Cage Diving with Great White Sharks in Gansbaai, South Africa

My favorite picture from my trip.  I probably took a thousand!

In honor of Shark Week, I thought it appropriate to go ahead and post my experience about Cage Diving with Great White Sharks in Gansbaai, South Africa!

My pick up time was 4:30am in the morning, but I wasn’t complaining.  I was ready.  We had a full mini-van to go to Gansbaai.  Our driver said we were picked up so early because there were protests the day before that caused them to be an hour late.  (I never did find out what the protests were for).

I was a little nervous, anxious, excited.  Most people in the van were youngish, like my age.  Everyone was really quiet for the ride out – mostly sleeping, staring out the window into the darkness – maybe they were secretly nervous, too.

We got to Gansbaai to the Great White Shark Tours Office, and everyone there was really nice.  They  had a breakfast buffet spread for us (nothing greasy to prevent sea sickness), and we had to pay and type our name into a computer (for the passenger list, I guess).  I paid in cash.  Then they went over the notes and safety for the day along with a video. We then went outside, and a lady showed us the Shark Cage Demo – where to place our hands and feet.  And then we were off after grabbing an orange spray jacket (supposedly one size fit all).  It was a short walk down to the boat – it looked like all the Shark Tour boats take off from the same spot.  I took a seat on the top deck, and three guys sat next to me that seemed to be really hung over.  Our seats flipped up so we could stow our belongings underneath to keep them dry.  There was no sea spray that high up, so I really didn’t need the jacket but kept it on anyway.  Brian, the Captain, had said that he only had our trip for the day so he was willing to stay out as long as he/we needed to until we saw a Great White, which I thought was cool.

Beautiful sunrise as we were departing the dock.

There were already about five boats on the water when we got out to the bay just after sunrise (it was a short 10-15 minute boat ride).  We parked further away from all of them.

The swells were really large, and our boat was moving around quite a bit.  Lots of people were getting sick.  The crew moved the boat around a little to try and steady it, which I think worked and gave me better viewing which I liked.  We waited about 1.5 hours with nothing.  I was getting warm, so I took off my red fleece, exposing my Quint’s Jaws shirt and that’s when we had the first sighting. You’re welcome, everyone!


It was amazing to see this shark come swimming up in real life!  My life!  Wild life!

First Great White we saw.

Happy (the bait thrower – that’s his name) would throw the bait out just until the shark would bite and then pull it back. They don’t feed the sharks, otherwise, this would teach the sharks bad habits.

This is Happy.
This is the bait – probably a tuna head.

The crew called for the first eight divers, but I wanted to gamble and not do the first dive – both for nerves and fear and whatever…excitement?

That’s one of our crew keeping an eye on “Gladys”, our decoy seal.  Not sure why it was called Gladys.  

I continued to just take pics and watch.  So amazing!  The first group didn’t stay in very long because the crew wanted to make sure everyone got a fair turn in the cage.  When they called for the second group, I shot down the stairs and raised my hand.  By this time, I think another shark had shown up.  Getting the wet suit on was probably the most humiliating thing I have ever done in a public setting.  I was probably given a size too small.  It was so uncomfortable and constricting that I thought I was going to be sick.  One of the crew had to literally help squeeze me into the damn suit like the opposite of squeezing toothpaste from a tube.  So humiliating.  Then I didn’t think I would be able to get it zipped up.  OMG.  But no one helped me with that.  So I managed/struggled on my own…in public.  OMG.  How uncomfortable.  They then put goggles on us and a weight belt.  It all happened so fast, like an assembly line of suiting up divers.

So flattering, I know.

The next thing I know, shark or no shark I’m shimmying or jumping down into this Shark Cage in the MIDDLE of the ocean with Great White Sharks all around me! WHAT?!  The water was not that cold, but I was semi-hyper ventilating inside.  I was on the edge of the cage.  Ugh.  Worst place.  The cage held eight people in a row, and I was on the end!  One of the sharks had just attacked that same corner when no one was in the cage!  Just my luck.

My view from the cage.  Now you understand why I was so panicked.

I was trying to figure out my iPhone in my new waterproof pouch (that I had not tested out beforehand) and decided I would just do video instead of photo (because I had not tested it out beforehand) when a Great White literally leapt at the bait right in front of us showing all of his massive rows of teeth…and I was not filming!  Biggest miss ever!!!!  OMG!!!  Now my heart is really beating, I’m slightly panicking, overwhelmed with everything, and not sure what to do!  Confused as to where to put my hands and my feet!  And then, “DOW, DOW, DOW!!!” Happy shouts (he was telling us to go “down” under water), so I hold my breath and in a panic go under frantically looking around for my greatest fear in the history of the world.  I see the grey body go by me and I’ve captured it on video!  I panic and pop back up for air.  My worst nightmare has just become a reality!!!!

Happy shouts again…”DOW, DOW, DOW!!!” And it all starts over…the panic, the breath holding, going under water, and the video.  This continues for quite a while.  Apparently we found out later that we had the largest shark they’ve ever seen go by our cage quite a few times!  About 3.5-4 meters!  My luck!  Also, our cage was the luckiest one, seeing the most sharks the most amounts of time and spending the most time in the water!  It seemed like such a blur.  Felt like maybe 15 mins or so?  Don’t know how long it really was.  Still have to really think about it to make sure it really happened.  So surreal.  And then it was done and we were asked to get out for the next group.  I was the last to get out, and of course, there is a Great White swimming just feet away from me where I’m about to climb out of the cage.  NO, this is not comforting!  I panic and hesitate.  Someone yells,  “It’s right there!” and I scream.  It was an Asian guy who was near me in the cage trying to scare me.  lol.  Happy assured me the shark would not get me and was not close, and they pulled me out of the water safely.  Wow!!  What a relief!  Safe!  Back to the top deck to safely photograph from a safe and non panicky distance!

I started taking so many pics.  I had my camera set to continuous shooting.  One girl commented that I would have a lot of pics to go through.  I told her I didn’t care.  Duh.  Dream come true.  Hello.

After everyone went through, there was another chance to do the dive and I could have spoken up and volunteered for a chance, but I decided not to.  I was so uncomfortable in the wet suit that I had already gotten out of it and dressed and felt so much better; plus I preferred taking photos of the sharks from up above.  Better views of them anyway.  Eventually, only one Great White was around, and it didn’t like the bait.  It seemed intimidated by it and would not bite at it or come near the cage, so the last group stayed in the cage for a very long time with hardly any action.

We all decided to call it a day when there was about a thirty minute lull with no sighting.  Everyone unanimously agreed, and we headed back in.  What a successful day.  Brian said that he had talked to some of the other boats in the area and we had seen more Great Whites than them.

When we got back to the shore, we had the short hike uphill back to Great White Shark Tours’ little office where they served us a lovely lunch.  I’m not sure what it was but it was like a pasta casserole and it was so good (I’m craving it now!).  We were able to take hot showers for free if needed, but I didn’t need to.  We got to watch the video, which I bought.  I also bought a t-shirt for 200 rand (not a bad price).  The video was 250.  Once we got everything, the van was ready to take us back to Cape Town.  It was a great day.  Dream come true! Bucket list checked!

The team at Great White Shark Tours said they think we had such good shark activity because of the impending Cape Town Storm that was supposed to be coming in the next day.  Supposedly, it brought in the good waters, which brought in the sharks.

Oh, and just so you and I and the whole world knows that it’s officially official that I, Kimby, went Cage Diving with Great White Sharks in South Africa, I have the official certificate to PROVE IT!  🙂

It’s Official!

I do want to say that I researched several shark tours through Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor, and online.  I emailed several of them to ask questions and did comparison notes as to what I wanted.  Ultimately, Great White Shark Tours won because they had the best rating and best comments from TripAdvisor and were highly ranked by Lonely Planet.  I’m so glad I went with them because in all of my communication with them they were so patient in answering all of my questions and so friendly in person.  I had heard about some of the Shark Tours being friendly until they got your money and then being rude and mean after you paid.  I also liked this company because you didn’t pay in advance, so I didn’t lose any money when they cancelled my shark trip the first time due to weather.

Note:  This is not a paid endorsement, and I am not being compensated in any way to write this post or review this company.

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