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How to Go Great White Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai, South Africa

How to Go Great White Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai, South Africa

If you are heading to South Africa and want to try cage diving with sharks, this post provides the necessary information. Find out which cage diving company offers an ethical dive and read about my first-hand experience meeting a Great White Shark.

Shark cage diving is often branded an unethical activity, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Visitors to South Africa can experience this animal encounter under the guidance of professional marine biologists who’s main priorities are to observe, educate, and protect these magnificent animals.

Animal conservation groups have recognised great white shark cage diving in South Africa as a vital conservation tool. The shark is a highly threatened species, and allowing biologists, scientists, and the general public a chance to get close to the sharks means increased observation of their well-being and behavioural patterns.

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How to pick the right Gansbaai shark diving trip

On my trip to South Africa, I carefully researched which company I would use for my family’s Great White Shark Cage Diving experience.

I wanted to make sure that the diving company’s priorities were the welfare of the shark (it was), that we would be given plenty of information on sharks before our dive (we were), and that part of my booking fee would be ploughed back into shark research (it was).

Once satisfied that those criteria were met, I was happy to book on to shark cage dive with Marine Dynamics South Africa’s only 5-star shark cage diving operator, and play a small part in the fight to protect these mighty creatures of the ocean.

My Incredible Shark Cage Diving Experience

We had been in South Africa for two weeks and had experienced several other ethical animal interactions.

From an incredible lion encounter at Shamwari Game Reserve to sleeping and walking with elephants at Knysna Elephant Sanctuary and not forgetting the bird and monkey sanctuaries we visited on our 2-week Garden Route road trip. However, we had no underwater experiences in South Africa until now!

With adrenaline pumping and excitement at an all-time high, we set off from our accommodation for the 15-minute drive to Van Dyks Bay in Gansbaai, the best place in the world to see a great white shark.

In South Africa, cage diving with sharks is only done in three areas: Gans Bay (Gansbaai), False Bay, and Mossel Bay. These areas have colonies of Cape fur seals, a preferred prey of white sharks.

Our first stop was at the Great White House, where we were given lunch, an educational talk about sharks, and instructions on what not to do; no fingers to be wiggled outside the cage for obvious reasons! After the talk, we were given our wetsuits, weights, and goggles and headed out.

Heading out to Shark Alley

Onboard the boat, a 20-minute ride took us to “Shark Alley” near Dyer Island. This area is home to Cape fur seals and smells fishier than you could ever imagine!

The anchor was laid, and we were invited to climb into our shark cage viewing platform, which is attached to the side of the boat and immersed halfway into the water.

Your head always remains above the water, and you decide when to hold a breath and submerge yourself to look at the sharks.

The cage accommodates 6-8 people; once inside the structure, it was a waiting game.

No guarantees are given that you will have a shark sighting; these are wild animals and do not perform on demand.

Chum, a mixture of fish, blood and bone, is thrown into the sea to attract any sharks that happen to be in the area, and the boat stays out for 2-hours to give all passengers a turn in the cage.

Angie’s Top Tip: Take sickness tablets before you embark – the choppy water and smell of the chum mixture can make you nauseous.

To say the South African Sea is cold is an understatement. It was freezing even with a wetsuit on.

After 40 minutes of ducking my head under the water to see if any sharks were heading my way, I was cold, had a headache, and, to be brutally honest, was bored.

I told my two boys to leave the cage and head onto the deck to dry off.

They were disappointed but didn’t put up too much of an argument to stay in the water – it wouldn’t be our lucky day. My husband, never one to give up easily, decided he would stay for a bit longer.

Our Sighting of a Great White Shark

Up on deck, we swayed about, trying to release ourselves from the hold of the rubbery wetsuits. Believe me, it was like a workout itself. Just as we had wrapped towels around our shaking bodies, the deckhand shouted out, “GREAT WHITE”!

Shark fin on display in the water.

This was the bucket list moment we had come here for, and I could see the mammoth predator circling beneath the water’s surface.

The chum was being whipped into a bloody mess, and my dear hubby was underwater trying to catch the event on his Go-Pro camera and video.

Great white shark turning to swim away.

The boys looked at me and looked at the deckhand and pleaded to get back into the cage.

The deckhand said they needed to be quick, so with no time to try and wriggle back into their skintight wetsuits, they plunged into the cage to catch an underwater glimpse of the great white shark.

The sight of two young boys immersing themselves in that freezing water brought a few gasps from other guests. I called out, “Don’t worry, we’re British”, a nod to the stiff upper lip and hardiness that the Brits seem to possess. This brought laughter from guests of all nationalities.

Smile Please!

With the great white shark thrashing around by the cage, the deckhand told me to get ready with the underwater waterproof camera as it would rear out of the water before diving back underneath. And then, just as he promised, in a split second, the shark’s nose and mouth, full of razor-sharp teeth, appeared almost smiling, ready for me to capture its presence!

Great white shark head coming out of the water with teeth on display.

And then, as quickly as this incredible animal had appeared, it suddenly turned and was gone.

It was a fantastic encounter with a great white shark that I will always treasure. As for my husband (who was so pleased he had captured images on his camera) and my boys (complete with purple lips from the cold water), well, thankfully, they all survived to tell the tale.

Where Have All the Great White Sharks Gone?

Sadly, since my encounter with a Great White Shark, the number of sightings in Southern Africa has become almost zero. Marine biologists believe it could be caused by smaller sharks and fish (60% of a great whites diet) being eliminated by overfishing.

Another suggestion is that killer whales (orcas) are coming inland, hunting great whites, and decreasing their numbers. Whatever the reason, I am thankful that my family and I got the chance to participate in shark cage diving, a truly magical and exhilarating bucket list experience.

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If you are interested in diving with sharks, read How to Scuba Dive with Bull Sharks in Mexico.

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