Come Face to Face with the Great White Shark
Shark cage diving. It’s a concept that either brings the JAWS theme song to mind, or fills you with excitement. For me, it was closer to the feeling of being 7 years old on Christmas Eve. I have always had a fascination for sharks, and when I finally decided to take the plunge (no pun intended), I couldn’t wait to finally see Great white sharks in their natural habitat.
Sharks have had a bad rep, especially over the past few years as shark attacks have been making their way onto newspapers and TV stations. Despite the precarious conservation status of our ocean’s shark species, not to mention the over-fishing, sport fishing and finning of sharks, there is still a great deal of misconception and fear surrounding sharks. The reality however, is that you are more likely to be killed falling out of bed, getting struck by lightning or even getting stung by a swarm of bees than you are to be attacked by a shark.
With that in mind, I decided to go shark cage diving in the middle of the ocean to see if Great white sharks really are the menacing beasts they are made out to be.
Heading Off to Gansbaai to Shark Cage Dive
My shark cage dive experience began at the crack of dawn. Waking up at 4:30AM was the scariest part of the experience, but once we were on the bus and en route to Gansbaai, I was more or less ready to see some sharks. The drive took about two hours, and after a quick breakfast and briefing, we boarded the boat.
Dashing off across the wild waves was an experience in itself – if you are prone to seasickness, you may want to bring along some travel sickness pills. When we moored at Shark Alley (the best place to see Great whites, due to the nearby seal colony), we were ready to get into wetsuits on the wildly rocking boat. The cage is fairly large, fitting four or five people in without too much of a squash. Once it had been lowered into the water, the chum and visual bait was tossed into the water.
Within five minutes or less, I saw the first shark approach. There was a collective gasp of excitement from all on board as we saw the shark gracefully glide past the boat. It was roughly 2m, so not very big, but I was amazed at how beautiful it was. Deep grey on the top, moving gently through the water, this did not look like the fierce cage attacking images I had seen everywhere.
Finally – Shark Cage Diving Here We Go!
At last, it was my turn to get into the water. After putting on a mask and weight belt, I got into the cage. The lid was lowered, and we could dip under the water and watch out for sharks. I saw about two or three different sharks – one had a long white scar down its back, which made it easy to recognise when it came back again.
The sharks did not seem too bothered by the cage at all, and none of them tried to attack the cage or boat. The ones that came close mostly seemed curious as to what all these humans were doing – not once did any of them seem curious in the hungry way either! It is very hard to put into words how it felt to see these amazing creatures under the water, but the closest I can get is that it was very peaceful, but thrilling at the same time.
After 15 minutes or so, my time was up, and the next group had their chance to see the Great white shark. At the end of the day, bundled up warmly and full of memories, we headed back for lunch before going back to Cape Town. Even on the bus trip back, I knew that I would have to go shark diving again – the bug had bitten in a big way!
Shark Diving in Cape Town
Aside from shark cage diving in Gansbaai, there are many other opportunities for shark diving in Cape Town. The next shark dive adventure that I plan to do is Blue and Mako shark diving off Cape Point. This time however, I will be seeing sharks without a cage, in the deep Pelegic waters that are home to Blue sharks, Mako sharks and many fish such as Yellowtail and Tuna.
For many shark diving experiences, you do not need to have a scuba qualification. You should feel comfortable in the water however, and should have fairly strong swimming skills. Shark cage diving in Cape Town is a great place to start, but if you are ready to venture deeper into the ocean, there are many ways that you can encounter the predator of the deep.