The Best Shark Cage Diving Experience Ever!

k

Written by Frankie Cameron

Have you ever wanted to cage dive with great white sharks? There is nothing more thrilling. My daughter and I survived the Great White Shark Cage Diving Experience with Marine Dynamics and lived to tell about it. It was the best shark cage diving experience ever.

The largest accumulation of great white sharks in the world gathers off the shore in Shark Alley, near Gansbaai, South Africa. They are especially plentiful during the winter months (June to August). According to our guides, sharks in the rest of the world like Mexico or Australia don’t venture as close to shore.

Shark is close enough to touch

Image created in Canva

Early Morning Pickup

The pickup up at the hotel was early, before 5 a.m. The hotel restaurant wasn’t open, but the Twelve Apostles Hotel packed breakfast for us to take. Our driver’s name was Rayon (pronounced like crayon without the c) and we were the first pickup of the day.

A little nervous about diving with sharks, I asked Rayon if anyone had ever died during the Shark Cage Diving Experience. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but whatever it was, I took it to mean that no one had ever died.

Along for the Ride

We picked up three friends that had just graduated law school and were taking the summer before starting jobs as associates in the fall. Then we picked up a family of six, four teenage boys and their parents. The ride from Cape Town to Gansbaai takes over two-and-a-half hours and most people napped, but I watched the scenery.

Hot Chocolate and Wetsuits

We arrived at Marine Dynamics headquarters at the same time as the other vans. They sized us for diving gear, then gave us hot chocolate and snacks while we watched a safety video. Our Roots clothing gave away our identity as Canadians.

They gave us gear in blue bags and over-sized orange rain jackets to carry on the short walk down the hill to the boat. The sky was cloudy, but it wasn’t raining. My daughter made friends with one of the marine biologists who gave us tips on how to get into the cage first.

Slashfin

The aluminum boat named Shashfin can take 40 passengers and the crew. The boat is 14 meters (46 feet long) powered by 4, 300 hp outboard engines. The boat has 2 levels, but the marine biologist advised us to sit on the bottom level, close to the stairs.

The Cage

It took about 10 to 20 minutes to reach the spot where they had left the cage. The cage doesn’t sink or float away. The crew reattaches the cage to the boat so you don’t have to be a scuba diver to see the sharks. The cage is people and shark friendly. There are hand and foot bars to hang on to.

Once all eight people are in the cage, they close the top. There is plenty of space from the top of the cage to the water level.

Gearing Up

As soon as the boat stopped, we stripped into our bathing suits (that they advised us to wear under our clothing) and pulled on the wetsuits as quickly as it is possible to squeeze into one. If you have ever tried on a wetsuit, you know the struggle. They also supplied goggles, headgear, boots, and a weight belt.

Luring Sharks

The sharks were already around the boat, attracted by the bait. A bait handler lures the sharks, but they don’t feed them the bait. In the image below you can see the bait, as the handler draws it closer to the cage.

Great White Shark Cage Diving Experience

The water was icy (15.4 degrees Celsius) even with the 7mm thick wetsuits. I had never been in the ocean before, and the saltiness took me by surprise. I knew the ocean was salty, but not that salty.

When the crew yells dive, you grab the bars and pull yourself under the water. You can stay down as long as you feel comfortable or can hold your breath. The visibility was about 2 metres.

Shark swims by the cage

The sharks are amazing. They come right up to the cage. I could have stuck my hand out to touch one, but I thought better. They kept swimming by the entire time we were in the cage.

I can honestly say when I was in the cage I wasn’t afraid. The shark had no interest in us at all.

Even with the weights, I had trouble staying down. It took some practice to time it right. After 20 minutes to half an hour, our time in the cage was up and we climbed out. The family in the cage with us captured the entire experience on a go pro, which they generously shared with us.

Seasickness

After our dive, we dried off, and they gave us more hot chocolate to warm up. We went inside the cabin of the ship to change. That was the first mistake. Being inside the cabin of the ship while the boat was rocking from the waves immediately flipped my stomach.

After sitting for a while, the crew directed me to the front of the boat and told me to take deep breaths and focus on a spot in the distance. There were a ton of people having the same issues with the waves. We were still close enough to shore to see the houses along the beach, so I focused on them.

Volunteers

While I made spent time with the ill, my daughter chatted with the volunteers on the boat who were mostly marine biologists or studying to be. Click here for more information on volunteering.

Watching from the front of the boat, you could see the fins and sometimes a shark would jump out of the water.

Return to Shore

After everyone had gotten a chance in the cage, we returned to shore. All the groups except the last one saw sharks while they were in the cage. Apparently, the day before, they didn’t see a shark, so we were beyond happy about our experience.

My seasickness subsided as soon as we disembarked.

We had a debriefing session and viewed the video the crew had made of our session. We purchased a copy of the video. Who wouldn’t want to capture a once in a lifetime experience?

The marine biologist gave a report. Apparently, four different great white sharks had approached the boat that day. They have names for most of the sharks and know their approximate ages, among other details.

They also asked for donations for shark conservation. If you are interested in making a donation, click here.

Penguin Sanctuary

On the way home, we stopped at the African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary where they take in injured penguins and birds, rehabilitate them and release them if possible.

While we were there, they had two penguins that were permanent residents. One had lost a foot and one was blind. They were two more penguins that were healing from injuries and would be released back into their natural habitat.

Whale Watching

Rayon took us past two or three places to see whales from shore. Unfortunately, they didn’t swim past that day, but the view was beautiful.

Death By Shark

After Rayon had dropped the others off. He brought up the question I posed at the start of the day. Did anyone ever die shark cage diving?

He told us that years before a freak wave had flipped the boat. There was a bridal party on board and the groom and best man had died. I was happy that Rayon hadn’t told me that story before the dive, although I would have gone in the cage, anyway.

Don’t let that story stop you from shark cage diving. According to USA Today “Your odds of dying while in a car are 1 in 114, compared to about 1 in 3,748,067 for a shark attack.”

Final Thoughts

If you ever have the chance to see great white sharks, go. There will be nothing more thrilling in your life than being in the ocean as a shark swims past.

Do you want to swim with sharks? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time

Frankie

 

Note: all the photos from www.SharkWatchSA.com came from our purchased video. All other photos copyright Frankie Cameron Writes.

You May Also Like…

Scuba Diving for Beginners
Scuba Diving for Beginners

Have you ever thought about what it feels like to breathe underwater? Maybe you have dreamed about swimming with the...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *