Cage Diving With Great Whites

Trip Start Aug 28, 2012
Trip End Aug 09, 2013

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Flag of South Africa  , Western Cape,
Tuesday, July 16, 2013

16th July – Gantsbaai, Cage Diving with Great Whites!

What is there to say; this is something I have wanted to do since God knows when and I woke up rather excited. This however, didn't stop me (as well as everyone else on the minibus) from sleeping for the majority of the 2 hour journey starting at 5:30am!  When we arrived at 8ish we were all sat in a room and given some breakfast; I more or less had lunch though by having 2 ham and tomato rolls.  We were given a briefing that more or less consisted of what to expect and what to do when you’re in the cage.

We set off out to sea at about 8:30 and then it was waiting time.  The bait was set, a scrumptious looking tuna head (that was surprisingly lacking in blood) and we were all pulling our way into 5ml wet suits whilst keeping our eyes on the bait, waiting and waiting, hoping that it would take the 30 minute optimistic time rather than the unlucky 2 hours, or even no sharks at all!  When a shark did go for the bait, the idea was that the skipper pulled the bait away just in time so the shark didn’t get it and came back for more, and with only 8 tuna heads, this hopefully was a skill the skipper had perfected over the years.  And just as the skipper was telling us this, mid-sentence, SHARK!  It was only a 2m young shark but it breached the water with about half its body which we were told is quite abnormal.  We were also told that this was normally the size of shark we’d see, with the biggest maybe being 3m as the larger more mature sharks don’t go for such small prey.  The largest great white shark eve caught being 6.4m in Australia, 6.3m in SA!  Scary stuff.

So into the cage the first 5 went, all shrieking with how cold the water was!  The must have been in there for a good 20 minutes, with about 5 sharks spottings, one of which did completely thrash against the cage though.

Then it was mine and Laura’s turn.  Getting into the water was probably the hardest bit, not because I was scared but because the water was like an ice bath and the thought of having to put my head under the water was not appealing.  The way it worked was, we all stayed at the surface until the skipper shouted "down" and we all popped under the water with goggles on to see the shark swim by, hopefully go for the bait, and if we were lucky, come close to the cage!  However, buoyancy was a big problem, with 5ml wet suits filled with air as we hadn’t been completely submerged and no weight belt.  The only thing we had to try and pull ourselves down was a bar in front of us that was surprisingly close to the outside bar, that we should not touch!

But within minutes of freezing in the cage, we heard “down” and down we went, to see the 2m shark that had been hanging around for a while, completely catapult itself at the bait, grab it and thrash around against the cage whilst the skipper tried to pull the bait into the boat.  However, this was the first tuna head gone!  And so was that shark.  So we had a bit of a wait until the next one, and bloody hell was it worth the wait; the next was about 3m and kept swimming quite close to the cage.  We had about 4 more 'downs’ before it was the end of our go.  By this point, I had more or less got used to the temperature, though getting out was a whole different can of fish (excuse the pun) and I couldn’t stop shaking for about half an hour. 

As time went on, the experiences just kept getting better and better, and then we saw it, a 4m female great white that just looked enormous; I couldn’t believe they can grow an additional 2.5m!  Insane.  By this point most people had wimped out because of the cold, but there was no way with this monster swimming around, that I wasn’t going to go back in.  And blimming hell am I glad I did.  There were 2 sharks swimming around at this point, the 4m and a maybe 2.5m one, both of which kept breaching the water a lot and also coming close to the cage.

The last tuna head was out and everyone was on the boat, and the 4m one went for it, breaching about 2 thirds of its body and holding onto the bait whilst the skipper pulled it towards the boat, whilst it thrashed around soaking half the people on the boat.  Obviously it got the bait, but it also got something that it probably wasn’t planning on; the float attached to the bait!

We went back to shore with a warm lasagne waiting for us before a small debrief, being told its normal to see 4-5 sharks in a day and we’d seen 6 and that we were very lucky to have the 4m shark as well as so many of the sharks we had breaching the water so much.  An absolutely amazing experience :)
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