Almost a year to the day I spent 2 weeks in South Africa on my round the world trip. I had a great time relaxing and living like a king in Cape Town, however, there was one activity I wasn’t able to check off my bucket list.
Shark cage diving with Great White Sharks!
For those that know me this is not an activity I would be excited to partake in, but since I missed out on the opportunity last year, I made it the #1 priority for this trip. Knowing that this time of year could be troublesome, we booked an outing with Apex Predators for the beginning of our trip whilst in Cape Town. There are two well known destinations for Great White Shark cage diving, False Bay and Gansbaai. False Bay is an easy day trip from Cape Town, while Gansbaai is probably double the distance, for that reason we went with False Bay, because it can easily be tied in with Cape of Good Hope, and Boulders Beach to catch the penguins.
Last year my trip was canceled 2 days in a row due to poor weather, and this year our initial reservation was canceled due to weather again! Luckily we were able to get rescheduled to the next day with an afternoon trip, otherwise Dave and Juliette would have missed out since they were set to fly up to Kruger for a safari, however we still had a couple days of cushion. So we left early in the morning and took a ride along the coast to Chapman’s Peak and then onwards to the Cape of Good Hope, ultimately settling in Simon’s Town. We arrived at Apex, signed our lives away and we were off on a small vessel to Seal Island in False Bay.
The reason why there is such a high population of Great White Shark’s here? You guessed it, it’s because of the thousand of seals that inhabit Seal Island. Once the boat drops anchor you’re overwhelmed by the smell of seal poop, and the sound of seals barking.
Going on a Shark Cage dive is in essence an underwater safari looking for lions, you’re not guaranteed a shark siting, and depending on time of year the visibility could be poor. Our trip was during the beginning of the season, so the sharks aren’t as hungry, and the visibility isn’t great (roughly 3-5 feet?).
For a better idea of the shark seasons check out this list.
Our boat was split into 3 groups of 3 for the cage. I was in group #3, so I got to see 2 other groups brave the cold water, and test the cage. Honestly, the most terrifying part of the whole experience was getting in and out of the cage, and wearing an extremely thick gauged wetsuit that increased your buoyancy to a point where your legs would dangle out of the cage. The cage itself is strapped to the boat with some padding on the inside to rest your knees on, and it’s roughly 9 feet in height with 6 feet of the cage submersed in freezing cold water.
It took roughly 45-60 minutes of chumming the water and banging on the side of the boat to attract the great white’s to our bait. We were lucky enough to have a curious shark that stuck around the boat for enough time that each group got a chance to see him up close and personal.
I got some pretty awesome visuals from up top while the other groups were down below, but once you’re in the water it’s almost impossible to see the sharks unless they’re close enough to eat you. While up top, I never got the perfect shot with my camera, I was either a second too late, changing my lens, or [insert excuse here]. While in the cage, since the visibility was so low (again ~3-5 ft), the move is to keep your head above water and then hop down when you’re told to. The captain and crew lure the shark as close as possible with the bait and scream “Down, Down, Down, Shark (Left, Right, Straight)”. I think I spent a total of 30 minutes in the water and had a few opportunities where we were told a shark was close to the cage, but because the visibility was so bad we couldn’t see a thing! Luckily, I was able to catch this video below though, which made the purchase of a Go Pro worth every penny. Check it out!
All in all it was an incredible experience, even if the visibility was poor, and would definitely do it again. In fact I’d love to go in peak season when its natural predation season and see the sharks hunt the loose seals in real life as they jump out of the water to snatch the seals from underneath. It was surely something I’ll never forget and would highly suggest doing this the next time you’re in South Africa!
Here are some shots from our day of Shark Cage Diving, Cape of Good Hope, and Boulders Beach.
July Shark Week Update: Check out this incredible video from Mossel Bay (~4 hours from Simon’s Town by car), with slightly better visibility, and a much hungrier shark.