South Africa - Great White Shark Cage Diving / Gansbaai

OVERVIEW:

There are few places in the world that allow you to experience the electrifying thrill of watching an aquatic apex predator (Great White Shark) swim within a few feet of your awestruck eyes. The most reliable cage diving sites for the Great White Shark have been listed off of the coasts of South Africa, Australia, and Isla de Guadalupe (Mexico). While South Africa has various sites to spot these predators, it is the waters off of Gansbaai that have been given the moniker of the "Great White Shark capital" of the world. A short boat ride from Gansbaai are Dyer Island and Geyser Rock which house penguins and fur seals attracting a plethora of Great Whites. High season in these waters for spotting Great White Shark activity is between May-September with the peak in June-August. We were in good fortune as our trip was in mid-to-late May. As discussed in some of our earlier blogposts, this must be balanced with your other ideas during your South African holiday as June and July tend to bring a lot of rainfall to Cape Town which may cramp some of your other plans: http://www.seekingsky.com/blog/2017/8/3/south-africa-introduction-preparation

No matter when you go, be ready for some cold water as the water temperature here hovers around 15 degrees Celsius/60 degrees Fahrenheit (it was even colder for us) as the Antarctic Benguela Ocean current predominates. Make sure your outfitter gives you thick wetsuits/drysuits (ours were at least 7mm thick), booties, and hoodies. Luckily it seems many of the tour operators here are well equipped, very experienced, and highly professional given the popularity of this adventure/thrill activity as we met folks from all over the world in our group. One of the great advantages in going Great White Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai is you do not need any prior scuba diving experience; no true diving is necessary to participate. If there is a storm, it's likely the excursion will be cancelled so make sure to not leave this for your last full day so you have some flexibility. If your trip coincides with the aforementioned High Season, you shouldn't miss the opportunity to get your adrenaline rush by going Great White Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai; it is the perfect day-trip from Cape Town. There may be no better place to cross this off of your bucket-list because many of the shark documentaries you see on TV are actually filmed here given the high concentration of shark activity. 

 

OUR VIDEO EXPERIENCE:

Our Great White Shark Cage Diving experience

DESCRIBING THE DAY:

What to bring yourself:

  • sunblock

  • swimwear (to wear under wetsuit)

  • jacket/hoodie/pants to wear for the early morning drive or on boat deck as it can get chilly

  • waterproof camera (we used our GoPro for the above video)

We used Great White Shark Tours which provided a tremendous experience. This is clearly reflected by several others on TripAdvisor: http://www.sharkcagediving.net/ and https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g472522-d2173083-Reviews-Great_White_Shark_Tours-Gansbaai_Overstrand_Overberg_District_Western_Cape.html

We were picked up from our hotel in Cape Town very early (before 6AM) for the drive to Gansbaai (which is a little over 2 hours one-way).  Based on weather conditions, the crew will contact you the day before with the time of pickup. The crew will provide most of the other equipment including wetsuits, booties, hoodies, and towels. 

You have plenty of time to nap or ponder just what you signed up for on the long drive. Once you get to Kleinbaai Harbor (in Gansbaai), you are given some fruits, coffee, juices, water, etc., watch a quick safety video, and get some instructions from the captain/crew. Please always follow all safety instructions the crew provides. There are restroom facilities here as well. You then board the boat and head out to sea for about 15-20 minutes. As you drop anchor you can see the gorgeous Western Cape coastline in the distance as the crew begins to throw chum into the water to attract the sharks. Please note that you are never 100% guaranteed to spot sharks. One of the great things about Great White Shark Tours is they have a great working relationship with the other tour groups in the area so they work together to share information about daily shark sightings and activity. Luckily for us, as we stood on the boat deck, we saw a few sharks starting to make their way towards us to scrutinize and sift through the chum within a few minutes of anchoring. As imposing and mesmerizing as the sharks looked from above, we couldn't wait to get into the cage to see them on their turf as we were the next group.

Each time you are in the cage you were with 6-8 other folks. The first time you get into the cage, the coldness of the water knocks the wind out of you but over time and with subsequent dives our adrenaline helped somewhat acclimate us to the cold.  When you are in the cage you start with your head bobbing above the water surface and wait for the helpful crew to spot sharks from above to yell at you to go underwater. When prompted, you take a deep breath and hold it and swim/dive down into the cage to see the sharks glide past you effortlessly in all directions as they interrogate the chum/bait. On our day, we spotted at least 3 different Great White sharks. After everyone on the group goes once, those who want to go multiple times are given the opportunity.  There are some who never even make into the cage as the site of sharks circling the boat from the deck spawns an internal panic attack from the very beginning. For others, after the 1st round in the cage, between the sight of a Great White Shark and the coldness of the water, they decide enough is enough. But we would encourage you to take advantage of the openings this may provide you and go multiple times. We each went 3 times and each time the experience got better as we were more comfortable and confident in the cage and had a better sense of timing our breaths, acclimating to the water, and seeing different shark maneuvers and behaviors. Afterwards, we all got on the deck to spot the seals (some of the sharks' favorite prey) on the neighboring islands and headed back to Kleinbaai Harbor to have some lunch and watch the video the crew took of us (available for purchase, if interested). We then headed back in the shuttles for our direct hotel drop-off. If you have any interest at all in experiencing the invigorating thrill of a close encounter with the Great White Shark (especially if you are not a certified SCUBA diver), there may be no better place to do this then at Gansbaai. 

 Gansbaai

Gansbaai