The Great White Sharks
Sharks are with no doubt one of the scariest and deadliest animals in the world. They have been pictured in many movies killing and injuring people contributing to the increase of hunting the specie. Diving with the Great White Sharks in Gansbaai made me demystify my fears.
The truth is that humans are not part of the shark’s diet which consists mainly of fish and seals. They rarely attack and most of those times there is blood in the water.
The great white shark can be found on the coastal waters of major oceans and are huge reaching up to 6 metres in length and 2,300 kg in weight.
Because they have a high developed sensory and visual systems and a powerful body they can swim very fast reaching 50-60 km per hour.
From the world population of Great white sharks it’s estimated that almost half of it can be found in South Africa. The country was the first in the world to protect the specie and has become a prime destination for the adrenaline seekers.
Diving with Great White Sharks in Gansbaai
Gansbaai is one of the best places in the world to spot these sharks. This little town not far from Cape Town has become one of the most visited in the country, thanks to the activity of cage diving with sharks.
Because of this the community leaves almost of the shark encounters and they have created many programmes and initiatives to protect the sharks with volunteers coming from all over the world to help.
Why cage diving?
The opportunity to be face to face with these sharks is what makes people dive in the cold waters of South Africa. The adrenaline and the chance of meeting such a predator in their natural habitat also attracts people to it.
Cage diving is pretty safe compared to actually diving as the cage it’s attached to the boat and sealed everywhere. There is an opening on the top where people get in and out but remains closed when people are on the water.
When I first heard of it could not stop myself from reading and watching videos from other people. Some of these experiences were not so good and it made me think that maybe I should not do it. I must say that my experience was really calm and relaxed and most of all not scary at all.
How to do it?
The best way to do Cage Diving in South Africa is by booking a company in advanced, they get full up quite quickly. There are two places: False Bay and Gansbaai where I went as the possibility to spot sharks there is higher s I explained before and it was closer for us.
We booked our dive with White Shark Diving Co. You should leave just one day for this activity because there are two slots, one really early and then another one just at lunch time. Either of them (with this company) include: drive from/back Cape Town; briefing, boat trip and cage diving; breakfast, snacks on the boat and lunch; diving gear (suits/shoes and mask) and towels. The price is $132 USD for divers with $30 USD for transportation. There is also the option of just watching with no dive for $120 USD. For more information you can check their website here.
My experience diving with Great White Sharks in Gansbaai
I was pretty excited for this activity but not really scared. I had a little snooze from Cape Town to Gansbaai and the journey felt really quick.
When I got there, the first group already had return and were telling us about the big sharks they have seen. There was a little video and when I saw how big they were I started to think that maybe I should not have signed up for this…too late!
A small breakfast on the company office was followed by a briefing around a model of the cage we were going into. Then off to the boat and 20 minutes ride off the coast.
First they got the cage and attached it to the boat. Then they distributed the suits. The thickest ones I have ever put on! Soon I was going to find out that the water was freezing cold.
One of the crew members was preparing the bait. I can’t really call it that because there was no real food at all for the shark.
They do not feed the sharks with fish. Instead they had an old fish head which they were using to soak in fish blood to attract the sharks towards the boat. In my opinion the movement of that on the water was what was attracting the sharks. They were just curious about the noise but quickly would go away once they realized there was no food.
At first I was scared and decided to go in the second group. After I seen how the shark was behaving it was actually not scary at all. When passing through the cage the shark does not pay much attention to people. He was actually more curious to what the people on the boat were doing, going around the cage several times but more on the surface.
The cage can take up to 8 people at time. To stay under water there are specific places where we had to grab our hands and put our feet. With only a mask to see the sharks, we were only putting our heads under water when the sharks were coming, which happens really quick.
The first group was not very lucky and they waited forever in the freezing water. The first shark just wasn’t interested in them. Then it was our turn to go. Slowly the cage is open, one group comes out and another goes in.
During this time the crew does not attract any attention towards the boat. We went quickly in and at that point I was more worried how cold the water was.
Then, the waiting game starts. They moist the head fish again in a bucket full of fish blood and throw it in the water. Repeat this three, four times. And then it comes, a massive shark with about 4 metres passes in front of our eyes. Every time he’s coming they shout ‘heads down’ so we can quickly see it under water. They are not scary at all, they look beautiful and at one point I saw their eyes directly to mine.
At the same time I say they are beautiful I would not risk to put my arms out of the cage (which is possible as the bars are large enough) as it would take seconds for the shark to grab it.
The most spectacular moment happened when the shark jumped from the water towards the fish head, just like a movie with a display of their big set of teeth.
After this, he soon lost interest and did not come back for about 15 minutes again. By then I have been in the water 1 hour and half and needed to warm up so left the cage. It’s exciting to see it also just on the boat as you see the fin going around it like in the horror movies.
It’s a different experience and I recommend it if you really into this sort of crazy stuff! The water was not totally clear and most of the best moments actually happened at surface so watching from the boat it’s not bad at all either.
I would definitely repeat it because the adrenaline is high and it’s exciting to watch how the great white sharks behave. It is truth that cage diving is controversial but I did not saw anyone feeding the sharks so don’t think that makes them dependent on feeding because they still have to hunt to feed themselves.
Also, the companies really educate people that participate in these activities to respect the sharks and to protect them. We had a small educative session before and a lot of explanation on how they act when we were in the boat/cage so I am much more aware on how to act when going to an area that is prone to have sharks.