“French fries kill more people than guns and sharks, yet nobody’s afraid of French fries.”
Sharks. I’m not sure why I am completely fascinated by these misunderstood animals. They capture me with their stealth, beauty and elegance. The fact that we know almost nothing about these animals – how long they live, where they go to breed etc – only attracts my interest further.
I remember when I was very young – I’m not exactly sure of the age, let’s go with about 7 or 8 years old? – and taking weekend visits to the Video Store (those were the days) and picking out movies our parents wouldn’t want us to watch, but our Grandparents would…
I picked up the Jaws video.
For me (maybe 7 or 8 years old) this was a terrifying movie and I blame it whole-heartedly for my incomprehensible fear of swimming in water I can’t see the bottom of – I am trying to overcome this by Scuba diving.
I also praise this movie for being the main influence for my undying curiosity and love for Sharks.
The visits to our local Aquarium became frequent. I would go round-and-round the underwater tunnel. Running up and down to follow the ‘Giants’ as they swam by – not the kind of Giants I would go on to watch – I was fascinated the more I learnt, even with the smallest of Shark Species.
So, to be flying down to Cape Town, the home of Great White Shark Cage Diving, I was more than excited – I was living in a dream land mixed with fear and excitement – I was going to bubble over with anticipation and childish joy.
Arriving into Cape Town marked the end of our G Adventures Tour through three countries of Africa. It marked the end of Two Solid weeks camping, Cold showers, Mosquito Bites and Sleeping bags – which was great because we had lost one along the way. – Staying with Family friends had its perks.
It was important for me to have the most ‘authentic’ experience with the sharks. I didn’t want to be on ‘one of many boats’ dropping cages and the Sharks emerging because they knew they would be fed – fed with fish, not people, just to be clear – this ruins the experience and shouldn’t be encouraged, in my opinion.
Marine Dynamics was my choice of ‘Tour Operator’, they are passionate about what they do, knowledgable, work within conservation/protection and all round fantastic.
The pick up was early – you would think i would be used to early starts after travelling, nope, having a comfy bed makes these worse – thankfully we were last to be picked up, so it was a straight drive to Kleinbaai.
On arrival at the ‘Great White House’ (haha, get it?) we were treated to hearty breakfast and mingled with the other divers/staff that would be travelling with us that day.
It was awesome to mix with everyone and the biologists before heading onto the boat, I wanted to know everything, I was like a kid going to the Zoo for the first time. I had so many questions and I was so excited I could barely contain myself! – Thankfully the wonderful guys at Marine Dynamics were on hand to answer every question I had while topping it off with extra facts, keeping my curiosity fulfilled.
Suiting up and Boarding the boat. Speeding off into the Ocean. My eyes were peeled, scouring the ocean for a fin – I’m not sure why I thought we would just suddenly see them swimming around in mass – my eyes would play tricks on me and my heart would jump again and again.
We stopped. The smell of the (not so delicious) concoction of fish chum juice was being chucked into the Ocean and we waited. The cage was lowered.
I spotted my first shark. In the distance, the tail fin and the dorsal. My heart kick jumped (yup, that extreme) at this point I wasn’t sure whether I was terrified or excited.
The fake seal cut out was chucked in and we waited.
Spotting the shark from the top of the swaying boat was so exciting. I was gripping the bars. Eyes wide in astonishment and honestly, the first thing that went through my head was, ‘they’re not that big, I thought they would be much bigger, I mean they are big but not THAT big’ – thanks jaws – funny thought for most, deadly serious in my head.
Everyone (literally) jumped – thankfully, not off the boat – at the chance of getting in the cage first, apart from me.
No. I wasn’t ‘chickening out’ I wanted to watch these amazing creatures for a little bit – i also didn’t want to sit in a cold wetsuit for the rest of the dive.
I had managed to place myself next to a biologist and we were watching and chatting and he was telling me the names of the known sharks, it was fantastic.
Once it was my turn to get in I was so excited.
Marine Dynamics don’t kit you out with Scuba Gear for the cage. You have a wetsuit and a mask. The cage itself floats above the water (allowing you to, you no, breathe) and when a shark is spotted from those on the boat, you push yourself down and hook your feet under a bar (on the inside of the cage, stops the toes going missing) keeping you steady and able to get the best view underwater.
This in itself was a thrill.
I was in the cage for the last two dives – basically because i refused to get out ha. – and boy, were we treated.
This big mama wasn’t interested in the fake seal, she came to say hello, numerous times.
This was our last dive on the day – big thanks to one of the staff taking this picture for me! – and it was, indescribable.
Watching this beautiful girl from under the water, so close to us, swimming back and forth just checking us out before swimming away into the blue. So slick, so well camouflaged under the water, until they are up close to you they are actually quite hard to make out, no wonder they are the Oceans Top Predator.
Heading back to shore we stopped by Seal Island, which when the tide is higher and the time of day is earlier/later is Great White Shark jumping territory. Sadly we did not see any Sharks up Seal Ally, the tide was far to low.
But of course, we did see the beautiful and playful seals frolicking around in the ocean, enjoying this moment of safety.
Wee fact here: If you in any way suffer from Seasickness on a boat. Visiting Seal Ally/Island will make it Ten Times Worse – the smell these wee creatures give off is just, ew. – hold your breath ha!
Arriving back at the ‘Great White House’ (hehe, still love this) we were treated to nice hot homemade soup and watched the (hilarious) video of our diving and happenings on the boat and also learnt more on how Marine Dynamics are working within conservation/protection to help these misunderstood beauties of the sea survive.
Marine Dynamics were fantastic to dive with. They helped me live out the biggest dream I have had since I was very wee. I would recommend them to anyone looking for a reputable company to dive with. Amazing guys.
“The only man I Envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa… For he has so much to look forward to”
Africa gave me the opportunity to live in a dream for a couple of weeks.
Activities and experiences I had put on my ‘bucket-list’ had been fulfilled in an amazing way and to end it on such an amazing high with Great White Sharks couldn’t have been any better.
I can’t wait for the day I get to return…