees for all South Africa Environmental internships include return transportation to the airport. This transportation service is scheduled on specific dates and times. To ensure the schedule works for you, check with your Internships Manager for details before booking your departure flights.
  • Balance of your Program Fee is due 60 days before your internship start date.
  • All payments attract a 5% transaction fee to cover international banking fees and currency charges.
  • Terms and Conditions apply.

Activities and tourism

Sodwana Bay is a world class dive destination and small holiday village, mostly frequented by divers, snorkelers, deep sea anglers and beach lovers. The nearest largest town, Richards Bay, is approximately 200km away, so interns should be prepared for a rural setting. However, there is enough development to provide more than adequate comfort and activities. The small and close-knit local community provides a warm welcome and interns have the opportunity to feel like a local. Should interns wish (and time-permitting) they can join extra shark ecology and biology courses (this is not covered in the program fee and only available on request in-country). The northern region of KwaZulu-Natal offers many pristine beaches, as well as natural and scenic wonders such as Lake Sibaya (the largest freshwater lake in southern Africa), nearby Big Game Wildlife Reserves (Mkhuze, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, Tembe Elephant Park), local community and craft villages, and access to some of the world’s southernmost coral reefs.

Arrival and Orientation

Marine Biology and Reef Conservation internships in South Africa begin on the first and third Monday of the month. Exceptions may be made to this schedule if a Monday start date falls on or near a public holiday. Note that the internship has limited capacity and we encourage interns to plan in advance, to secure your preferred internship dates. Interns may choose to spend a minimum of 2 weeks, up to a maximum of 12 weeks.

Airport pick up, drop off and accommodation are included in the Program Fee. The accommodation is covered from the Monday night of your start date - interns are required to arrive on their start date and are asked not to book flights until your placement has first been confirmed. Specific instructions will then be provided for arrival and departure logistics.

O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg (JNB) is the typical international gateway, from where a domestic connection to the nearest airport in Richards Bay is required.

Interns are met on arrival at Richards Bay Airport (RCB) in KwaZulu-Natal and transferred to the reserve, departing as one group. Upon arrival to the site, interns will be welcomed and receive guidance in regard to orientation, safety, and getting settled in.

The last night of the accommodation is the Sunday night of your final week. Departing interns are provided return transportation into Richards Bay, for departure from the Richards Bay Airport, on the first and third Monday of the month.

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Accommodation and WiFi

Interns are accommodated in a camp, in Sodwana Bay village. This is within walking distance to the local restaurants and shops. The beach in iSimangaliso Wetlands Park is about a 10 minute drive away. At the camp, there are large outside gardens with ample shady trees. The launch and beach site is 10 to 20 minutes by vehicle, walking is approx. 30 minutes (depending on your fitness level and walking speed).

Interns are accommodated in multi-share wooden cabins/rooms in the camp. On average there are 1- 13 marine interns in camp at any time. You should expect to share your room in the camp, as private accommodation is not available. All of the bedrooms can accommodate two to four interns in bunk or single beds. No sleeping bags are required as bed linen is provided at the camp. Please note that accommodation can be limited and interns may be required to share with participants who may not be the same gender. If you can not tolerate such arrangements, we would recommend an alternative internship program to you.

The site includes communal/shared facilities for a fully equipped kitchen kitchen, dining, outdoor braai area. The bathroom/shower facilities are in a separate ablution block which has hot and cold running water as well as standard toilet facilities. Laundry facilities are available, at an extra cost. There is a camp cleaner on-staff for maintenance and servicing of communal areas.

The camp has electricity and mobile phones, cameras, laptops can all be charged without a problem. However, from time to time, it’s possible that load shedding can occur. This means that power companies may occasionally reduce electricity consumption by temporarily switching off the power supply to customers. Many parts of South Africa currently experience load shedding. This should not be any cause for concern - just bear it in mind and ensure you keep your devices charged.

WiFi for personal use is available at a cost of approximately US$16 (15 EUR) per fortnight (per every two weeks). Interns are encouraged to bring their own cell phone and ensure it has data for personal use.

All program participants are responsible for cleaning up after themselves and a daily schedule will be drafted for taking care of certain duties.


All meals are prepared by interns themselves, from groceries and food provided (the program fee covers the cost of the food). As an exception, a cook prepares dinners from Monday to Friday (the meals are basic, not gourmet). Interns will otherwise be scheduled to assist with cooking and cleaning duties as a group effort. This schedule, along with any other important camp duties, is coordinated at the orientation.

Fruit and vegetables depend on seasonal availability. There is a limited variety, compared to what you’re probably used to accessing through your own big supermarkets at home, as the area is rural and the town has a small population. If there are special snacks you like to have, please budget for them or bring some with you.

Vegetarian and other dietary requirements must be communicated in advance, so that we can cater for any special meals. Note that there is an additional weekly surcharge if a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian or vegan diet is requested. This is in order to provide specialty grocery items, which are often more expensive in South Africa (i.e. soy milk, gluten free bread/pasta, protein supplements, etc). The extra cost is US$30 per week if a gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegan diet is required. For vegetarian diets, the surcharge is US$20 per week. Interns with special dietary requirements and/or allergies should also come prepared to assist with their own meal preparation. Bear in mind that local restaurants/cafes are limited, so they will also have limited dairy-free / gluten-free / vegan menus.

Essential country information

Capital Pretoria (Executive), Bloemfontein (Judicial), Cape Town (Legislative)
Population 55.91 million
Languages Afrikaans, English, Zulu, Xhosa, Swati, Tswana
Currency South African Rand (ZAR)
Time zone UTC+02:00
Weather and climate:

South Africa is generally temperate, however due to varied topography and oceanic influence, a great variety of climatic zones exist. This ranges from the extreme desert of the Namib (northwest South Africa), to the subtropical climate along the Mozambique border and the Indian Ocean (eastern South Africa).

Sodwana Bay has a tropical climate. The temperature average is 72°F (22°C) and the warmest month of the year is January, with an average temperature of 79°F (26°C). In June, the average temperature is 64°F (18°C) and it is the lowest average temperature of the whole year. The driest month is June and most precipitation falls during February. The Sodwana Bay marine camp is located in a low risk malaria area.