Gansbaai, South Africa
Swimming in a great white shark cage has been a dream of mine for quite some time. I went in my first tiger shark cage when I visited Hawaii in 2005. I was hooked. I knew I really wanted to see even larger sharks again and again. Turns out, I’m not the only one to share this passion, as several of my friends suggested this was at the top of their bucket list as well.
I planned South Africa around the fact that I was going there to see the sharks since it’s one of the most famous areas to do it. Sadly, upon arrival, everyone told us that the sharks were gone. Typically, May-Oct during their winter season, when the water is a little warmer, is their big shark time. Jan-March is the weakest time, but you can still get shark action. However, some strange anomaly has sent the sharks away. South Africa and Australia have noticed a large decrease in the sharks, leaving climate scientists to wonder what the cause may be. Possibly El Nino? They still don’t know.
Supreme Shark decided to still take us out with the warning that they have not seen any sharks in 27 days, the longest they have ever gone in the history of their company. However, we would go and chum up the water anyways.
After being provided a hearty breakfast by the company, we suited up in 7mm wetsuits and extremely large orange Captain Ahab coats and set out to sea. Immediately upon setting sail, the seagulls came out in full force.
They knew we would be chumming the water and were ready immediately. It took about 30 minutes to get out to Shark’s Alley and the crew started mixing chum and tossing it into the water. Man did that stuff smell bad too!! After about 20 minutes of waiting, we were awarded a shark! I was extremely happy. No sharks for days and here we were, seeing a shark in Africa! Our boat divided into two groups of eight, and I made sure to get in the first cage group. One thing I’ve learned over my experiences is when you see something; you get on board to do it first while it is available. My theory did not disappoint.
I jumped into the cage and was stunned by the cold water. It was about 38-40 degrees and took your breath away. The shark was swimming by the cage the entire time and I had no clue since I was so shocked by the water. I focused on deep breathing to help calm me down and potentially warm me up. Once everyone got in, they closed the cage and we sat there like bait. Maybe we were the bait? The cage had various bars to hold on to and instead of being lowered more into the water and snorkeling, like I thought, we instead were told to hold our breath and lower ourselves down when the shark was swimming by. It felt like forever in the cold water before we were told to lower and look at a shark. We were not disappointed though. Even though the water was murky, the shark swam right by us a few times. It was beautiful! Even though my hands were frozen and shaking, I feel like I could have stayed in the water forever just staring at this beautifully unknown creature.
Sadly, after about 20 minutes, our shark time was up and the second group had a go at it. As the second group got in, the shark bit the cage out of curiosity and left, never to be seen again. The group stayed in the water a full hour (holy coldness!) and never saw the shark return. We also were told that our group was the only to see a shark that day, and that week!! I was very lucky indeed.
WOULD I DO THIS AGAIN? Yes. Again and again and again
HOW TO DO THIS: Supreme Shark company was wonderful to work with! Especially since they took us out when other companies were canceling due to lack of seeing sharks. ZAR 1950 (around $140) http://www.capetownsafaris.com/tour/shark-cage-diving/ or book through http://www.supremesharks.com/index.html
*Thank you Lauren for accompanying me on this adventure.