Being in the water with the great white shark is a dream of many divers and snorkelers. The safest way to make this dream come through is to join a licensed tour with experienced operators who know what they are doing. But because shark encounters are getting rarer and therefore they are harder to find, these tours are quite expensive. Our simple question is: Is great white shark cage diving worth your money? We got to experience it first hand!
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Where to go?
There are several locations around the world where you can take a plunge with the great white. These are just a few:
Port Lincoln, South Australia
Guadalupe Island, Mexico
Bluff, New Zealand
Cape Town, South Africa
For this article we are going to focus on South Africa, because we’ve got some first-hand experience there. Also, this is the only place in the world where the great white makes it mighty leaps into the air. If you have a choice of where to go, we recommend that you go to False Bay, Cape Town. Seeing a 1800 pound shark leaping several feet in the air is a mighty sight, and something you won’t forget easily.
Like we said in the intro, cage diving can be a costly trip. The prices vary in high or low season. During high season, when there is much more white shark action around Cape Town, you’ll pay $259 a person for a morning trip. During the low season the same trip is only $185 a person. It’s important to know that low season also means low shark activity. You would be lucky to see one or two sharks during your trip. Our suggestion is to always check Ocearch for shark activity in the region before you plan a trip to any location, since shark activity can be seasonal. Also always go on a morning trip because this is the time of day where sharks are most active and usually hunt.
Your day starts early, since the normal departure time is around 7:00 AM. On the boat we got a safety briefing, and off we went. In the early morning the first stop is Seal Island which is around 45 min out and, as the name suggests, there are a lot of seals. The unique thing about False Bay is that the seals go from Seal Island to the mainland every morning, crossing a large and deep stretch of ocean.
This is where the sharks come in. When the seals start their crossing they use the power of numbers and do it all together so that they have a better chance of survival. The sharks gather in the stretch between the island and the mainland, where the ocean is at it’s deepest, and wait until they can make out the silhouette of a seal on the surface. When they do, they race to the surface in speeds excess of 21 mph and hit the seal with a force equal to 5-G.
Depending on the light conditions the seal may see the shark coming and get out of it’s way. Therefore only 50 percent of the attacks are successful. As the morning gets brighter the attacks fade away and the sharks stop hunting.
Frits the decoy
Because the attacks happen so fast it is easy to miss them and therefore many operators in False Bay use a decoy. This decoy is towed behind the boat and triggers an attack even as the morning progresses and the natural hunt has ceased. So the chances are high you’r gonna see a big white shark leaping no matter what.
Fun fact: when they reel in the decoy they tend to do it as fast as possible so no attack is triggered near the boat.
Getting in the Cage
When the morning has come and all the darkness of the night is gone, it’s time to get the cage in the water. Sharks are drawn to the boat using a mixture of fish blood and chopped tuna. Also, a big chunk of tuna is put in the water on a rope to pull it away before the shark gets it. Feeding the sharks is prohibited because this will upset their natural hunting instinct and they would eventually become reliant on the food they get from humans.
Normally a shark cage is quite big and can hold up to five people. Most work on diving while holding your breath and lay near the surface. In more exotic places like Guadalupe they do lower the cage and use scuba equipment. Normally it won’t take long before a shark comes to visit and you can get up close and personal with it. Try to stay as silent as possible in the cage to prevent upsetting the shark. When you make too much noise they tend to leave. Just enjoy the site of the greatest predator in the ocean right in front of you.
So is Great White Shark Cage Diving Worth It?
Yes! Absolutely yes! For me this was one of the greatest water-related activities ever. Seeing this mighty beast leap several feet in the air was amazing. Getting in the cage afterwards and actually seeing how big this animal is put it even more in perspective. Yes, it is expensive, but if you have the chance, go for it!