Cage diving with Great White Sharks was a bucket-list experience I had dreamt about doing for years. So when I visited South Africa it was one of the first items I added to my itinerary. After extensive research as to their credibility, safety and ethical standards – I chose Great White Shark Tours as my operator for the day.
Is cage diving with Great White Sharks safe?
Great White Shark Tours has a 20 year unblemished safety record. It is also one of only 8 licensed shark cage diving operators in South Africa. So definitely be aware of illegal companies who are not authorized to operate in the industry!
The cage is manufactured from 12mm galvanised floating steel and is attached to the boat at all times. At no point are you more than half a meter below the surface. Two highly skilled Dive Masters and a Level Three Medic supervise all dives. The boat also has two qualified skippers on board.
All in all – I felt completely safe during the experience. The information briefing and extensive safety precautions make you feel very confident while still getting spectacularly close to the Great White Sharks.
Is cage diving with Great White Sharks ethical?
As you may have read on the About page of Suitcase And I, ethical tourism is one of the three pillars that make up the Suitcase And I ethos. I read extensive commentary before choosing a company to cage dive with because the wellbeing of wildlife in animal tourism is extremely important to me.
Great White Shark Tours have signed a mandate that they do not at any stage feed the sharks. To attract the sharks they use a rubber fish cut out and a secret chum mixture refined over 30 years by operator owner Brian McFarlane. The boat holds a maximum of 30 participants which means minimal intrusion to the environment.
Cage diving with Great White Sharks plays a huge role in educating the public and protecting the species. Between movies such as Jaws and Open Water, sharks get a bit of a bad rep – so the educational component of this tour really facilitates awareness and an eagerness to protect.
What to expect on the day
As I was based in Cape Town I opted for the tour that included a transfer to Gansbaai. We were picked up at 5:00AM and arrived in Kleinbaai at 7:00AM. It’s an early morning but this ensures you don’t miss the prime viewing period. It also gives you a buffer if sea conditions get rough. Take your sea sickness tablets at least an hour before you arrive (more on this later).
A buffet breakfast was included upon arrival (there was a huge selection of continental options – no hot food though, to counter sea sickness!). After our safety briefing we boarded the Apex Predator. The boat launched from Kleinbaai and it took about 20 minutes to reach “Shark Alley”. Three sharks had surrounded our boat before the chum was even used! We got into our dry suits 8 persons at a time. For those still on the boat the viewing platform on level two was perfect for getting some great snaps of the sharks leaping out of the water.
The highlight of the day would have had to be during the second time I went in the cage. We could hear the skipper yelling for us to go under water to get a clear view of the shark that was approaching. Out of no where the shark rammed into the cage, centimetres from where I was holding on. To top it off – this was all caught on Go Pro. Including my goofy smiling/adrenaline rush post shark encounter freak out 😛 I will try and embed the video in this article but I will also post it on the Suitcase And I Instagram.
Things to remember
As a note, the waves in this region are really rough. I had never experienced sea sickness before but at one point had to lie down because I was so unwell. It did not effect my overall experience because I still had two rounds in the cage but it’s something to keep in mind. I would say sea sickness tablets are a must. I would also suggest bringing a hat and plenty of sunscreen (ample water and snacks are available at all times on the boat).
How to book with Great White Shark Tours
This was one of my most memorable days in South Africa. The staff and crew were extremely professional and it completely lived up to my expectations (check out the Suitcase And I Instagram for my extremely close encounters!). In terms of room for improvement – I think it would have been nice to have a little more educational information about the sharks provided on the boat, not just beforehand. I think they rely on people asking questions, which is fair – I just wasn’t really sure what to ask. So it would have been nice to have some of their favourite facts shared without prompting. Cage diving with Great White Sharks is something I would definitely do again and I can honestly say it gave me a renewed respect and admiration for these mighty creatures!
Any questions? Feel free to comment below.