Great white sharks. Those 3 words inspire a lot of feelings in most people. Fear being the biggest feeling. On Saturday I got into a small cage in Shark Alley, Gansbaai. I felt a lot of things, but fear was not one of them. Yes, there was the awe (even if there weren’t any massive ones around), but it was so much more than that. Yes, there was excitement too. The intense boat trip out to Shark Alley was enough to turn me into a temporary whoo-hoo girl. But mostly, there was just a huge sense of peace and a bubbling over of happiness when I spotted the first shark of the day.
My shark cage diving experience began at the ungodly hour of 5am. I woke up at 4.30, and was up and waiting outside in time to catch the sun setting over the city. Once the bus arrived, and the rest of the group was collected (including a lovely Brazilian girl and some hungover Brits), we began the long drive out to Gansbaai. When we arrived, we had a safety briefing and then boarded the boat. It was a lot smaller than I expected, and a lot faster too. Soaring over massive waves, we got to the dive site in record time and got into wetsuits. This was a lot harder than you’d think – the wetsuits were damp, my fingers got raw pulling it up and we had to suit up on a rocking boat in hectic currents.
Watch the Shark Cage Diving Video!
Then came the exciting part – getting into the cage. 5 divers went down at a time, armed with masks and weightbelts. To ensure that the sharks weren’t scared off, no scuba was used. When the dive master spotted a shark, he shouted ‘DOWN!’ and we held our breaths to watch the sharks cruise past. There were about 4 or 5 sharks coming past individually every few minutes, and as Great whites are surface feeders, they could be seen from the boat and in the cage.
A few lessons I picked up during the course of the day:
* Sharks are not easy to photograph – they move very fast, and my camera less so
* They are so much more chilled than I imagined – some were curious, but mostly they were rather blaise
* Shark cage diving is quite a workout – yesterday and today I woke up stiff and sore all over
* Great whites are so much more beautiful than you would think – more than any picture could show
* Thank god for on-board camera man – the DVD of the dive captured all the sightings I missed
* Gansbaai loves their sharks – they even have shark Christmas lights!
* Everyone takes something different from the dive – some were doing the tourist things, others were content to view from the boat, and others were shark lovers like me
* I love fast boats - forget that every time… need to go on boats more often
* I can’t understand why people hate on sharks – they are so peaceful and beautiful, not monsters at all!
I got home in the late afternoon – exhausted, salt in my hair, raw patches on my fingers and happiness in my heart. I really can’t sum it up any better than that… it was an experience I will never forget, and hopefully one I will do again. Except maybe next time I will finally finish my PADI scuba course and dive with other sharks, sans cage!
Huge thanks to White Shark Ecoventures for an unforgetable day, and another thanks to the on-board camera dude from 2 Oceans Films. He made an awesome DVD of the shark cage dive – click here to watch!
Oh yes – you didn’t think I would forget about the pictures, did you? As I said, sharks are effing hard to photograph, but I got a few ok-ish pics…