Great White cage diving is located at Gansbaai along the southern coast from Cape Town. This amazing if somewhat dubious experience helps to finance a major conservation project, so it seemed doubly worthwhile. My holiday wouldn’t have been complete without my shark cage diving experience.
The dive centre was very well organised, with friendly staff who registered that it was my birthday and made a nice reference to that! They explained the work of the project, how they recognised and monitored individual sharks and kept meticulous records of their comings and goings. We were quite a large group and they showed us a video, served hot drinks and biscuits and talked us through the plan and instructions for the day. It was all very professional and relaxed.
The boat didn’t take long to reach the dive site and the crew began letting the sharks know that we were around, with bait and lures, while we intrepid types put on our wet suits. They divided us into groups of eight and I was in the fourth or fifth group. We waited our turn high on deck watching the sharks circling and dipping and diving from above.
Swimming safely with sharks
The most important item in all this is the cage! It is long, narrow, (quite) sturdy and hangs over the side of the (large) boat and takes each group standing side by side with backs against the boat and the sea water at chest height. We got in through the top (which they shut tightly) and the plan was to view the sharks through the (thick) bars, both above and below the surface.
The sturdy cage!
Masks were provided although the visibility was not great on my day so it easier to stay above the surface and let the wet suit warm up, rather than continuously flushing it with cold sea water by bobbing up and down!
Great White sharks are hungry...
Once everyone was settled in the cage the crew resumed throwing in the lures – large clumps of fish on a rope – to bring the sharks close in. The lures really work. I know because I was at the end of the cage and one was thrown repeatedly over my head and then pulled in through the surface water right next to me.
The sharks swam back and forth just yards away until the inevitable happened. As the lure was being dragged back towards me in my corner spot, a huge Great White finally lost patience and with its massive head high out of the water, chomped the whole thing down a few feet from my face! His mouth was the best part of two feet wide and I had a heart stopping, very close-up view of his enormous teeth before he nonchalantly turned and disappeared.
The shark is lured by clumps of fish on a rope
Great Whites from a distance
That was considered to be the Jaws close encounter of the session and it certainly fulfilled all my birthday expectations, and satisfied my curiosity – probably for life! To be honest many people didn’t go into the cage, because the view of the circling sharks is excellent (and warmer) from the height and sunshine of the boat deck. But having heard so much about these magnificent creatures it was the thrill of a lifetime to see them for myself, close up and personal. They were scary but totally brilliant.
When we got back they provided sandwiches, more hot drinks and a video of the trip, available to buy of course, and rounded off a super, informative day with a leisurely drive back to Cape Town. I really enjoyed getting into the ocean with the Great Whites… shark cage diving in South Africa was a truly fantastic experience.
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