Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai

I nearly forgot we did this.

A few weeks ago I set up an account on a travel website and it asked me to list some things I have done during my travels. My list started with ‘visited Petra, snorkelled with Whale Sharks, slept under the stars in the Israeli desert’ and then I remembered…Man, I’ve done shark cage diving! 

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And that was one of the moments that eventually made me start this blog. Because our lives move at a million miles and then in the midst of this speed you forget these things that you experienced off a South African coast somewhere.

Well, I basically I just always said ‘No.’ to Shark Cage diving. No with a definitive full stop. And when my husband asked me why I mumbled something about sharks and chumming and research. But I was mainly just TERRIFIED. The thought of seeing that mass of muscle and terror coming at me from a distance, or of not seeing it due to murky waters and then ALL OF A SUDDEN see it, knocking at the cage, intelligent-as-shit like those sharks in that terrible movie with Samuel L. Jackson.

So of course ‘No.’ was my answer when my husband said he and his co-worker who was visiting from Poland were gonna go and do I want to go with. But then a few days later one of my friends posted something on Facebook that made me reconsider. And, yes, i did go back a whole year on his profile to find it, and it was this:

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And something in me was just like…Yes, ok, I will. I am scared of Great White sharks and I am mostly scared to be in the water within one hundred thousand kilometres of them. So. This week I will go shark cage diving.

Fast forward a few days to the three of us nervously shuffling into a little boat to go brave the beast. By then, the terrifying myth of me and my husband alone in a cage suspended in the open ocean had been kindly shattered by the the briefing at the Shark Lady HQ (the company we went with). The cage happened to hold five people, and you could keep your head above the water the whole time, AND your back was up against the boat. So no sneaky sharks from behind, so that was good.

The boat went past some island, then stopped – the chum was about to be thrown in the water. Here I was awaiting the shark guys to tip buckets of thick dark blood into the ocean, after which I soon realised how stupid I was for thinking so. Turns out the chum is just fishy water, like a fish broth.

We waited and waited, and waited and waited – which is absolutely 100% the most terrifying part – and then, in the distance, a big dark shadow approached. Seeing the thing in the water was absolutely amazing. The sheer size of it, the way it gracefully glides in the water, knowing that this creature is at the top of the ocean food chain – it was just so humbling. The shark people (as they are known to me) proceeded to lure it in with a big hunk of frozen fish on a rope, and the first group of ‘divers’ went down. By then I was just excited, I couldnt wait to go in there and see it up close. My excitement increased when everyone climbed out of the cage alive.

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Probably the scariest part of it all is getting your body into the ice cold waters of the Indian Ocean. We were all lined up, Shark in the near distance, with the shark people ready to throw that frozen fish head, and as soon as they did, I pushed my head underneath the water. Immediately my ears and psyche was filled with that deep breathing, ancient, pulsing sound of the ocean, and my eyes were peeled for Shark, who was coming from the left, we were told (the water was really murky). I saw it passed in a fleeting moment, barely making out the white if its belly, and its gills on the side. As soon as the moment passed everyone surfaced with ‘did you see that?!’ and ‘Man!!’ or ‘I didn’t see!!’. We went down like this a few more times during the next hour or so.

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The experience was – well, it’s hard to describe. Terrifying, yes, for a few moments. But also thrilling, awe-inspiring, completely captivating. I often think back on my first time snorkelling (in Lake Malawi in 2010), my eyes widening at all of the brightly coloured fish I saw, and I pen down that moment as the moment I realised that there is this whole part of creation underneath the water that is unknown, and unexplored to me. And every time I do or see something to complete, even in the most minuscule way, the grand picture of creation, I am completely thrilled.  Seeing these large, strong, ferocious fish manoeuvre through the waters, their natural habitat, was a moment like this. I am just happy that I am living in a time in which seeing a Great White Shark in its habitat is still possible, and that I was able to do so. I am much more hesitant to answer with a definitive ‘No.’ to things now.

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Scary? Yes.

Worth the money, time, drive, nerves? Absolutely.

 

Before and After shot :)

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2 thoughts on “Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai

  1. Great read, Annchen!

    I was pretty skeptical ( scared, that is ), when Joel first came up with the idea ( I rather enjoy all of my body parts and who knows, maybe Great Whites enjoy a Polish snack from time to time ), but this turned out to be a fun and memorable experience.

    Thanks Shark Lady!

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