Students – Logistics

A detailed PDF information brochure is available upon request (email director@thebdi.org). We provide some information here about availability, trip planning, travel details, insurance, visas and passports, language and culture, electricity, currency, clothing, health and diet, personal communication, and typical itinerary. You can find information about our research themes, and study sites on this site.

Availability

Please enquire about availability for your desired project or study site. The enquiry link will take you to an enquiry form where you’ll fill out your request and an email address. We’ll respond to you via email within a few days. We usually require at least two months notice to secure a booking for a research opportunity.

If you would like to see the details about our specific projects, please take a look at our intranet, which will require a login (email director@thebdi.org to gain access).

Planning your trip

Initially

  • Contact us about your desired dates, group size and choice of research project
  • Make your deposit payment to secure your dates
  • Ensure that your passport is current, valid beyond your date of entry in South Africa, and has sufficient pages
  • Check the SA Department of Home Affairs site about your specific visa requirements
  • Purchase travel insurance, if required
  • Check with your medical professional about required vaccinations, medications, or prophylaxis
  • Book your travel arrangements to South Africa

One month prior to arrival

  • Make your balance payment to finalise your booking
  • Leave your finalised itinerary and the BDI contact details along with a copy of your photo ID and your flight reservation details with a relative or friend in your home country

Travel

Research fees cover accommodation, local transportation at the study site, and supervision. The fees do not cover your return flights from your country of origin to South Africa, or any public transport required to get to the study site.

If you enroll for our Fynbos Site or our Urban Site, your collection and drop-off point will be Cape Town International Airport (airport code, CPT). If you are traveling beyond your research booking and need transportation near the airport, then Uber represents a viable option in Cape Town.

If you enroll for our Karoo Site, your closest international airport is also Cape Town International Airport (airport code, CPT). From Cape Town, you will have to book a bus (inter-city coach) ticket to Hanover. The three major coach liners that service this route are Translux, Greyhound, and InterCape, but you may find other operators more suited to your needs.

Insurance

We require that research participants have travel insurance that covers medical treatment, evacuation, and repatriation in South Africa.

Visas and passports

For entry into South Africa, please check the information provided by South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs. Details for entry into South Africa are summarised below, but please check the Home Affairs site for any updated information. You will need the following if you wish to visit South Africa:

  • A valid and acceptable passport or travel document for your intended stay (usually required to be valid for at least 6 months beyond your date of entry)
  • At least one blank page in your passport for endorsements
  • A valid TOURIST visa, if required
  • Sufficient funds to pay for your dayto-day expenses during your stay
  • A return or onward ticket
  • Yellow fever certificates if your journey starts or entails passing through the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America.

Many countries are exempt from obtaining a visa prior to arrival. Please consult the following page for details. This information is subject to change, and the BDI accepts no liability if visa problems are incurred.

Language and culture

The research will be conducted in English, which is also spoken widely in South Africa. A summary of our culture can be found here.

Electricity

240 volts, 50 Hz, three-pin type M plugs are standard throughout South Africa.

Currency

You will need to be self-sufficient during your research, with respect to catering your own food. Legal tender is the South African Rand (ZAR) which is available for exchange at the airport upon arrival. Major credit cards using the Visa or MasterCard systems are widely accepted. A guide to local tipping etiquette can be found here.

Clothing

As field research is an outdoor pursuit, we trust that you will pack and dress accordingly. Hats and sunscreen are necessities and rain gear is recommended in any season.

Health and diet

If you have any medical conditions that we should be aware of, please let us know well in advance of your research visit. First aid kits are available at the study sites as well as an affiliated staff member with first aid training. You will be responsible for ensuring that you take the necessary health precautions that we detail in our information brochure and during your orientation at arrival.

Our field sites are self-catering, thus you will be required to cook for yourself. Where we have several students on site, we find that these groups often combine cooking efforts. We will assist you with the logistics of shopping, which can be difficult for remote sites. This could be in the form of assisting with shopping trips every two weeks.

Personal communication

To stay connected while you are on the research project, you have several options. You can purchase an international sim card, purchase a South African sim card, or rent a phone with sim card. Purchasing a sim card in South Africa is possible at airports and other outlets, but does require you register the card with the government (RICA). The easier, but more expensive options are to purchase an international sim card (e.g. http://www.onesimcard.com/) or to pre-order a South African sim card (here). Several online guides can provide more information (e.g. https://www.capetownmagazine.com/use-cell-phonesouth-africa and https://toomanyadapters.com/buying-sim-card-south-africa/).

Typical itinerary

Day 1

Arrival and collection at the airport (for the BDI Fynbos and BDI Urban Sites). Most international flights to Cape Town arrive in the morning. We will plan to meet you at the airport. From there we will travel to the research site, stopping to allow you to purchase a local sim card and groceries along the way. Arrive at the accommodation by mid to late afternoon. Settle in, receive some basic orientation about the site and your accommodation.

Day 2

Receive full orientation about your project, the research site, and receive a full safety briefing. In the afternoon, begin field research.

Weekly

A BDI staff member or a site affiliate will check in on your progress, assist with problems in the field, and take you to the nearest town (Malmesbury) for grocery shopping. Outside of these times, a BDI staff member will be available via email, Whatsapp, videoconferencing, and phone to assist you. In case of an emergency, staff of the research site are on hand to assist.

End of week 1

Begin data entry, if you have not already done so. Begin writing your Introduction and Methods sections of your final report / thesis.

Final 3 weeks

Begin data analysis and write-up of results. Start preparing your various outputs of your research. We aim to expose young researchers to different ways of disseminating their research results. To this end, we require you to produce a final report or thesis and an oral presentation of your work. In addition, we encourage you to publish your results in the journal Biodiversity Observations (a citizen-contributed journal which is free to publish in and free to read). We also require you to produce a scientific poster, and content for blog posts or social media posts for dissemination to relevant stakeholders. BDI staff will assist you this this process.

Final week

Finish analysis and write-up. Present oral presentation to BDI staff and stakeholders. Submit manuscript to Biodiversity Observations (if applicable).

Final day

If you are at the BDI Fynbos or BDI Urban Site, BDI staff will transport you back to Cape Town International Airport, or to a similar transportation hub in Cape Town for your onward travel. If you are at the BDI Karoo Site, we will get you to your bus pick-up location in Hanover. We can provide suggestions for onward travel within the Western Cape and South Africa, including putting you in touch with reputable tour guides or tour operators.

More information

Remember that you can get a comprehensive PDF information brochure or see our detailed project portfolio by emailing director@thebdi.org. You can also find more information about our research themes and study sites, or make an enquiry.