Our honeymoon brought us to Cape Town, but… it wasn’t supposed to! No… we were supposed to be in Egypt, seeing the pyramids, walking in the Valley of the Kings, and touring the Nile River. Unfortunately, circumstances led us to cancel this portion of our trip, and we immediately started to look at where we could go with our award tickets instead of Egypt. I have to admit that I initially wasn’t to keen on Cape Town, but after seeing that the top attraction on Tripadvisor was getting in a cage with great whites, I was IN! It is was something that I had on my bucket list.
I started researching shark diving in Cape Town. Being a Shark Week afficionado, I knew that I wanted to got Seal Island, where seals hop around aimlessly like morons and then crazy freaking huge great whites come and devour them. Perhaps that is just a bit of a dramatization, but you get the point! It turns out that at the time of year, October, that we were visiting Cape Town, it wasn’t the best time to go to Seal Island for whatever reason. Either the seals had moved or the sharks had moved, but we were recommended to book a trip out of Gansbaai, South Africa, instead. Gansbaai is known as “Shark Alley,” due to the large amount of Great Whites in the area.
We had four days in Cape Town, and the first three were pretty stormy. All of the shark outings for the first three had been canceled, and we were nervously hoping that we would have decent weather on our final day. Luckily for us, we did! The tour operator picked us up at our hotel early in the morning, and we were set for a two hours drive to Gansbaai.
I got a small nap on the ride, but I was too excited to get too much of a rest. Plus, there things to see on the road. Driving across the USA, you might see deer in the road. Driving from Cape Town to Gansbaai, we saw wild baboons!
We used White Shark Diving Company, and we were really pleased with the overall experience. When we arrived at their spot on the water, they had some juice and breakfast pastries there for us to munch on. They even had a sample cage that we could get into. They moved on to discuss safety, giving us obvious pieces of advice like, “Don’t stick your arm outside of the cage.” GENIUS!
Soon it was time for us to hop on the boat. I must say…it was COLD outside. Of course the temperature outside was nothing like the temperature in the water. Even with that wetsuit on, the water was only sixty degrees, and sitting in that water with 15 foot great white sharks around was one of the less comfortable situations I’ve been in :-).
The cage that we would actually be getting in was left at sea. They have a giant tuna fish head that they toss around to attract the shark, and since they saw some sharks in the morning, they left the cage out there with the fish head inside to try and keep the sharks around. Unfortunately, by the time we got out there, the sharks had left. And when the great white sharks ain’t around, there’s only one thing to do: chum.
For all the other sharkweek fanboys, there’s not much more I need to add about chumming. You take fish blood and guts, mash them up, and dump ’em in the water for the sharks to get. Actually, that was what I THOUGHT chumming was, based on Shark Week viewing. It turns out that it actually has to do more with the oils of the fish than of the blood. So as we drive around, there’s a guy who stands on the back, mashing up this nasty container of fish remains, and he mixes them up, dumps water in them, and lets that out to see, as it spreads the fish oil around. It worked… eventually!
While we were chumming, we put on our wet suits. Putting on a damp wetsuit when it is really cold outside kinda sucks. And while we were out on the water for about three hours, it took us some time to find any sharks… So we all hung around on the boat, waiting for sharks in our super freezing cold wet suits. Also, if you are prone to sea sickness, you better get some meds in advance. We had multiple yackers off the side of the boat (maybe they helped with the chumming), and the swells were huge. I think our swells were especially large due to it being stormy the previous few days, but I think you should expect there to be a good amount of action on the water, just in case.
So we waited… and waited… People were calling for sharks like dogs: “Here, Sharky Sharky! Here, Sharky!” I’m not sure if those helped, but all of a sudden, there it was. A huge great white shark was swimming right in front of our cage. The crew got excited, and they had the first group of people jump into the cage. That shark eventually got bored and left, but we ended up getting five more! We saw a total of six sharks. I think the best way to show you what we experienced is with a video I put together. See below:
The underwater visibility was weak, given that there was a recent storm, so perhaps I’ll go shark cage diving again in a place like Hawaii or Mexico where there’s better visibility, but it was an absolute thrill to see great white sharks up close. Of the six sharks we saw, our guide told us that the largest was about fifteen feet in length. That is RIDICULOUS. Just seeing how large a great white shark’s jaws are right in front of our faces was such a rush. Some great whites can get as large as 30 feet. It must be pretty crazy to see one of those up close and personal. Here are some pictures from our trip:
What a day! The sharks were amazing. When we got back, we changed into warmer, dryer clothes, and we watched a video of some action of the day. They also served us a hot lunch. On the drive back to Cape Town, we stopped at a viewing spot to see some whales. Sure enough, we saw some. I didn’t get any pics of the whales, but I did get some beautiful pictures of the South African coastline. The following two pics are clickable, if you would like the high-resolution versions.
If you’re in Cape Town, do yourself a favor and jump in the water with great white sharks. I’m so happy to say that I have finally seen these animals up close and personal, and I’ll never forget the moment. Hopefully I’ll be able to do it again some day, but if not, at least I did it once :-).