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FAQ

WHAT IS THE AVERAGE AGE OF VOLUNTEERS?

Most of our volunteers have recently graduated or are in the middle of their undergrad studies, but we welcome people of all ages (over 18 years).

ARE THE START DATES FLEXIBLE?

Our start and end dates are fixed throughout the year to enable a smooth running of the lab. This is the same for project students. The only arrival and departure dates are January 5th, April 15th, June 20th, August 10th, October 15th and December 15th.

CAN I STAY LESS THAN TWO MONTHS?

Unfortunately, due to our scheduled chartered flights and our investment of time and effort into training volunteers, which can take up to five days, we require volunteers to stay for at least two months. We believe it takes at least two months for a volunteer to become settled into their role and to learn necessary skills and techniques, therefore to maximize a volunteer's opportunity we believe longer internships are better for the volunteer and the lab.

WHAT ARE THE APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS?

Anybody interested in pursuing a career in marine research, in gaining experience working with shark scientists and field techniques or just wanting to gain more knowledge of marine research before heading on to further education are encouraged to apply!

WHEN SHOULD I APPLY?

WHAT TRAINING IS INVOLVED?

Scheduling around projects, university courses and film crews can be tricky so we like to have all the volunteer spots filled 4-6 months in advance. The sooner you apply and the more flexibility you have, the better!

WILL I GET TO TAG SHARKS?

No but you will assist our staff in tagging, and be hands on in the midst of this activity! You will have a front row seat to our scientific research. Long term volunteers are given priority if assistance is needed with tagging.

DO I NEED A VISA?

No you do not need to apply for a Bahamian visa. All volunteers are given a letter to state they are staying at the Sharklab. You will be granted a tourist visa on arrival.

After arriving in Bimini, all volunteers will be provided with training to allow them to effectively and safely undertake field work. This will include the following classes:

  • Tour of the house / lab

  • House rules and general guidelines

  • First Aid basics (Not a certifiable course)

  • Map class and orientation of Bimini’s landmarks and the surrounding waters

  • Boat safety and knot tying

  • Shark handling

  • Fishing & fish ID

  • Radio & GPS use

  • Data recording

  • Longline methods and shark ‘work-ups’

  • Appropriate social media use

The PhD candidates will also give talks about the stations current and past research so that volunteers know what type of projects / field work they will be assisting with during their stay.  

IF I AM NOT A BAHAMIAN CITIZEN, HOW LONG CAN I STAY IN THE COUNTRY FOR?

Most volunteers are granted 90 days (sometimes 60). At the end of this period, you can apply for an extension on island. This is assessed on a case by case basis by Bimini Immigration. Nine times out of ten you will be automatically granted an additional 90 days. At the end of this extension you will be asked to leave the island, and re-enter to stay on longer as a volunteer. If you are denied, you must depart to the US and re-enter to be given an additional 90 days.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO VOLUNTEER, AND WHAT DOES THIS FEE COVER?

Please refer to our volunteer fee page.

Your fee covers all accommodations and meals for the duration of your stay, field work and training activities, internet access, flights to and from Bimini, as well as transportation to and from Bimini airport. The fee does not include your insurance costs. 

DO I NEED A US VISA TO VOLUNTEER IN THE BAHAMAS?

No you do not, but you must obtain an ESTA (or visa) to transit through the US. If travelling on an ESTA through the US, you will be asked for proof of leaving the Bahamas. Your BBFSF Immigration Letter usually suffices, but it is a good idea to book your return flight from the US prior to travelling. Prior to arriving in Bimini, you must not have spent more than 90 days in the US as the Bahamas cannot be used as an Exit country, but your overall stay in Bimini does not contribute to the ESTA allowance.

HOW DO I PAY MY VOLUNTEER FEES?

If you are paying through a bank of the United States, you will be sent an invoice via Quickbooks. Other payments are transferred through a “wire transfer” that must be made through your local bank. Please note, on occasion your bank may charge an additional $15.

DO I NEED INSURANCE?

DO YOU OFFER DISCOUNTS OR SCHOLARSHIPS?

Unfortunately not, BBFS is a non-profit organization and is self-funded, largely by grants, university courses and film/TV crews.  The fees the volunteers pay contribute to less than half of the cost to keep the station running. It works out to be approximately $30 per day for 3 meals, accommodation and all field activities - not a bad deal!

DO YOU CATER TO VEGETARIANS?

All volunteers must have insurance that covers repatriation and emergency evacuation from Bimini in case of accident. There is a basic medical clinic in Alice Town, Bimini; however for any serious conditions you will be flown to the US by air ambulance. Hurricane season also runs from August – October every year. If you are volunteering during this time, please be aware that in the case of a hurricane volunteers will be asked to leave the island and remain in the US until it is safe to return. Please make sure that you have sufficient access to funds if this situation was to arise. Most insurance companies will require a Government Evacuation Notice to claim any travel expenses due to natural disasters.

Yes! However, as there are limited supplies in Bimini we cannot cater for all food preferences/allergies. If you have additional dietary restrictions (veganism, grain fee etc.) you will be expected to supplement your own diet.

CAN MY FAMILY OR FRIENDS VISIT?

Yes there are a variety of relatively cheap accommodation options close to the station that can house 2-6 people. If needed for research, we expect volunteers to work during these visits. However, we are flexible and in the past have been able to organize tours of the station and the island for a small fee.

When possible rooms are allocated by gender, however this is not always possible. There is a maximum of 4 people/room.

IS THERE A CASH MACHINE?

WHO WILL I BE SHARING A ROOM WITH?

WHY CAN'T I ORGANISE MY OWN TRANSPORT  TO BIMINI?

Yes on the North Island, however it is not always reliable. Therefore we recommend bringing American or Bahamian currency.

HOW MUCH MONEY SHOULD I BRING?

Bimini is a small island, and as such the charter flights are the Sharklab’s main source of bringing over supplies. As you take your seat upon our charter flight, you are also helping to support the lab by accompanying scientific equipment and fresh food. The team really appreciates this!

We recommend a budget of $30-40 per week for dinner, drinks and day off activities. All meals are provided, except on the day off when you are allowed to cook for yourself at the station, so if you don’t want to spend money on food, you are not expected to.

DO I NEED/CAN I BRING SCUBA GEAR?

It is rarely required for our research and we have very little time to dive. There are a couple of dive shops on the island that offer dive trips, their schedules are irregular and unreliable and rarely coincide with our days off. It is available to rent should you need it.

WHAT IS THE WATER/WEATHER TEMPERATURE LIKE?

This obviously depends on the time of year. Summer temperatures can reach the 90s and water temperatures will reach mid-80s. Winter temperatures can get to low 70s and water temperatures can reach mid-70s.

HOW MANY DAYS OFF DO I GET?

Usually one every 7 days but this depends on the research at the time. Now and again this can be up to 14 days.

WHAT IS THERE TO DO?

The South Island of Bimini is pretty small, there is one bar that also offers breakfast, lunch and dinner and one small shop on the island. A 5-minute ferry journey takes you to the North Island where there are more shops and bars etc. You can also contact Big Game Club for additional off-day activities, such as scuba diving.