Now after having so many up-close-and-personal encounters with Africa’s wildlife throughout this overlanding journey, one of the last things on my bucket list for this trip was to dive with the highly-misunderstood marine animal, the great white shark. 🦈
Now after being less than a foot away from the likes of lions, leopards, cheetahs, gorillas, and rhinos, I found myself, once again, incredibly calm considering the situation, and the idea of getting into a cage with one of the most successful predators in the world. 😮
The company I chose to dive with was Shark Zone, in the town of South Africa called Gansbaai, located 2.5 hours from Cape Town.
There is channel of water near Gansbaai called Shark Alley, which is situated between two islands, home to over 50,000 Cape fur seals. This makes for the perfect home base for these sharks, as they have an ample and consistent food source. In fact, Shark Alley is the world’s top spot for great white shark sightings, with the highest population of great whites year-round.
Fun fact: There are currently ZERO great whites in captivity. They have migratory behavior, which makes putting them in a confined tank an incredibly stressful experience. For this reason, shark cage diving is the only way to see these massive creatures up-close. Now for cage diving, I was picked up around 8AM in Cape Town, and transported to the town of Gansbaai, where my group enjoyed a light breakfast, and a briefing on the shark dive.
During the briefing, we learned the rules of the dive. Basically there are a maximum of 25 people allowed per boat, and only five are allowed in the cage at one time. Each person is given a 7mm thick wet suit, with a hood and boots, since the Atlantic Ocean is absolutely freezing(~65°F). Divers enter the cage by holding onto two horizontal bars at the top and using the inner bars to climb down into the cage. The cage has a set of RED painted inner bars for holding, as well as, a padded buoy to rest our heads. Our guide basically said, don’t ever grab the outer bars. Everything you want to take home with you, stays within the inner bars! Hah! 😮
Now, with the wet suit we remain buoyant on the top of the water, which is perfect for these surface-feeding sharks. The crew basically attracts the sharks by chumming the water with hunks of oily tuna.
Fun fact: Great White Sharks have the greatest sense of smell, and can detect one drop of blood in one million drops of water! 😮
Now when the shark comes in for a bite of the tuna, the crew shouts, “Go down!” and all the divers hold their breath to submerge themselves underwater, to get an up-close-and-personal view of the sharks jaws.After our briefing we all loaded up in the boat and made the 15-minute ride to where the sharks were last spotted. Sure enough, there was another shark diving boat out there, and we could already see a few shark fins swimming around their boat! 😮
Now when it was my turn to dive, I was given a set of goggles, and told to slide my body into the cage. Of course things started off on an interesting note, since as I was getting into the cage, a chunk of tuna was being dragged in front of us and a great white came smashing into the cage bars, jaws fully open! I knew this was going to be one heck of a ride! Anyway, when I finally got in, one of the first things I noticed was not only how frickin’ freezing the water was, but also how much my body was bobbing around the cage. I had to maintain a death hold on that inner RED bar, just to make sure all my appendages stayed intact. As well, the visibility under the water was not the greatest, and I found the best viewing to be from the surface of the water, where I could see the shark’s massive body coming towards me.
Fun fact: Great white sharks are highly intelligent creatures, since they have to hunt dolphins and seals, which also operate on a higher level of thinking. Our guide mentioned that if you think one of the sharks is looking you in the eye, that’s because it is! They are analyzing you and scooping you out, and the only way they can really investigate something is by feeling it with its teeth! 😮 That being said, humans are actually a greater threat to sharks. In fact, up to 100 million sharks are killed each year by fisherman, and there are less than 10 fatal shark attacks each year.
Fun fact: Humans are definitely not a shark’s preferred prey, and 70% of their diet actually comes from eating other sharks.
Crazy side note: Our guide told us that two people had actually fallen off the boat, and into the water next to the great white sharks during a cage dive, and they were rescued WITHOUT any injuries. Wow!!! 😮
Overall, we ended up seeing 8 great white sharks that day. One of the coolest things for me was watching the shark’s varied hunting tactics for getting the hunks of tuna. Some sharks would mindlessly chase after the bait, like a cat chasing a string. These guys seemed like the more inexperienced hunters. The bigger and wiser sharks; however, came up with a sneak attack method. I swear, I never even saw the shadow of this one shark in the water. Before I could even react fast enough with my camera, the shark had lept up into the air, exposing all its teeth and latched onto the tuna hunks! Yikes! Overall, I would highly recommend that everyone add this to their bucket list. It gave me a different perspective of this underwater creature, and a respect for their existence and way of life.
Here’s a short clip I made of the shark cage dive. Hope you enjoy! 😀
Cost: 140 USD, which includes round-trip transportation, a light breakfast, hot beverages, and a full lunch