Great White Shark Cage Diving Gansbaai, South Africa

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Great White Shark Cage Diving Gansbaai, South Africa

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.

Great White Shark Cage Diving. Got our first shark photos as they swam around our boat, Slashfin. Our pictures don’t do justice to how big these fish were unfortunately. The viewing platforms from the boat were great.

Great White Shark Cage Diving. Got our first shark photos as they swam around our boat, Slashfin. Our pictures don’t do justice to how big these fish were unfortunately. The viewing platforms from the boat were great.

Great White Shark cage diving is ideal for those seeking cool bucket list ideas. One of the two hatches on top of the cage is open in this shot, showing how we get in and out. The shark in the water is heading toward the decoy seal.

Great White Shark cage diving is ideal for those seeking cool bucket list ideas. One of the two hatches on top of the cage is open in this shot, showing how we get in and out. The shark in the water is heading toward the decoy seal.

This tops crazy bucket list ideas for us. Our fellow shark cage diving buddies, all lined up inside the cage.

This tops crazy bucket list ideas for us. Our fellow shark cage diving buddies, all lined up inside the cage.

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.

Pictures of Great White sharks are hard to capture. It was more difficult than we expected. It's a bit like trying to photograph the leaping dolphins on St Helena, trying to anticipate where and when they will break the surface. These moments are also very quick.

Pictures of Great White sharks are hard to capture. It was more difficult than we expected. It’s a bit like trying to photograph the leaping dolphins on St Helena, trying to anticipate where and when they will break the surface. These moments are also very quick.

Inside looking out. It was harder to spot the sharks from inside the cage before they broke the surface of the water so we (Darrin) missed most of the dramatic moments.

Inside looking out. It was harder to spot the sharks from inside the cage before they broke the surface of the water so we (Darrin) missed most of the dramatic moments.

Our turn for a Great White Shark cage diving close encounter. This was a look of cold not fear. Honest!

Our turn for a Great White Shark cage diving close encounter. This was a look of cold not fear. Honest!

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.

Great White Shark images are hard to capture. A swim past the seal decoy is quite a menacing sight seeing the outline of a Great White Shark just below the surface.

Great White Shark images are hard to capture. A swim past the seal decoy is quite a menacing sight seeing the outline of a Great White Shark just below the surface.

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).

Safely back ashore! End of our shark cage diving trip, back in Gaansbaai. The 'Slashfin' boat in the background getting ready to take another trip out for a Great White experience.

Safely back ashore! End of our shark cage diving trip, back in Gaansbaai. The ‘Slashfin’ boat in the background getting ready to take another trip out for a Great White experience.

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.

#lovecapetown #marinedynamics

Early morning start. After breakfast, safety briefing and wet suit fittings we are led outside by the Marine Dynamics people, given waterproof jackets and begin the short walk down to the jetty. Dawn is just beginning to break.

Early morning start. After breakfast, safety briefing and wet suit fittings we are led outside by the Marine Dynamics people, given waterproof jackets and begin the short walk down to the jetty. Dawn is just beginning to break.

Our dive boat awaits in the early dawn light. 'Slashfin' is a custom made shark cage diving boat, very comfortable and very fast!

Our dive boat awaits in the early dawn light. ‘Slashfin’ is a custom made shark cage diving boat, very comfortable and very fast!

Out on a Great White shark cage diving tour. Our dive boat awaits in the early dawn light. 'Slashfin' is a custom made shark cage diving boat, very comfortable and very fast!

Out on a Great White shark cage diving tour. Our dive boat awaits in the early dawn light. ‘Slashfin’ is a custom made shark cage diving boat, very comfortable and very fast!

Suited and booted and waiting for sharks to appear. By now the sun had come up and we were all enjoying the warming rays as we waited. The wetsuit (while dry) was actually good for keeping us warm as well.

Suited and booted and waiting for sharks to appear. By now the sun had come up and we were all enjoying the warming rays as we waited. The wetsuit (while dry) was actually good for keeping us warm as well.

After a lifetime of movies with dorsal fins cutting through the water, this was the real thing!

After a lifetime of movies with dorsal fins cutting through the water, this was the real thing!

By |2018-09-21T02:20:06+00:00July 3rd, 2017|Awesome Nature, South Africa, Sport, Tourist Attraction|14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Andrea July 4, 2017 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    Brilliant blog guys. So funny and interesting at the same time.
    Loved the quirky comments… “SACRIFICIAL lamb”😂 absolutely brilliant!!

    • WTSDN July 12, 2017 at 8:47 am - Reply

      Thanks Andrea – we try! And the ‘lamb’ comment was spot on especially as we were ‘Baa-ing’ to call the shark – Hilarious! 🙂

  2. BETTY KNIPE July 3, 2017 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    So glad you met up with MARINE DYNAMICS. A VERY GOOD FRIEND’S BUSINESS. GANSBAAI IS THE FISHING VILLAGE THAT WE RELOCATED FROM IN 2015. ]THRILLED THAT YOU WENT WITH THEM THEY THE BEST.

    • WTSDN July 3, 2017 at 8:29 pm - Reply

      Wow what a small world Betty – Gansbaai looked a lovely place and Marine Dynamics were wonderful. Felt totally safe in their capable hands. 🙂

  3. Patrick G Henry July 3, 2017 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    Didn’t expect you two to do this, the cage don’t look that strong, amazing and well done, looking forward to wts doing next.

    • WTSDN July 3, 2017 at 8:25 pm - Reply

      Have to admit we didn’t expect ourselves to be doing this! But so glad we did and what a privilege it was, not sure how we’re going to top this experience. Oh by the way the cage is strong, is well secured to the boat and felt totally safe. 🙂

  4. Heidi Bauer-Clapp July 3, 2017 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    Great post! Every time I’m in Cape Town I’m so tempted by the shark diving–guess I’ll have to go back, now that you make it look so amazing!

    • WTSDN July 3, 2017 at 8:20 pm - Reply

      Yes – it is tempting Heidi…that little voice telling you to do something crazy. But it’s definitely worth another trip to Cape Town just to do this. 🙂

  5. Jean Fowler July 3, 2017 at 9:12 am - Reply

    Great Caption Sharon! You never cease to make me laugh. Brilliant write-up and pics. Enjoy.

    • WTSDN July 3, 2017 at 9:41 am - Reply

      Ha – glad you liked the title, a little OVER-DRAMATIC but true! We had a brilliant time. 🙂

  6. Derek Richards July 3, 2017 at 7:43 am - Reply

    Another awesome post… Thumbs up for sharing…will this now stay on my bucket list?…I guess it will. Thanks guys!

    • WTSDN July 3, 2017 at 9:39 am - Reply

      Thanks Derek – And yes it should! As the saying goes ‘do something everyday that scares you…’ It’ll get the ADRENALIN pumping.

  7. Lawson henry July 3, 2017 at 7:38 am - Reply

    scary but interesting great pictures what next guys lol, enjoy rest of your trip. Thanks for sharing as always

    • WTSDN July 3, 2017 at 9:37 am - Reply

      Yes – what next hey? Never thought we’d be diving with Great Whites – Totally amazing. 🙂

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