Imagine plunging into chilly 12-degree water and coming face-to-face with a Great White Shark in South Africa.
If you can brave it, you’ll experience a split second moment of panic before remembering that you’re locked in a cage and, unless you look extra delicious, knowing that you’re relatively safe from becoming its next meal.
Cage diving is a major attraction in South Africa. It may seem scary, but if you make it to this end of the world, here’s what you need to know about this adrenaline pumping sport.
Gansbaai South Africa is the Great White capital of the world. It’s a small fishing town on the very tip of the continent. If you’re staying in Cape Town, it’s about a two-hour drive to Gansbaai. If you don’t have a car, the tour company will arrange a ride for you.
SHARK CAGE DIVING TOURS
There are a few tour companies that will introduce you to Jaws, but one I’d recommend checking out is Marine Dynamics Shark Tours. An experienced crew of Marine Biologists will not only take you out on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure but also educate you on Great Whites and the company’s local conservation efforts.
The best time of year to spot Great White Sharks in South Africa is between June and September. The typical price for a cage diving experience is $220 (ZAR2100). If you’re not into cage diving, but still keen to spot members of the Marine Big Five (penguins, seals, whales, dolphins and sharks), you can stay on the boat, although there’s no discount if you don’t get in the water. The entire experience will take about four hours.
WHAT TO BRING
You’ll want to bring a GoPro, a bathing suit, some warm clothes, and your guts. The tour company will provide a wetsuit, towel, mask, and weights. They even treat you to breakfast or lunch before heading out to sea (they gotta plump you up before feeding you to the sharks… kidding!).
WHAT TO EXPECT
You’ll board a large fishing boat and take a 20-minute ride to Dyer Island. As the crew sets up the anchor and the cage, you’ll slip into a thick wetsuit, strap weights around your waist and secure your mask. They will give you instructions on where to look and how to spot a male or a female shark. Before you know it, you’re easing your way into the freezing cold, shark-infested water.
The captain and his crew will throw a line out with chum attached to it (called “chumming” which creates a scent trail for sharks to follow). You’ll wait about 10 seconds, then someone shouts “down, down, down!” That’s your cue to stick your head under water and open your eyes.
IS IT SAFE?
The thing about sharks is that they’re unpredictable. They could be in a bad mood and nudge the cage, or in a good mood and just show off their massive bodies to a bunch of quivering humans. But overall, it is a completely safe experience if you don’t deliberately aggravate the sharks.
After you get your shark fix and the perfect GoPro video, the crew will help you out of the cage and back onto the boat. Your heart will be racing, but you’ll notice a smile on your face because you just stared fear in the eye and you’re still alive! It’s totally worth the adrenaline rush.