This blog includes some insightful information about my internship South Africa experience at the South African Shark Conservancy in Hermanus. This would prove to be a valuable step towards marine study with a focus on shark biology.
Arriving in South Africa
I landed in South Africa with two bags, a pocket full of Rands which is the South African currency, and no idea of how to get to my hotel. I was mobbed by taxi drivers insisting on taking me to the hotel but I eventually made it. I met our Shark Lab driver on the Sunday and we headed for Hermanus.
I arrived at a small, fenced-in house that was labeled the SASC Intern House on Google Maps. I made the initial greetings to my fellow interns and we fell asleep that night to prepare for the start of our work the following day.
Let the Internship Begin
Throughout the week, work was a crash course; we watched presentations, attended workshops, received tutorials on shark tagging, how to read the weather, water and much more. We were introduced to the SASC team consisting of Meaghen, the founder of SASC, Natalie, Guy and Bjorn. They are a hard-working and tight-knit team from whom one can draw a lot of inspiration when witnessing their passion for the incredible research and science they do.
It’s Time for a Field Trip
Friday was our first boat day and Guy had warned us that we would inevitably be sick regardless if we had our sea legs. We packed our gear, bait and prepped the boat in the harbor on the Friday morning. As the sun began peaking over the mountain, we set off for the deep sea.
Bjorn was our field operations manager and within minutes of pulling out of the harbor, he spotted a pod of 200 dolphins. As we approached the pod, the dolphins seemed to accept our presence and their curiosity set in. Countless dolphins were within a few feet of the boat scoping us out. It was a moment I will never forget.
As we reached our tagging site, the sea sickness Guy warned us about began to make itself known. My mind began to slow down, my body felt weak and the sickness suffering set in. I was directed to the front of the boat to lie down and this was followed by a cycle of throwing up and sleeping which I found exceptionally challenging to escape for the duration of our trip.
Half of the interns were catching and tagging sharks while the others were battling with their sea sickness. Sadly, this lasted the whole trip and as we approached the harbor after hours of fishing and tagging, my first step back onto dry land was the most satisfying thing I’ve done in a while.
Let’s be Tourists
We decided we would rent cars for the weekend and roam the South African coast. On Saturday, we wandered around a massive farmer’s market where there was jewelry, clothing, beer, wine and a large selection of food for sale. I will admit that I helped myself to a beer called “The Naked Mexican” which is a whale ale; it was a well-deserved reward after my lack in sea legs on our ocean field trip.
Later that afternoon, we road tripped to the Betty’s Bay Penguin Colony which is one of the marine protected areas (MPAs) for the African Penguin. It is inspiring to experience a place that is so passionate about marine conservation. As we walked the boardwalks, the penguins waddled around on the sand and rocks which was enjoyable to witness.
On the Sunday we explored Cape Town which is a bustling city that is one of the main tourist destinations in South Africa. We explored the waterfront, had amazing food and went into all of the little shops. Cape Town was amazing, but it was too touristy in my opinion and I preferred the quaint town of Hermanus which has the feel of a small city with less hustle.
That is a brief explanation of my first week in South Africa. I am sorry if it is too short and to the point but I have places to be and people to meet. I think I will end off with a quote. Thanks for reading!
“The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that’s when the adventure starts” – Yvon Chouinard