It was barely daylight when we set off from our apartment in Camps Bay to Gansbaai, a fishing village some two hours away from Cape Town, famous for its dense population of great white sharks. Although sleepy from the early rise, we were fueled by excitement. The moment we had been waiting for the last couple of weeks was about to come.
Into the Blue
After a short briefing at Marine Dynamics, we learned that sharks are really not as lethal as you would imagine. While they may kill between 5 to 15 people a year, we human beings slaughter over 100 million of them over the same period of time.
As soon as we left the port, we were greeted by two whales – a mother and its child. A sign of the phenomenal wildlife that were to come. We sailed over choppy waters and made our way to the famous Shark Alley, a narrow water channel between Dyer Island and Geyser Rocks.
Once the boat stopped the action began. Everyone was rushing to get into their wetsuits, both because of the excitement and the chilly wind around us. The sharks did not take long to make an appearance and by the time we put on our suits there were already a few of them circling our boat. Nellie and I got in on the first batch, a decision we later regretted since the sharks seemed to ease up a little and get more active afterwards.
An Underwater Rush
Once inside the cage, I felt a bolt of adrenaline rush shooting right through me. The water was freezing cold and the tidal waves were overwhelming. I could hear the shouts of the crew directing where the sharks were coming from each time the animal swam near us. I struggled to get myself under the water at first, but once under the water I was hooked to the sight of the shark. The look in the sharks’ eyes was haunting. I could literally feel their vigilant eyes scouting their surroundings for the next bite, and I couldn’t help but think that their next bite could easily be myself if not for the iron bars that separate us.
The highlight of the day came when the last group of divers submerged into the icy waters. Towards the end of the dive, one of the biggest sharks around the boat (they were 14 of them swimming around us at one point) breached out of the water in an attempt to catch the bait that the crew were hurdling around. The inertia of its leap made it crush sideways against the cage with such force that I could feel the bang from the top floor of the vessel where I was standing. The abrupt and unexpected interaction with the animal made all the divers scream with excitement while the rest of us could do nothing but stare in awe.
On our way back to shore, the clarity of the water allowed us to admire a couple of whales swimming beneath our boat, accompanying us for just a brief moment, as if to bid farewell and to put a perfect end to an experience that we will never forget.
Note: To make sure we do not interfere or disturb the sharks’ natural habitat, Marine Dynamics assures that on its shark cage diving trips, sharks are not harassed, abused or fed. Boatmen use chumming method (fish oil) to catch the sharks’ attention but they do not disturb the animals’ natural behavior.