Cage Diving with Great White Sharks

What adventure is no South African adventure complete without? Shark cage diving of course!

When I was about 9 years old, my dream was to one day become a marine biologist, working in South African waters and studying the magnificence that is Great White Sharks. That dream stayed with me well up until the last few years of high school, before my true passion was realized in the form of midwifery. Despite choosing not to pursue a career in marine biology, my interest and love of arguably the world’s most misunderstood creature has not yet dwindled.

I had shark cage dived before in my home state. Port Lincoln is a 9 hour drive from my home, and is a South Australian hotspot for viewing Great White Sharks. However, that was years ago, and those trips are seriously pricey. So with just a few days left in Cape Town, it only seemed fitting that I would head out in search of a second Great White encounter.

I went out with a company called Great White Shark Tours. Most companies operating near Gansbaai are pretty similar in operation, so the reason I really chose Great White Shark Tours was the fact that they had a ‘Backpacker Special’. Essentially, if you are staying one of their affiliated hostels, you get a discounted rate, and it just so happened that the Green Ele was included on this list. I paid R850 ($85) plus a small fee for the transfers between Cape Town and Gansbaai. I should note however, that this price has since increased to R950 ($95).

It was an early morning start and a couple hours drive out of Cape Town. I spent most of the drive snoozing and arrived in Gansbaai feeling wide awake and more than a little bit excited. We were given safety advice, a rundown of how the trip would proceed, tips to avoid feeling seasick and given hefty warnings about not putting any limbs out of the cage and how we would be in significant trouble if we attempted to touch the sharks.

Not long after we were out on the boat and I was getting more and more excited.

The weather was pretty average that day, it was very overcast and grey. We were warned that because of the storm that has passed not long ago, that all the sediment from the sea floor would be dispersed in the water and would decrease water visibility. I must admit, I wasn’t too fussed about this. Crappy weather or not, I just wanted to see some sharks.

And see sharks, is what I did. Upon arriving at the dive spot there was already a huge Great White waiting to say hello!

The staff running the boat then needed 8 people in the first group to get in the cage. It probably won’t come as much of a surprise that I was the first person on the entire boat to run downstairs to the back of the cage and put my hand up high. Four other people followed suit but the staff needed to do some serious coaxing to get another three people to fill the cage. Apparently people are scared of sharks. Who knew?

We quickly got in our wetsuits and plonked ourselves on the side of the cage. The shark had decided to go elsewhere for a bit, so we had to wait around until he or another shark decided to make an appearance. The water wasn’t overly cold but when you are standing in the cage without moving around, you get cold pretty quickly, so we all sat on the side to wait.

Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long to get up close and personal with a shark!

It might sound insane, but when I saw these sharks, I didn’t feel even an ounce of fear. Not once did my pulse increase. No extra adrenaline pumped through my veins. At no time was I scared. Just amazed and in awe of the beauty of these creatures.

Remember earlier how I mentioned that touching the sharks was against the rules?

Yeah, well, as it turns out, I’m not very good at following rules. The third and final shark I saw from within the cage came very close to me. So close I could touch.

So that’s kinda what I did.

This shark had his fin right there and I was able to touch it, just for a second. He didn’t react or try to bite me, he just kept on swimming.

Luckily upon exiting the cage, none of the staff seemed to have noticed, and the people standing beside me in the cage didn’t mention it once we had gotten out of the water, but instead waited to tell me how insane I am until after we had gotten off of the boat.

THE LOWDOWN

Hostel: Green Elephant Backpackers
Camera: GoPro Hero
Budget: R150 ($15) per night for an eight bed dorm
Remember: Anti sea-sickness tablets
Shark Cage Diving: R950 for the Backpackers Special, plus transfer fees from Cape Town

So, do you agree with my fellow divers? Am I just a little bit insane for touching a Great White Shark?

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20-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

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