160 kilometers from Cape Town, South Africa lies a very special body of water. Gansbaai is the name, it’s at the bottom of Africa where the rough Atlantic meets the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. There is no place on the planet with a larger population of Great White Sharks, this is the perfect place for some great white shark cage diving. The warmer water from the Indian ocean mixes with, making the perfect breeding ground for one of the most feared animals on earth.
For me, both the lure and the deterrent of getting in the waters of Gansbaai is the fear of sharks. Coming into Cape Town this was an activity I was on the fence about. I wanted to do it to feel the rush and to see these amazing animals in their natural environment, but I was also a bit freaked out at the same time, I am not going to lie. I had a lot of what if’s running through my mind, but I ultimately decided to jump in.
Before getting wet there was a lot to do. I wanted to see the sharks at their most active and so I opted for the early morning trip. The van came to fetch me from our Camp’s Bay Hotel at a painful 3:45 am. After picking up the rest of my dive mates we made the 2-hour drive to Gansbaai. After a light breakfast, it was time to get fitted for our gear, which would hopefully not be the last thing we ever wore. With our extra thick wetsuit in hand, we walk down to the pier for our ride out to the Great Whites.
After a nervous 20 minute ride out to the shark hotspot, it was go-time. The deckhands began chumming the water with fish leftovers and other shark snacks. Pieces of fish were tied to ropes and tossed out to lure nearby sharks. Within a few minutes, we were surrounded by sharks. The cage that will protect us from the great whites was dropped in the water. A short safety briefing follows with simple instruction of ‘keep all hands and feet inside the bars at all times”. We are told the sharks are unpredictable and completely wild. They are naturally in the area and not here because the boats are feeding them. With that, it was time to get wet.
The call came to get in the cage and I was elected as first one in, ’great’, I’m thinking “Here we go, no turning back now.” A rush of cold water fills my wetsuit, and I settle in. By the time the four other divers enter the cage my body heat, and adrenal has warmed the water inside the suit and I don’t fell the chill. Within a minute of the lid being locked down the first shark approaches the cage.
It’s the crew’s job to bring the shark to us. They do it by tossing the rope we the fish pieces out in front of the cage a few meters and when a shark starts at it they will pull the rope to try and get the shark to breach, or jump out of the water. There is no hook on the line, just a small piece of tuna used to bring the shark close. At the peak of our dive, we had 11 sharks surrounding the boat and cage. Some were more aggressive than others, some were interested in us, while others had their eyes set on the fish at the end of the line. The crew was successful in getting a few of the more feisty sharks out of the water attacking the bait.
Once I settled in it was great to see these powerful animals up close. As scary as it may sound the truth is that they are surprisingly few shark attacks every year. So far this year there were only 5 deadly shark attacks in the entire world, compared to 791 deaths by faulty toasters. Yes, toasters, be careful. This was one of the many interesting facts hung on the dive shop walls to help ease our minds before getting in the water. Either way, I am glad I jumped in, plus a shark is a way better way to go out than a toaster.
There are several companies that offer cage shark diving in Cape Town, as it is a huge and booming tourist attraction. Most companies you book with don’t usually even own the boats, they just take the booking and place you on boats. The company I booked with GoSharkDiving.com advertised all over their website that they had a constant air supply, this was advertised all over their website & videos. The only reason I choose this company was because they had a constant air supply, as our tour leader on our safari told us MAKE SURE you have an air supply.
If you noticed in the video I had to hold my breath and was only able to stay down in the cage as long as I could. It takes time to get down in the cage and get comfortable, the wetsuit is designed to help you float and want to bring you up to the top. This only gives you a few seconds down in the cage, you miss parts of the shark because he only spends a few seconds by the cage meanwhile you are either getting air or trying to get down.
My cage diving experience wasn’t what I was hoping for and would not book with GoSharkDiving.com again. I contacted them with my issue, they informed me they were sorry and say that the boat I ended up on didn’t have an air supply and that they would refund my money via PayPal, 5 emails later and 2 months I haven’t seen my money.
Have you gone cage shark diving?