Duuun dun. Duuun dun.
The theme from Jaws is stuck on constant rotation in my head as I step on board Slashfin, a purpose-built boat made for shark cage diving.
Here I am in Gansbaai in the Western Cape of South Africa, a fishing town known for its dense population of Great White Sharks.
I’m not ashamed to admit that when I found out we were going shark cage diving with Marine Dynamics that I was terrified. Purely and utterly terrified.
I’ve gone swimming with sharks in Hawaii but they were puny little reef sharks (mind you I didn’t think that at the time!). But here I was soon to come face-to-face with the top predator in the ocean, the Great White Shark.
Did you know that these things have reputations as man-eaters? And all I could keep thinking was how tasty of a lunch I would be!
Prior to boarding the boat we were served breakfast but I could barely eat anything with the nerves starting to get the better of me. The crew went through their safety briefing before we commenced the short trip out to sea.
Solid ground was a distant memory and I put on my bravest face as the boat headed south into deeper waters.
It was a 20-minute boat ride to Dyer Island and upon arrival the crew dropped anchor and began to prepare the cage. We were then handed our wetsuits and asked whether we wanted to be the first into the cage. Hmmm….
We decided not to be the first group to get in the cage (smart, right?!) and instead chose to listen to the three marine biologists on board, learning some interesting facts about the sharks we were about to encounter.
Throughout the journey these marine biologists document information to further their ongoing research into the conservation of Great White Sharks.
While the first groups entered the cage, it provided a great opportunity for us to take some photos!
The crew began chumming the waters to attract the curious Great White Sharks to the boat and the cage, which involved creating an odour corridor to guide the sharks to the boat. I was told chum consists of a mixture of tuna, sardines and fish oils.. delicious.
By now my nerves had reached their peak and I honestly don’t even remember what it felt like when I first saw a Great White Shark swim past the boat.
My shaky hands did manage to capture the moment on camera though!
For around 45 minutes I stared at the water from the boat, taking a few photos along the way. It was amazing witnessing how these dark objects looked in the water and as soon as the Great Whites raised their heads above water, gasps went around the entire boat while I tried to take the best photos I could.
Believe me, taking photos of moving sharks is definitely a challenge but I did get a couple of good ones!
As the different groups stepped out of the cage you could tell by the expressions on their faces and their excited tones that this was something special.
By now I was actually keen to jump into the cage! The crew fitted us with weighted belts and goggles and the moment of the truth had arrived.
I was about to go cage diving with Great White Sharks!
I stepped to the edge of the boat and cautiously plunged into the cage. Instantly my breath was taken away! Despite the wetsuits, the water was ice-cold.
“Must keep all body parts in the cage” I kept reminding myself as I waited for further instructions from the crew.
“SHARK DOWN!” they yelled excitedly, a cue for me to dive beneath the surface of the water as there was a shark nearby.
I ducked my head underneath and saw a Great White Shark the length of the cage coming straight for us! Check out the video below of some of the underwater footage I managed to capture.
In total we encountered somewhere between 4-6 Great Whites and describing the experience is near impossible. It was nothing like I expected it to be! Seeing these creatures glide effortlessly and majestically through the water left me speechless and the fear I felt just minutes ago had completely subsided.
I felt privileged to be sharing the ocean, the Great White’s natural habitat, with these creatures. The beady little eyes of the Great White Sharks seemed to be focused on me the entire time they went past the cage but they just didn’t seem like the vicious monsters you see on TV or in the media.
With that said, I still wouldn’t be sticking even a finger outside the cage!
Great White Shark cage diving was an incredibly special experience and it was simply exhilarating. If it’s not already on your bucket list, you must add it. Now!
This trip was made possible by the South Africa Tourism. As always, all thoughts and opinions shared on this blog post are completely my own.