South Africa is definitely a destination for adventure lovers. After climbing the Lion's Head and the Table Mountain, enjoying safari in the Kruger Park and the bungee jump on the way to the Blyde River Canyon, there was one more thing we'd always wanted to do - shark cage diving. It sounds dangerous but anyway, we thought you have only one life and decided to go for it.
If, like us, before we did it, you'd wonder if the shark diving is like in those professional videos on youtube where the whole cage is submerged and the sharks are swimming all around you - the answer is no. In order not to be disillusioned, take a look at this post and I'll show you what it's really like.
Here's a video we recorded while shark diving:
Shark cage diving tour from Cape Town
Roaming around Cape Town, you can find multiple companies offering the trips (usually to the bay at Gansbaai) to do the shark diving. If you have more time, you can also combine them with one of the world's highest bungee jump from the Bloukrans Bridge.
We didn't have enough time for it, so we opted only for the shark diving tour. The prices and availability vary, so it's better if you book it in advance, although we managed to get it one day before.
Unfortunately, the shark cage diving is not too cheap - the whole experience lasted a bit more than 1.5 hours and it cost around 1100 ZAR (75 EUR/80 USD) - but the bus transfer from and back to Cape Town was included as well as lunch - which was of very poor quality.
Arriving at Gansbaai
The drive from Cape Town to Gansbaai took around 2 hours and the departure was arranged very early in the morning, before the sunrise.
After the arrival in Gansbaai, we were met by the tour organizers who explained in detail what exactly was going to happen and whether it was safe. There was also a possibility to rent underwater cameras with SD cards, however, it was quite overpriced so it's way better if you bring your own. All the necessary equipment, like wetsuits, snorkeling masks etc. were provided.
Shark diving experience
After the introduction, we boarded the boat that took us to the open sea for the shark diving experience. We were given the wetsuits and were instructed to change in the cabin.
You must be careful and change as quickly as possible, because, in this type of a boat, when it's rocked slowly by the waves, it's extremely easy to get sick. It had never happened to us before, but there, on the lower deck, we almost got sick (and many others did).
The cage was prepared and lowered into the water - it was hanging from the side of the boat - it wasn't loosely placed in the sea to float, like in some of the youtube videos. Then, around five people at a time entered the cage. You don't have too long to see the sharks, because you have to give way to the next group.
If you're traveling in winter - the temperature of water can be a challenge - we went there in fall (end of March) and it was extremely cold, even if we wore the swimsuits! But, overall, when you are lucky, and the first shark appears quickly, you forget about this inconvenience.
For the first 30 minutes or so the seas were quiet and seemingly deprived of life. We thought it was going to be just like the whale watching that we did in Iceland - for over 2 hours, we only saw a tail of one whale from afar.
But after we were waiting and waiting, it suddenly happened - the first shark emerged. It was a great sign to start "diving" and the first group entered the cage. Unfortunately, the water clarity was nowhere near as clear as it's shown in those professional videos, but overall, the experience was surreal - to feel the exact moment when the shark bangs against the metal frame was out of this world, especially when you know that these are real creatures living in the wild, not in the zoo or aqua-park.
After the first shark appeared, others (or maybe it was the same all over again) started coming continuously. Every few minutes, we could admire a shark jumping and biting off the bait hanging in the sea.
If you didn't have a chance to see the sharks too clearly underwater in the cage - go to the top deck - from there, the view is amazing - it's a great opportunity to take amazing photos. And it's better if you take them yourself - you can buy CDs with the photos and videos of the trip made by the crew, but the price is ridiculous. Maybe because it's difficult to enjoy the experience and take photos at the same time due to the very limited amount of time.
Is shark cage diving safe?
I would say definitely yes. If you saw the videos on youtube like: "shark diving went wrong", I must tell you, the shark diving you get from a tour company that deals with ordinary people is different - the cage is attached to the boat - so you don't even see sharks circling around - you can see them only for a split second when they appear to take the bait.
The crew also explained that the shark doesn't see a person as an individual object - it sees the whole boat, together with the people and cage as one. So you won't be the shark's prey for sure! And, you don't even have to know how to swim or dive - your head will always be above the water level, and you can use the snorkeling mask to see underwater.
Is it worth the price?
The whole experience was a bit different from what we had expected. The water wasn't too clear (but we can't change that - it's the weather), we saw the sharks only for a short moment when they came close and it was nothing like in the videos where professional divers are completely surrounded by the sharks. And to be honest, it shouldn't be even called "diving" - it has nothing to do with real diving!
But, all in all, the whole experience was unique and it was amazing to see those amazing creatures in the wild. If you're in South Africa, you should definitely do it! It's a once in a lifetime experience.
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