Swimming with the sharks in Gansbaai

Posted by Nidha Narrandes on 17 April 2019

Great white shark cage diving is always going to be a controversial activity. The question of whether chumming the waters to attract sharks alters their behaviour and makes them more aggressive has not unequivocally been answered.

What we do know about great white sharks is that humans aren’t their preferred prey. In one year, there are about 5-10 shark attacks, which happen more out of curiosity than hunger.

Gansbaai in South Africa boasts the densest population of great white sharks in the world. It is also the only place you will be able to view these sharks and a few Southern Right Whales in the same vicinity.

Sharks are lured to the cage with blood and fish heads.

Tourists and marine environmentalists from around the world flock to Gansbaai to learn more about these fascinating animals, and come face-to-face with this endangered species.

Marine Dynamics Shark Tours is invested in understanding the dwindling great white population. With each adventure out to sea comes an education about the species, their environment and their conservation. Volunteers gather data and record the behaviour of the endangered sharks to better understand them.

I must admit, the experience was far less scary than I had built it up in my mind to be. The shark-dive site is a 15 minute boat ride from the harbour. After a short safety briefing, you are plunged into a cage attached to the boat in the icy-cold Atlantic Ocean. A mixture of water and fish guts are thrown into the water to attract the sharks to the cage. It doesn’t take too long before there are a few bronze whaler sharks and a great white surrounding the cage. Visibility is poor, so you have a better chance to watch the sharks circle from the boat above them than from the water below.

Visibility is better from the boat.

The sheer fascination of being within arm’s distance of these powerful beasts is intoxicating. They are beautiful up close and even though they swim by quickly, you can feel their presence linger on after. It is a surreal experience.

It boggles my mind why they are hunted and killed by humans; our relationship with nature is shocking to say the least. Throughout the experience you are educated about these rare animals, because knowledge is power.

I would like to believe that most leave with a greater understanding of why conservation is so important, a refresher lesson we all need every now and then.

Getting ready to go into the shark cage.

What you need to know:

1. If you suffer from motion sickness, make sure you medicate in advance. The smell of the chum, the sea and the rocking motion will affect you if you have not medicated in time.
2. You don’t need to bring your own towels, just sunscreen and a bathing suit. Wetsuits and underwater boots in your size are provided.
3. The experience takes between two to three hours of your time. Also factor in the travel time from Cape Town to Gansbaai when planning your trip.

4. Children are allowed, check with Marine Dynamics ahead of time how old they should be. Their level of maturity is important to consider for an activity of this calibre.

5. Take a Go-Pro or an underwater camera to capture the best shots, but if you don’t have any equipment Marine Dynamics have a film crew who put together a video of your excursion which you can purchase at the end of the tour.

Marine Dynamics
Contact: +27 (0) 799 309 694
Website: www.sharkwatchsa.com

 

Images: Nidha Narrandes

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