Once our tickets to South Africa were booked the first thing that Matt said he wanted to do was go shark cage diving with Great White Sharks. I told him he was crazy and assured all our friends and family that we would never, ever do such a thing. As much as I love shark week (who doesn’t?!) the last thing that I wanted to do was get in the water with those creatures.
And then a week before we left the country we jumped in a cage in the wee hours of the morning to be face-to-face with Great White Sharks.
SHARK CAGE DIVING WITH GREAT WHITE SHARKS IN GANSBAAI, SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa is home to Shark Alley, the Great White capital of the world. Yes, we have a ton of Great White’s in California but who wants to swim with those sharks? Not us: we go all the way to South Africa for that kind of adventure. We ended up going out with White Shark Projects based in Gansbaai (aka shark capital, aka just a few towns over from where we wentwhale watching).
Let me start this out by saying I was terrified. TERRIFIED. We took a 15 minute boat ride out towards Shark Alley to our dive site and I spent that whole time trying to refrain from peeing my pants / swim suit. Once we were at our dive site a cage was lowered off the side of the boat that held about 6 people. Since we were a group of 12, I strategically offered to go int he 2nd group so that I could check out the scene before swimming with the sharks. Well half of the people in the first group chickened out and I ended up going down with the first group. Again, I’m mostly concerned with not peeing my pants.
Once we were down in the cage the crew chummed the water (putting fish parts / blood in the water for the sharks to smell) to draw in our new friends. Turns out there were already some sharks in the area (5!) so we got a lot of action very quickly.
South Africa does not allow scuba diving with the sharks for tourists. Instead, we had on masks and held on to the top of the cage while we waited for sharks. Once a shark swam towards use, a crew member would yell “DOWN”, at which point we pushed off the top of the cage towards the bottom, and held our breath as the sharks swam by / up to us.
In the cage
View from the cage. PS, see how those bars are bent? That would be from the sharks.
Terrified in the cage
Where our hands went while under water, inches from shark jaws
As silly as it sounds, but the moment I saw the first shark all of my fear went away. They are truly beautiful creatures (that had absolutely no interest in me). Good thing I didn’t see this video of a shark getting into the cage before I went or else there is no way that I would have gotten in that cage. Anyway, the sharks were incredible. We did not have any sharks gnaw on the cage (thankfully) but we did get to see 5 different sharks up close and personal.
I didn’t manage to get any good pictures from under water (too busy being scared) but the views of the sharks were incredible from the top of the boat.
I honestly never thought that I would be able to say that I went cage diving with great white sharks. But I ended up really enjoying the experience and would do it again in a heartbeat. If you’re interested in cage diving I would recommend doing research on the practice of chumming. While our tour company did not allow the sharks to eat the bait that they used to draw them in, they did chum the waters, a practice that has unclear ecological implications (and some say that it increases the number of shark attacks). With those concerns in mind, I would recommend this experience for any shark week lover or anyone who wants a true adrenaline rush.
Have you or would you cage dive with Great White Sharks?
More from living