Although this activity sounds dangerous and scary, it's really not that bad. To be perfectly honest, it was more of a learning experience than an "adventure" activity. Having said that, there were definitely moments where you felt the adrenaline flowing into your bloodstream!
So we booked the trip ahead of time with the White Shark Diving Company, then waited for the email that would tell us what time to arrive at the meeting point. They make a lot of decisions based on safety, and the skipper of the vessel wants to make sure conditions are just right for going out in the boat.
The email came, and we were told to arrive at Kleinbaai at 7:00am on Tuesday morning. Interestingly, they include both breakfast and lunch in the price of your excursion!
So, we arrived just before 7:00am. For us, it was about a 40 minute drive from Hermanus. At that hour of the day there's not much traffic, so it was a nice drive and we didn't have to rush. When we arrived, we were invited in for breakfast! Coffee and tea, and cereals (hot and cold) and fruit and toast and jam.
While we're having breakfast, we're filling out and signing forms. You know, the ones that say it's not their fault if you lose an arm or a leg!
Because really, it's nobody's fault but your own if you do. Seems to us that this is a perfectly safe activity, providing you follow the rules.
By 7:30am we were all outside having all of the details explained to us by Lalo. This guy has 10 years experience with the Great White Sharks and is an experienced videographer and rescue diver. Besides that, he's fluent in four languages. And, he has a sense of humor!
Boarding the boat.
There were 17 guests and 4 crew on our expedition. We thought it was funny that we all get on the boat before the boat is put in the water! The shoreline is quite rocky in this area, and they've got a really neat system using a tractor to back the boat into the launch area. Our skipper Phillip then expertly guides the boat out to open waters.
About twenty minutes out, we come to a stop. There, the guides explain how they will attract the sharks to the boat. They still didn't put the cage in the water because they don't know for sure that there are sharks in the area. These are wild animals, and we've learned from some previous whale watching excursions that wild animals don't always do as they're told!
Kevin, in his wetsuit!
There were a few seabirds flying around the boat. They were interesting to watch while we waited for the sharks!
Watching and waiting.
See the girl on the left lower? Yeah, the one with her head in her hands. This poor girl looked exactly like that for the entire trip! They warn you at the beginning that if you are at all worried about being seasick, you can buy the tablets for R10 ($1.05) and you have to take them before you start to feel ill.
I've never had an issue with that, so I didn't take any pills. I was fine. Ruth was a little concerned though, so she took them. And she was fine too. So a word of warning. Don't be like that girl on the far left. If you're not sure, take the pills!
Ruth with her wetsuit on. Where are the sharks?!
On the upper deck you get a nice view of the surrounding waters.
Our guide Lalo. We think he knows everything there is to know about sharks!
We sat at that one spot for about an hour. No sharks. Despite the ugly tuna head they had attached to a rope, and the "chum" that they throw into the sea to attract them. So they made a decision to go to a different area.
Heading out to a different spot. Another boat had a similar plan!
And at the new spot? Only a sea bird was attracted to our dead tuna head!
Our cage. It's strapped vertically to the back of the boat ready to be deployed when we see the sharks!
Again, we sat for an hour and saw nothing. Oh, we saw a seal. This is a good thing, because the seal is the sharks natural food source. Where there are seals, there will be sharks! But nothing. Our captain heard from one of the other boats in the area that the sharks were spotted back at our original position. So, off we went!
Our first sighting!
Can you see the dark spot int he water? He's just below the surface!
So, they got the cage in position, and our first group of six divers entered the water. (Ruth is the third from the left!)
Ruth, waving hello!
And, there he was! Attracted to the dead tuna head on the end of the rope. Well, and maybe by the six people in the cage who look strangely like seals!
We saw a total of nine different sharks over the next two hours or so!
This fellow came right up to Ruth's hands. Your hands and feet are actually on a bar that's inset from the exterior of the cage, so the shark can't bite you. Although Ruth said that the sharks nose was only inches from her fingers at one point!
Ruth, climbing out of the cage.
Ruth went in the cage twice, and I went in once. I much more enjoyed viewing and photographing the activity from the upper deck of the boat. It's not that I found it scary from the cage, but I don't like the cold water! Yes, we had wetsuits on, but the water temperature was around 15C (60F). Every time some water entered the westsuit, it felt like someone was sliding ice cubes onto my skin!
It was a fun trip. Even though the shark gods didn't cooperate for the first couple of hours, our crew were really good about doing everything they could to make sure we saw what we went out there to see! In fact, at about four and a half hours, we were one of the longest expeditions this season. They supplied a box of sandwiches and chips and cold drinks and water, as well as a hot lunch when we arrived back at their office. You're also welcome to use their facilities to have a hot shower and change into some clean clothes.
This fellow was pretty much full grown and almost 6 meters (18 feet) long. He ended up eating the tuna head off the end of the rope!
The White Shark Diving Company has been doing shark cage diving in South Africa for 15 years. They have an experienced crew, and a perfect safety record. We totally enjoyed our day out on the sea learning about these magnificent, though predatory creatures.