Someone, I forgot who, once told me South Africa has one of the biggest population of Great White Sharks. So being the marine life lover of course I made it a point to see them in their habitat while I was there! I booked a cage diving tour with Great White Shark Tour and begged Serena to come with me. Originally she wasn’t going to do it because she’s not very fond of water activities, but after much convincing and promises of an epic trip she finally caved.
Day 4 – November 6, 2012
We woke up early and drove one street down to the GWS office. We had a quick breakfast there, paid our tours and waited around for other people to arrive. The sea was nice and calm that day, which undoubtedly makes for an excellent boat trip. Lucky us! :)
Brian, the owner of the tour, briefed us on what to do and what to expect out there. He remarked that we were a lucky bunch because the weather wasn’t so great last week, but now it’s beautiful and sunny! They handed us each these over sized neon orange wind breaker to protect us from the cold sea weather. At first we laughed at how ridiculous we looked in it, but later on I was really grateful to have them because the wind was icy cold and we were still damp from being under water…
Soon after the briefing, we were led down to the bay and onto our boat. I’m so glad I booked with this tour. Their boat looked so much more sturdy than the other boats we saw there and I definitely don’t want to mess around when it comes to dealing with great white sharks!
We came across two Southern Whales on the way to the Shark Alley! It was a mother whale and her albino(?) calf. They quite far away, and we were informed that we can’t come too close. The coast guards are watching to make sure no one disturbs the whales.
We took the boat for about 20 minutes before we slowed down and finally anchored. Brian explained that they’re going to start chumming the water to lure the sharks to our boat. Then, the first batch of people can come down to the cage for underwater viewing. The cage accommodates only about 8 people at a time and there were maybe 30 of us on the boat. I didn’t go as the first batch because I wanted to wait so I can observe where I want to be to get the best view.
It didn’t take too long for the sharks to come around. Not even five minutes later, our boat was surrounded by 3-4 great whites and everyone, including me, was VERY excited. And then the first jump came…
We witnessed many heart-pumping jumps as Brian baited the sharks with a large-sized fish head and a decoy foam bait. I knew great whites are capable of jumping out of the water while hunting, but I had no idea they could jump that high out.
It’s crazy how fast they swim when they’re ready to attack. You can’t really see them underwater since the visibility wasn’t so great, so they literally looked like they charged out of nowhere. Truly a magnificent predator.
Despite being called “cage diving”, you don’t actually “dive” under water the whole time with a tank or anything. You just float around in the cage with a mask on and then duck your head underwater when people frantically shout “down down DOWN!” (meaning a big shark is coming towards the cage). The crew were really good at spotting the sharks and telling you when to duck down.
Serena and I went as the third batch. We had difficulty putting on our wetsuits because it was skin tight and really thick, but we got some help from the crew. I observed that the best spot is to the left of the cage since Brian was sitting behind it and kept pulling the bait towards that area, so you are almost guaranteed a front seat view of the shark charging right at you. After putting on the suit and our little water booties, I quickly went for the left of the cage.
Being underwater and in the cage was possibly the most uncomfortable feeling. The water was piercing icy cold and extra fishy due to the all the chum, but in the end it was well worth it when I managed to be RIGHT in front of the shark when it charged at us and even bit at the cage relentlessly before letting go. The adrenaline rush was incomparable to anything I had ever experienced, and those sharks really do have crazy sharp teeth. I saw it myself from less than 30cm away. Simply amazing!
After about 20 minutes in the cage, we pulled out. Personally for me it was more than enough since I couldn’t have lasted a second longer in the ice cold water. You have the option to go back in the cage later if you want, and many did, but I really could not bring myself to get into the water again.
You actually get to see the shark more clearly from on top of the boat, so I climbed up to the top deck and spent the remaining time there, enjoying the aerial view of all the sharks. It’s an eerie feeling seeing so many great whites lurking around your boat at the same time!
After about 2-3 hours of shark watching, we left the shark alley. Brian then took us around to see the seals but on the way there, we got a little something more than we bargained for.
The mother Southern whale and her calf were seen again, this time much closer to our boat so we turned off the engines and observed from afar. The calf kept poking his head out of the water, as if looking at our boat curiously, and getting closer and closer.
Suddenly, before we know it, everyone was screaming in excitement. The calf decided to check us out and swam towards us, and then glided right next to our boat!
It only lasted a few seconds, but we got a good glimpse of the baby whale. The mother never got as close to our boat, but we were able to see her just fine as she was herding her calf off.
Then we went to the seal island, with many of them swimming around, in and out of the water like this guy right here.
After that we sailed back to the office, watched our shark videos and back on the road again to Cape Town. Our road trip had come to an end :(