THERE’S BLOOD IN THE WATER | Sharon Henry
Great White shark cage diving is one of those crazy bucket list ideas people seeking adventurous things to do in Cape Town will love. A 2½ hour drive from Cape Town to Gansbaai, the great white shark capital of world is all it takes to get a face to face experience.
Admittedly, Great White Shark cage diving is not my bucket list item but – the things we do for this blog…
Entering shark habitat is not the best time to start my monthlies. Sharks can sniff blood from a mile off right? I’ve seen the ‘Jaws’ films, so to say I’m apprehensive is a bit of an understatement.
What Do Great White Sharks Eat?
The frigid Cape Town water temperature is shocking and makes me shiver more than fear does which takes my mind off this insane position I’ve put myself in.
I’m great white cage diving in the depths of a South African winter, enclosed inside a metal cage, dunked in the middle of shark infested waters.
The first shark sighting of a fin is stealthily gliding my way. I dip underwater for a better view but visibility is low and I can’t make out where it’s gone. Darrin, keen to get some great shark photos has the camera at the ready.
Fun Facts About Great White Sharks
There are eight of us in the cage and I feel a tad like a sacrificial lamb, praying that my wetsuit doesn’t leak blood, ‘cause surely that would be like waving a red flag at a bull. “Make noise like sheep,” shouts our on board marine biologist, “they like it!” So we bleat (true).
It works, Darrin points to the apex predator approaching just metres away. Within seconds we see a great white shark breaching right before our eyes and get an extreme close up of razor sharp great white teeth.
There’s a flurry of splashing and it’s gone as quickly as it appeared. We laugh (nervous reaction), it’s crazy stupid and we love it – gawd, the things we do for this blog.
Gansbaai Sharks with Marine Dynamics
Check out our short Great White shark cage diving video:
Darrin and I are not the adrenalin junkie type; we don’t need to jump into the face of danger to get our kicks. But, when the proposal to do so was suggested by Cape Town Tourism we thought how dangerous could it be?
We are in the safe hands of Marine Dynamics Gansbaai. Specialists of shark cage diving Cape Town and great white shark tours.
Great White Shark Conservation
The company are active marine conservationists of the Gansbaai ecosystem and the marine ‘Big 5;’ whales, sharks, dolphins, seals and penguins.
The sea was choppy when we set out at dawn this morning and was churning up a frothy surf (thank goodness we took seasick tablets). ‘Slashfin’ our double hulled boat flew across the water at full pelt; riding the swells as the sun rose was a thrill all by itself.
Within 20 minutes we dropped anchor, the cage was positioned and everyone (about 30 in all ranging from 10 years to 60) got suited and booted for a shark encounter.
Shark sightings cannot be guaranteed but are more likely during winter (Jun-Sep), so it’s well worth braving the cold to increase your chances. We were in luck and it took about half an hour before a great white shark outline appeared, all eyes rushed portside to watch its shadow and fin slice the water.
Shark Chases Seal Swimming In The Water
A steady flow of chum (a mixture of fish oils) is dished overboard to attract great whites to the boat, a seal decoy (wooden float) and bait ball adds further enticement.
Bait however, is not actually fed to the sharks, the ball and the ‘seal’ are yanked away by boat crew just before the shark can reach them – which takes some impressive reflexes.
We were with the first batch of divers to go Great White Shark cage diving, many were ticking off their adventure bucket list with this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Shark Cage Diving South Africa
The metal cage is made of steel and is super strong like Superman. The mesh holes might let small fish swim through but not a shark, and the cage has a lid. The cage is 4.5m long and 2.5 m high, wide enough to comfortably fit eight adults and deep enough for the tallest person to float head out the water or be fully submerged if they choose.
The top of the cage remains out of the water so no breathing equipment is required, nor are actual diving skills needed, just the ability to hold your breath if you want to duck under for a better view.
There are multiple foot rails to stand on and hand rails to keep yourself stabilised so you don’t have to use energy treading water. All in all, it’s a clever design.
Is Great White Shark Cage Diving Safe?
Shark cage diving is 100% safe and contrary to myth, great whites are not bloodthirsty for humans; seals are their preferred choice of food – their fat and meat tastes better.
The sharks we encountered paid no heed to the humans in the cage, even me in my menstruating state.
The rocking of the boat, the sea and chum smell became too overpowering for a few, who unfortunately suffered seasickness and couldn’t do the dive. Some people also chose not to dive, happy with the view and photo ops from both decks.
Swimming With Great White Sharks
Wow, I’ve just cage dived with a Great White, something I never dreamed I’d do. It’s an exhilarating, dare devilish, ‘did-I-really-do-that’ experience. And I’d most definitely do it again, it’s amazing.
It is a real privilege to see Great Whites up close and on their own turf; quite surreal. It reminds me of swimming with whale sharks on our home island of St Helena, although there, it’s you and them in open water, no safety cage required.
Threats To Great White Sharks
I’m someone who even in swimming pools sometimes gets an irrational sensation there’s a shark in the water – a consequence of watching too many movies.
The Marine Dynamics team do a good job helping to reverse this bad press, through education and from showing sharks in their natural environment in a respectful and responsible manner.
For those who like Great White shark interesting facts is these powerful, intelligent creatures are on the IUCN endangered species list. Their numbers are dwindling fast, mainly due to shark fin hunting putting them at risk of extinction. There is an estimated great white shark population of just 5,000 in the world, 2,000 of these are in South African waters.
Shark Cage Diving Prices
Marine Dynamics Great White Shark tours cost 1,900 rand, approximately £110. The distance from Cape Town to Gansbaai is approx. 100 miles, a 2½ hour drive. Transfers from Cape Town on the shuttle bus costs an extra 500 Rand (approx £29).
Great White Shark Facts
There is an estimated less than 5,000 Great White Sharks left on the planet, 2,000 of them in South African waters. Each shark has a unique dorsal, like fingerprints are for humans.
Our boat trip was fortunate enough to have five shark sightings, the biggest measured a whopping 4.5m. It was cold, the sea temperature a chilly 11C but a cup of hot chocolate after the dive did the trick of thawing the bones and a free snack bar on board was provided to stave off any hunger pangs. Once we returned to shore hot soup and rolls were waiting to finish off the warming-up process.
Unfortunately for us as nature would have it, visibility was low, up to half a metre due to calcium deposits being churned up by the sea.
Shark Cage Diving Gansbaai With Marine Dynamics
The Marine Dynamics are a very professional outfit, the crew made us feel safe on board and marine biologist, Jax shared her knowledge of Great Whites, conservation and the marine environment throughout the trip.
We had an early bird 3.40am pick up from our Cape Town hotel for a two and a half hour journey to Gaansbaai, 167 kilometres outside of the city. On arrival at the Great White House of Marine Dynamics we were served a non-greasy breakfast that included croissants, stuffed eggs and fruit kebabs. We were sized for wet suits and bootees, shown a video on great whites and given a safety briefing. A short walk to the jetty took us to the launch of ‘Slashfin’ the sturdy, double -hulled boat.
Slashfin, named after a shark, is a 46ft purpose-built catamaran designed for speed, stability and comfort. The boat has separate ladies and gents toilets, waterproof benches to stow away personal belongings and plenty of viewing space on both decks. Like its namesake it is powerful and goes super fast!
We’d like to thank Cape Town Tourism, #lovecapetown for sponsoring this unforgettable shark cage diving trip with Marine Dynamics. As always, all opinions contained within the article are our own, without bias.