Today I scrubbed another from my bucket list. I swam (in a cage) with Great White Sharks. It was amazing. I always find it incredible how humbling and exciting it is to see natural animals in their own habitat. Particularly Apex predators.
We woke early this morning, (still struggling with time zones), and headed out to Kleinbaai, about a two hour coastal drive from Cape Town. Our hosts for the day were Marine Dynamics, a leading Shark Diving and conservation company in the area.
Thankfully for me (and most of the family) they operate one of the biggest and most stable boats on the bay. And it was needed, there was a large swell – certainly more than I can normally handle.
Upon arrival we were greeted by a happy team and a hardy breakfast. Although we’d had some grub at home, we all agreed a little more in our stomach would help when getting sea sick a little later in the day.
After a video presentation on safety, the boat and and of course the sharks themselves, we received our life jackets and spray jackets and headed to the harbour. The boat was a multi level, 14m aluminum cat, powered by 4 – 300hp outboards. As we left the harbour the captain open it up, and it was impressive. It glided over the big swell, and you could feel all 4 outboards pushing it along.
When we arrived at the dive site, our cage was already in the water and tied to a mooring. You could feel the excitement lift on the boat as someone pointed out there was a shark in the water, at the cage already – our first sighting. A 3+m dark coloured great white.
The smile and excitement from Josh alone was worth the 14hr flight to South Africa.
The boat scared the shark off, and the crew moored up, attached the cage and begun working the chum to bring the sharks in. 7 people at a time went in the cage as the crew worked the chum, tuna heads and decoy to attract the shark and get them near the cage.
From the boat you could see the dark shadows in the water appear, turn into sharks, sniff around the decoy and the bait, bite, hang a round a bit then disappear back into the swell. Every shark sighting was as exciting as the first.
From light coloured 3+m to an enormous 5+m dark one, there were plenty of sharks, and enough down time between sightings to keep you interested when they did arrive.
We were the last group to enter the water, and by that stage, most of us were feeling the effects of spending the morning on the swell. It was actually nice to get into the water, even though it was freezing. It was quite rough and the cage and boat were bouncing around a lot.
It was kinda scary and exciting. As we rolled around in the cage, we were all panicked to make sure our hands and feet didn’t leave the cage and become part of the food chain. In reality, it was actually quite safe, but at water level, with big sharks swimming by, we weren’t taking any chances.
We seen a few sharks swim by, some up close and others a little away, then came a lull, without much action. Ros, Josh Mikeala and I were all chatting and laughing and decided to splash the water to see if we could attract a few more sharks. The handlers above thought it quite amusing and started to laugh and joke with us, and said be careful what you wish for…..
The next shark that came past they decided to do a “5 second pull” where they let the shark actually attach to the tuna heads for 5 seconds – whilst pulling the bait towards the cage. This was the only time of the day they did it, and they pulled the shark right into the corner of the cage I was standing. The shark ended right up against the cage, mouth open, and eye to eye with me.
If you ask me, I’ll tell you that I stared that beast eye to eye, man to man, and given half the chance, would have punched it right on the nose….. however, the photo’s and videos clearly show me moving about 5 places back in the cage and putting as much distance between me and the fish as possible. And all in record time. (images to follow once they arrive)
The final shark encounter was almost identical, with the shark attacking the decoy and hitting the cage right in front of Josh. Mikeala and Ros were either side of him and I’m sure all three let out a scream. I’m still unsure if it was excitement or sheer terror.
But either way, it really was a great experience.
We re-boarded the boat and dried down while the crew pulled anchor and detached the cage. Once set, we headed home, via an island with a large seal colony.
There were thousands of seals, some in the water, some on the land all doing their thing. It was pretty amazing to see so many animals in their natural habitat. Unfortunately all those wet animals smelt like all those wet animals and atop my brewing seasickness, as exciting as it was, it was not a pleasant experience. I have to admit, if it smells that bad, I’m now having second thoughts on the Galapagos Island.
Of course, whilst watching all these seals in their natural environment, I still had one eye on the water, waiting to see that Great White again, this time getting the bait for real.
Fortunately for the seals, It didn’t happen.
It was a great day, and a great experience. Originally Josh’s inclusion for the holiday, we all had a blast and enjoyed getting into the water. Josh got a chance to get up close and personal with one of his favourite animals, I crossed another from my bucket list, and we all made it home with fingers, toes, arms and legs intact. Even the girls rated it as a great experience.
Current Location – Cape Town
Next Stop – Cape Town Cultural Tour (Cape Town)
If you were thinking of diving with the Great Whites, I highly recommend the professional team at Marine Dynamics. www.sharkwatchsa.com