My Cage Shark Diving Experience

photo showing shark cage diving

Introduction

Cage Shark diving was a must do activity on me and my partners to-do list during our trip to South Africa, so we researched all the different companies and booked a dive with White Shark Adventures as soon as we arrived in Cape Town.  The primary reason for going with this company is because I struggle to hold my breath for more than ten seconds; therefore, I wanted the luxury of having an unlimited supply of air.  White Shark Adventures was the only company that offered what I needed, and so they were my favourite choice.  In hindsight, this did not make any difference because none of the divers ended up using their air supply and opted for the breath hold technique instead.  Everybody went for this option because the noise generated from the air machine was frightening the sharks off, which is NOT what any of us wanted after travelling all that time. 

The breath holding technique was not as difficult as I thought it would be after all, and I did manage it quite successfully. As far as booking the trip goes, it was extremely easy.  All we had to do was make a quick phone call to the company directly and provide our personal details – and we were scheduled to dive the next day.   Yes, it was as effortless as that…you actually don’t need to go through a travel agent, or get any assistance from your hotel company.  We ended up saving £70 in total between the two of us booking by ourselves, and we suggest that you keep an eye out for any special offers that come up on the internet, which happens all the time.

How the Day went

We eagerly set off to go to Gansbaai at around 6.30am from our hotel in Cape Town, and our journey took around 2 hours and 30 minutes in total.  The journey was  pleasant, and the scenery was incredible along the way - it’s mostly mountainous and sea views.  We were terribly excited about the adventure that we were about to embark upon the whole way – it’s something that we have been looking forward to for some time now. 

Once we arrived at Gansbaai, we were greeted by a pleasant company hostess, who offered us a drink and informed us that breakfast would be served shortly.  There were a few people waiting already, so we just chatted to them about cage shark diving as well as the things that we had already done in South Africa.  There were plenty of books and study materials about Great White sharks that we had the option to read if we wanted to.  Gradually, other people started to arrive – there were around 20 in total from different parts of the world, whom we had the opportunity to chat throughout the day.  Everybody seemed polite and friendly, and we were all keen to know how we felt about coming up and close with Great Whites.  Like us, most people were excited, but also felt a little bit afraid.  We could relate to the feeling of excitement; however, we could not understand why they were afraid because we were going to be inside an ultra-secure cage, after all.  We soon realised though that unlike the average person, we did some in depth research about cage shark diving before the actual trip and came to realise that no matter how strong the shark is, and believe me, Great Whites have enough power to slice you in half (not that they do) that it is impossible for one to force entry inside the cage once it is locked.  We guess that this is what made us feel totally relaxed and got rid of any fears that we had.  Plus, I had already had some extremely close encounters with a few sharks in the open waters whilst free style diving in Port Elizabeth, and still live to tell the tale…because of this I had already come to realise that contrary to popular belief, sharks are peaceful creatures and do not hunt humans. 

Pre Dive Experience

A buffet Breakfast was served to us within fifteen minutes of arriving, which included eggs, toast, cereals, fresh fruit juices and fruit.  We opted for the fruit juice option only and are so glad that we did! Most of the divers were sick on the boat – some of it was due to sea sicknesses, but we truly believe that it was mainly because they had far too much to eat prior to the dive.  We advise anybody who intends to do this activity to avoid the temptation of eating beforehand no matter how delicious the food looks because it will end up ruining your overall experience.  I felt sea sick too without eating, which was severe enough, and I cannot imagine how dreadful the rest of the divers felt with a full stomach.  

After breakfast, we were given a short presentation and shown a video about Cage shark diving, including what to expect and what we had to do.  No one had any further questions after this briefing, so we were ready to go.  We all got onto the boat with six experienced crew members and set off to a place called “Shark Alley” which was only twenty minutes away.  Some of us got a quick glimpse of a Great White as soon as the engine was turned off; I was one of the lucky few. 

Inside the Cage

photo showing my shark cage diving experience

A Shark Attack's The Bait & Inevitably Crashes into the Cage That I'm In!

photo showing shark cage diving

Here Once Again A Shark Comes Swimming Into the Cage Where My Partner Is Directly Purched Inside

The time that we had all been waiting for had finally arrived.  We all put our wet suits, masks and weight belts on, which was a bit of a struggle for some.  Because I was so eager to get inside the cage, I managed to get my wet suit on very quickly, and was the second person to enter.  I found this bit remarkably easy and totally hassle free.  In fact, I was that eager to get in that I managed to lower myself into the cage without much assistance and heard a crew member say “she’s very good”.  I took a deep breath in and lowered myself further down to see what was happening under water.  Unfortunately, the visibility was poor, and I could only see one meter ahead of me, so I raised my head above the water again.  There was already one other person inside the cage, and we both chatted to each other whilst we waited for a shark to arrive.  Ten minutes later, I heard a crew member shout “go down”; we all did for around 10 to 30 seconds, although nobody inside the cage saw the actual shark.  We could hear people on the boat saying how phenomenal the first proper sighting of the shark was from the top, so I felt somewhat disappointed that I didn’t get to see it.  Five minutes later, we were instructed to go under again, and I made sure that I stayed under for longer this time.  Regrettably, I did not see it again; however, the person to my right said that she managed to see the Great White and described how it opened its mouth. I just could not understand why I didn’t see anything because everyone on the boat kept saying that it practically came next to the cage.  However, almost immediately afterwards, I saw the fin of a Great White approaching the cage from the surface and went under straightaway to get a closer look.  I managed to see the shark this time round, but the view was not as clear as I would have liked it to be.  Again, I could hear everybody on the boat say how fantastic it was at which point I accepted that I was going to get a better viewing from the boat.  The crew kept us in the cage for another five minutes before asking if we were ready to get out.  We all agreed that it was time to get out because it  was starting to feel a bit cold, and admire the views from the boat instead.  We were probably in the cage forabout 35 minutes, which is a sufficient amount of time.

Shark Viewings

It was the next groups turn to be lowered inside, and I could sense that some of them were a bit apprehensive, so I told them that they were going to be fine.  I quickly dried myself off and started viewing eagerly from the boat.  Almost instantly, I saw a Great White, approximately 3.5 meters long,  approaching towards the cage. It surfaced above the water for about two seconds and then quickly lowered itself back in and quickly swam passed the cage.  This was my first proper sighting ever of a Great White, and it was magnificent.  I was overwhelmed with joy and probably went into a bit of a hypnotic state.  I honestly could not believe that I got to see a Great White so closely.

I chatted to all the crew members whilst on board and carefully observed how they lured the sharks in using large tuna fish as bait.  This technique is successful, and we probably got to see a Great White Shark around fifthteen times in total.  The best sighting for me was when I was sat peacefully on the edge of the boat and contemplating whether I should do some free style diving with Great Whites at some point in the future having seen so many already.  All of a sudden, I saw a Great White collide with the cage.  It was about 4 meters long and so powerful that I almost fell off the edge of the boat, which shook me up a little.  This shark stayed around the longest and was determined to get the tuna fish, so it hit the cage a few times.  It was like being in the jaws movie for real, only the shark was not a plastic dummy this time round.  It surfaced out of the water, opened its mouth widely revealing all its laser sharp teeth, and actually bit the cage.  This view was breath taking, and I felt my heart race for a split second.  I have to admit that I initially got a bit of a freight because I thought that I was going to end up in the water at one point.  Once I got over the initial shock, I experienced a sensation of exhilaration and started to laugh.  I know that this particular encounter is going to stay with me for the rest of my life.  I remember one of the crew members asking me if I was still interested in diving with Great Whites outside of a cage after observing how strong they actually are.  I can honestly say that my answer is still yes, I hope to do that one day when I become a more experienced diver. 

Returning to Shore

Once everybody had been inside the cage, the crew members lifted the cage back onto the boat, which did not look like an easy task, and it was time to return to shore again.  A freshly cooked meal was already waiting for us as soon as we got off the boat, but I gave this one a miss too because my stomach was not ready for any food yet.  I was offered a fizzy drink that contained ginger, apparently it is supposed to settle the stomach, so I drank a few glasses.  We were given a brief talk about the type of conservation work that is being done to preserve the Great White Sharks by the company and shown a video footage of our trip.  I persuaded my partner to buy a copy of this footage because it only cost 300 rand and captured all the best moments. 

Getting mighty close to a Great White shark is not just a sensational experience; it is a close and personal encounter that will stay with you for the rest of your life after cage diving.  All the visitors and local residents of South Africa are fully aware that there is something about the Great White - nature’s impeccably shaped killing machine that captivates the attention of every human being. Nonetheless, you will be perfectly safe on one of Safe Africa’s really well-supervised cage diving trips, so grab the opportunity to meet one of these superb creatures in the gorgeous  surroundings of Gaansbai, False Bay and Cape Point. You will miss out on one of the best experiences of your life if you don’t!

Honestly, the overall experience was remarkable! Being able to see the sight of a shark’s  fin slicing through the sea and heading towards you, and  then lowering yourself under the water to take a look at the beautiful creature, is mind blowing. Any fear or concerns that you have will turn into fascination. You will observe, and feel hypnotised  whilst  a shark glides its way through the water when you are in there. Time will seem to go extremely slowly, and your adrenaline will heighten all your sensations as you begin to feel a lot more alert  than you have ever felt before. When it’s time to leave the shark filled area of the ocean, you will do so with a different understanding and appreciation for all sharks – they are fascinating creatures. Plus you will have stories that you will tell people for the rest of your life.

My partner and I would highly recommend cage shark diving to anyone, it is a once in a life time experience that you will never, ever forget. 

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