On a shark cage dive at the little village of Gansbaai the trip from Cape Town starts very early – 5.45 am to be exact as this is because the twin hulled boat cannot get out of the harbour on leap low tide. The drive from Cape Town takes two and a half hours, albeit along some of the most beautiful coastline in the world. Finally we enter the sleepy village of Gansbaai, except that it’s a hive of activity with about six shark cage diving companies based there and they all have tourists wanting to see the Great White.
Our base was originally a private residence but has now been turned into a very nice office cum restaurant and yes, we are served breakfast. On our tour there are twenty-seven passengers, some not eating that much breakfast! I think the idea of five hours in a boat on the Atlantic Ocean is getting to them. However the owner of the company Brian Mcfarlane who is also the skipper of the boat really tries to put everyone’s mind at ease.
It comes, as a relief when we see the size of the boat, equipped with toilets. At the moment the boat is sitting high and dry on the harbour runway. It is huge, the biggest in town Brian tells us. It is amazing to see the craft on a trailer being gently backed into the see by a very obviously skilled tractor driver. Bodies are scurrying about unhitching ropes and doing the many things needed to get a boat in the sea.
Just about everyone has taken a seasick pill offered to them by Brian’s very efficient staff and slowly they embark.
Ropes away, we head out to sea very slowly at first, there can’t be more than a metre of sea below our hull, and rocks around look very menacing. Finally we leave the harbour entrance and Brian opens the throttle allowing the three massive Yamaha outboards to burst into full song. We head out into the bay with the full force of the wind buffeting our bow. Have you ever ridden a rubber duck into the force of the Atlantic? I think Brian should have given us kidney belts as well!
Fifteen minutes of this, we are assured, and right enough just as we approach the area where the skipper thinks there should, called Shark Alley, be sharks we see a shadowy figure beneath the surface, our first Great White Shark. Not so big Brian assures us, we will see bigger! So sure is Brian of his knowledge of the sea and the sharks around here he confidently states that if we don’t see at least seven sharks he will refund all our tickets! Really!
The crew finally drop anchor and one stands on the stern of the boat, mixing what can only be described as a cocktail of dead fish and other gooddies, the smell, well at least the sharks seem to like it. Not to mention the hundreds of small mullet and seagulls that seem intent on getting an early breakfast. The crew unhitch the shark cage and gently lower it over the sides, it can hold seven poor mortals at a time. Word goes around that the first seven must assemble for a briefing, what ever you do not stick your hands and arms out of the cage – yeah right! Some of the less athletic members struggle to get into the wet suits, while the skinny ones are definitely going to feel the cold! The sea temperature is 12 degrees.
Finally the trusty seven clamber into the shark cage and Brian gets to work tossing a Tunney fish head out on a long rope. Another crew throws out what looks like a beaten up hot water bottle attached to a rope. To a shark it looks like a seal I am told. I am not entirely convinced. Eventually our first shark arrives, four and a half meters! |”Bite you in half” Brian explains. Keep your arms inside the cage I am reminded. It seem a little quiet and the divers are advised to sit on the edge of the cage so that they do not get too cold. “Down right” yells Brian to the divers as a shark passes beneath the cage. The groups change over a huge shark appears, one of the American ladies screeches out “Oh my God did you see that shark” and climbs gingerly out of the cage giggling from fright!!!
A light lunch is served on board and eventually everyone has had their turn below the surface of the sea. After five hours we raise the anchors and return to the harbour -unfortunately without see any whales.
Back at the base we are offered hot coffee chocolate and biscuits and invited to watch the video made of the trip. Passengers are offered DVDs of the whole event which is available only ten minutes after the first showing.
Without doubt a very slick organisation. I would like to thank Brian and his entire crew and the ladies for making this a memorable adventure. I hope to go again.
For further information see www.sharkcagediving.net