Lower Sabie Rest Camp
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park
Today, we didn't have any big plans. The gals were going shopping and Tony & Ed were going to hang out at the B & B. Sooooo, I made arrangements to do a Great White Shark cage dive.
I had done a shark cage in Hawaii years ago and saw several smaller sharks, but I've always wanted to get close up to Great Whites. I really wanted to go watch their breaching behavior here in South Africa, but it was the wrong time of year. One of many good reasons to return.
It was a two-hour drive to Gansbaai where most of the tour operators go out. But I found a company that would pick me up in Cape Town and bring me back. Unfortunately, I had to meet them in downtown Cape Town at 4:30 a.m., about an hour earlier than usual due to an early tide. Sheldon graciously woke up with me at an hour no one should ever get up on vacation, and he gave me a ride into town for my pick-up at the Aquarium.
A driver from White Shark Diving Co. picked two of us up for the long, early morning drive to Gansbaai (actually Van Dyks Bay just outside of Gansbaai). I tried to get a little sleep along the way.
It wasn't a very pretty day with rain, clouds, and rough seas as we arrived at the boat ramp.
It cleared a little, and I took a photo of the shuttle van and all the shark tour boats.
Then we went inside to fill out paperwork and get our wetsuits.
They had a little continental breakfast for us. A total of eight of us completed our liability waiver forms and then we went outside where we got instructions on how to enter the shark cage and view the sharks safely.
It wasn't a "dive" at all - no tanks or regulators - but I knew that going in. We didn't even have snorkels, just masks. Our instructions were to just hang out in the cage with our heads above the water and then hold our breath and submerge when a shark approached.
Once we were all briefed and told that we would return quickly if anyone violated the safety rules, we boarded our boat - The White Shark.
It was only a 20 - 30 minute ride out to Dyer Island where thousands of Cape Fur Seals (sea lions) reside. The sea lions are a favorite food of the Great Whites and the shark tour companies have about a 98% success rate between April and October.
On the way out, we all squeezed into our wet suits, hoods, and dive boots. The water temperature ranges from about 12 - 18 degrees celsius (about 53 - 65 fahrenheit). Our guides told us they usually hear more screaming because of the cold water than the sharks.
We got anchored near the island. There were a couple of other boats already out there. I hate to think what time those people had to get up.
Before the cage went in the water, a shark was spotted.
When dealing with wildlife tours like this, I always have low expectations. Wild animals are just unpredictable. So, it was great to see sharks immediately.
The cage went in the water, and the first four of our group scrambled in.
One guy chummed off the back of the boat while another guy had fish heads on a rope floating in front of the cage on the side of the boat. When a shark would approach the fish heads, the rope was pulled toward the cage bringing the shark in close enough to touch (not allowed by the way).
After the first group had a good amount of time and a couple good looks at sharks, I went in with the second group. Man, that water was sooooo cold. The waves had the cage going up and down and the visibility in the water wasn't very good. Sharks came out of nowhere in the murky green water.
I tried to video as the sharks came close, but it was a struggle. I lifted a few frames from the video as I only took the underwater video camera, so I don't have any other still shots.
Eventually, it was time for first group to have another turn in the cage. But one guy was seasick and didn't go back in. Since I was the first one in the cage, and therefore last one to get out, they told me to stay in for another consecutive sessions. That was great except I was freezing; still, I didn't protest.
During that time, a larger shark came in.
On one pass, that magnificent shark came straight at me and rammed the cage. I didn't get a shot of that, but the video I purchased from the company shows it from above and you can see me jump back. That was exhilarating. I think I was too cold to be scared.
The video is shown in the two clips below, both of which are about 5 minutes long. My face-to-face encounter described above is in the second video (right below) at about the 1:20 mark.
By then, we had seen six sharks, and I was ready to get out and watch from above. It was so, so cold.
Once everyone had adequate time in the cage and we were all happy, we peeled off our wetsuits and headed back in. Then we had some sandwiches and finger foods for lunch while we watched the DVD from the day.
Other than the shivering and the teeth chattering and less than perfect visibility, it was a fantastic experience.
Now, I really wanted to see the famous breaching sharks of False Bay that I've seen numerous times during "Shark Week" on the Discovery Channel. Unfortunately, the peak time for seeing "Air Jaws" ended in the middle of September.
Still, I was quite satisfied, and I thought today's deal was reasonably priced as well. The trip itself was about $175. Of course, I opted for the shuttle from Cape Town and back and I bought a DVD. The total of everything came to about $260.
Now, I have to say that I really appreciated the shuttle option and the driver was very nice. BUT, the ride was the scariest part of the day - that guy was flying and he made me a lot more nervous than the sharks.
Back in Cape Town, Sheldon picked me up at the Aquarium and took me to his place of business. Yes, he and Carolyn run the Durbanville Hills B & B, which is primarily a corporate lodging option for stays during the week only. But, they also run two other businesses out of a building in Cape Town.
Later, the gals stopped by and I rode with them back to the B & B. Back there, I showed everyone my shark DVD, and then we all relaxed for the afternoon.
In the evening, our whole group went out for pizza. It was our last night in Cape Town and we had a wonderful time with Sheldon & Carolyn.
Back at the B & B, we said our goodbyes to our hosts and packed for tomorrow's departure.
We certainly covered a lot of Cape Town area highlights during our week. The landscapes were prettier than I expected and the experiences exceeded our expectations as well. And we only scratched the surface.