Getting Close with the Great Whites, Shark Diving in Gansbaai, South Africa

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For as long as I can remember, MrsWT73 has talked about doing a cage shark diving adventure in Cape Town, South Africa. As a lover of these slender animals, it occupied a lot of conversation about our aquatic travel adventures for quite some time. On this trip to South Africa, we made sure to allow ourselves some time to take in this experience in order to appreciate these creatures up close.


This post is one chapter on our trip to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mauritius and the United Arab Emirates. This trip was redeemed through American Airlines AAdvantage & Alaska Mileage Plan. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Activity: Getting Close with the Great Whites, Shark Diving in Gansbaai, South Africa


“A day on the water allowed us to appreciate the white of their eyes”

Booking:

MrsWT73 was very keen on seeing the shark diving experience and we had missed out on this trip on our last trip to South Africa. MrsWT73 had done her Trip Advisor research and we booked through Great White Shark Diving Company. Our experience with them was quite professional and we would easily use them again and are happy to recommend them.

We booked several weeks out and were able to be accomodate on our chosen date without any issue. While they did offer a bus transfer service from Cape Town to Gansbaai, we had ourselves a rental car and just chose to self drive the 163 km. This way, we were able to stop on a leisurely basis on the drive back, and we were able to sightsee at Hermanus, South Africa. While everyone has different comfort levels operating a motor vehicle in foreign countries, I would recommend taking a rental car out to Gansbaai to allow yourself some flexibility on the afternoon drive back as we enjoyed our later visit to Hermanus.

Getting To Gaansbai:

On the morning of the second day we got up at 3:45 AM in order to participate in the day of shark diving. The shark dive site was at Gansbaai. Gansbaai is about 2.5 hours drive from Cape Town, and with excursions departing at 7 AM, we had to leave The Westin Cape Town at 4:30 AM. The things we do for happiness. . .

We drove ourselves out to Gansbaai via the N2 and the R43. It was expressway for the first part, then it turned into two lane highway for the second part as it twisted and turned through the mountains. With sunrise at approximately 6:45 AM, it was totally dark and we didn’t get the opportunity to really see what we were driving through. The road was mostly unlit as well, and with my worse than at home headlights on the rented Toyota ETIOS (aka Yaris in the Americas – no HID headlights here), it was a little hard to see at times.

Route from Cape Town to Gansbaai

Arriving to Gansbaai:

On arrival the to Gansbaai shark dive center, we had a great coastline and a nice view of the bay. The sun was slowly rising to start the day. By arriving so early, we had an early morning introduction to South Africas southern rugged coastline.

Morning Light at Gansbaai
Sunrise at Gaansbai
Tidal Pools at Gansbaai

Once all the other guests had arrived, we attended for a safety briefing. We had to sign several legal waivers that were passed around in a general sense. The safety briefing included such sound advice as “never try to touch a shark”, among other good advice.

The safety briefing
Shark Diving Boats on the Dock
The Gansbaii Harbour
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Headed out to Sea:

After the safety briefing was completed, we headed out on the boat. Life jackets were not provided, but we were assured that they were on board. It was only a mere 10 minutes ride out into the bay. A view birds took interest in us on our way out.

Headed out to Sea
Birds Pacing our Boat
Feeding the Birds
Fishing Boats in the Area

Attracting the Sharks:

They had cautioned us that it was sometimes challenging to find sharks, giving the usual “it’s nature” caution”. However, we were able to see some within 5 minutes of arriving. The sharks are attracted by throwing chum (a seafood mixture) and a severed bloody fish head into the water. The technique seemed to work pretty well.

I don’t know whose idea it was to put a bunch of people in a flimsy cage but it seems to be popular. It’s an accident attorney’s dream. The process involved getting into the top of the cage and being fenced in an open area while the sharks swam in front and around the sides of the cage.

MrsWT73, ever the adventurer, had wanted to do this since our last visit in 2013. Time did not present the opportunity on those travels, thanks to the 5 hours of driving that was required. I can’t say that I ever had shark diving on my list of travel experiences that I missed. I’ve regretted not getting tea at the Burj Al Arab, or taking a power boat through the canyons of Queenstown, New Zealand but shark diving has never been remotely on the list. I ended up passing and capturing the whole experience from the top of the boat. I actually got much better photographs from the top where you had a better vantage point and could actually see into the water as the visibility was a bit suspect. Indeed, the underwater camera pictures came out pretty poorly due to some opaque visibility.

Although it was a bit rough in the boat (I took several motion sickness pills) we were able to see quite a few great white sharks. It started with attracting them initially then involved viewing from the cage on a rotating basis. They are absolutely massive in person. We were also able to see them act in their natural state slipping around the water versus their attack mode when they decided to over power their prey.

Attracting The Great Sharks
The Dorsal Fins of the Great Whites
A Show of the Side of the Great Whites

The shark definitely enjoyed the nom nom’s, if his splashing is any sign.

Chomping Down on Tasty Treats
The Closest Splashing I ever Hope to Get to a Great White
Turbulent Waters during feeding
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Cage Diving in Gansbaai:

After the sharks were attracted to the area, it was time for the cage. It still baffles me a bit why you’d want to subject yourself to this but it makes for some entertaining photos. The cage was very open in design and if you didn’t hang on to the grab bar, and stretch your hand out in any means out of the cage, it would be very easy to loose a hand.

Cage Divers in the Water
Sharks Passing by the Cage
Close Encounters

There is nothing like watching a shark coming towards people in some form of attack mode. I am sure there were a few terrified people in the cage when this happened. At least I would be if I saw this coming! By George, he’s coming right for us. And he’s hungry.

Sharks Coming at the Cage
Sharks coming Toward the Cage
Interacting with Sharks
I am going to “eat” something
Putting on a Show for the Spectators

From the comfort and safety of above, I was able to get some great photographs of the shark and the cage.

Great Whites Breezing the Shark Cage
Effortless Movement Through the Water
MrsWT73 enjoying herself
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Watching a Shark Feeding Frenzy:

We also got to see a small feeding frenzy at the end to celebrate the end of the shark dive. You can even see the eyes of the shark roll back into whiteness.

Seeing the Whites of Their Eyes
A Shark Feeding Frenzy
Enough Splash for Two

Heading Back Towards Land:

After seeing these creatures attack with speed and aggression, falling victim to a shark attack would not be something that would be ever on the top of the list. A short boat ride back and we were back on land.

Heading Back Towards Gansbaai

Once we were back on land and had packed up, we headed off to explore the nearby coastal city of Hermanus. We were also able to get in some lunch there as we were pretty hungry by this point having had such an early wake up.

My Thoughts on the Shark Cage Experience at Gansbaai:

All in this was a pretty entertaining experience and we got closer than we would have ever thought that we would have given the unpredictable nature of whether you will see sharks or not. There were no regrets on my part having not been in the water and MrsWT73 felt that it was worth every penny. We enjoyed the self drive aspect and appreciated not being stuck in a van or coach on the way back as we had the opportunity to plan the balance of the day.


If you’ve been shark cage diving at Gansbaai, South Africa; did you find it a great adventure?

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