By Jo Finzi
If you hurry, you’ll just be in time for tea. The Great White Shark season in South Africa’s Cape will be over in October, but until then, there’s a chance to stare into the mouth of danger.
The Great White is one of nature’s most notorious and feared predators. Reaching up to six-and-a-half metres in length, the shark is an awesome sight. To experience the adrenalin rush that happens when you come face-to-face with this magnificent creature, head for Gansbaai in the Cape and go diving with these underwater giants.
If you head down the eastern coast for about 180km from Cape Town, dive charters virtually guarantee sightings of the sharks on every expedition. Five kilometres out to sea, there’s a narrow channel between Geyser rock and Dyer Island. This is home to almost 60,000 tasty Cape Fur Seals, and therefore a natural feeding ground for the Great Whites.
It all sounds like the experience of a lifetime, but the way these dives are run has caused some contention within the diving community. The dive charters “chum” the water around the boats with a mixture of sardines and fish oil in order to draw the sharks as close as possible. A large piece of bait is then dangled just above the surface, holding the shark’s attention for as long as possible, so the divers have a great view of the world’s most frightening creature from the safety of a cage.
This makes the sharks mega-excited and the divers get their Jaws experience - but it’s not the creature’s natural state and there’s a worry about the effect on their long-term behaviour patterns. It’s a fact that number of shark attacks in the Cape has gone up since the initiation of these cage dives, which may be due to the sharks linking man to food. There’s a rumour that the sharks have become so used to being fed from the boats they are beginning to hang around even before the water is chummed.
But there’s no doubt that the Great Whites are amazing hunting machines - incredibly graceful and beautiful in their own right. Being in the water with one, with just a cage as protection is probably as close an encounter as anyone would want.
For more about the shark dives, follow this link.