Luxury Safaris specialises in completely customisable, luxurious and authentic safari experiences in South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
As part of our luxury safari offering, we can also incorporate extreme adventure activities such as tandem paragliding, shark cage diving, abseiling off Table Mountain (one of the new seven natural wonders of the world!) and other thrilling (but maybe not as extreme) activities such as helicopter rides, surfing, horse riding, cycle tours and many more.
I received an invitation a few weeks ago to experience Shark Cage Diving first hand through the amazing conservation company based in the best shark diving area in the world, namely Marine Dynamics in Gansbaai.
The three hour journey (with a leisurely stop for a desperately needed caffeine kick in the form of Wimpy take-away coffee en-route) did nothing to calm my rising nerves about getting into a cage out in the open water while sharks swarm around me!
On arrival at the Great White House in Gansbaai my group and I was welcomed with a lovely breakfast which we enjoyed while watching the security brief video. During the briefing a few general statistics were provided and, to my absolute horror, more people pass away worldwide due to electrocutions from toasters (I’m not joking!) than fatal shark bites. Furthermore, sharks are mainly hunted for their fins, which are brutally hacked off, while the rest of the live animal is discarded back into the ocean, left to either be eaten by other fish, or drown as it cannot move to absorb oxygen-rich water through the gills.
In an article published in 2006 by Janet Raloff (https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/food-thought/new-estimates-shark-fin-trade), a very rough estimation of 73 million sharks are killed annually only for their fins, although some fin traders say that this estimation only makes up a third of the real numbers. Keeping this in mind and then learning that sharks take up to 20 years before they reproduce, and will only have 2 to 4 pups annually for about three years, doing the math makes it clear that these creatures are in serious trouble.
But despite knowing all of this, I was still shaking in my diving boots when told that I was up next to get into the cage, which is attached to the side of the specially built, one-of-a-kind shark cage diving boat called Slashfin. I had become quite seasick on the trip out of the harbour and was eager for the cold water, but wow, was it cold!! I had also never been diving before and was quite unprepared for the sensation of NOT being able to breathe through my nose!! So after a few panicky breaths I heard the call, “DOWN LEFT!” and down I went into the sudden cold stillness of the water, face to face with a 3.5meter Great White Shark.
Heart pounding, clinging to the bars as if it is my own sanity, and quite literally holding my breath, I watched the powerful creature elegantly pass by less than half a metre in front of my face, and I was mesmerised. Gone was the nausea, the cold and shivering, and all I could manage was a few air bubbles as I looked straight into one beady black eye and felt as if I am being weighed and measured, and have been found wanting.
For at least half an hour, this was the routine. A quick breath of air and a look at the decoys – one was a wooden shape of a seal floating on the surface while the other was a collection of large tuna heads tightly tied into a ball at the end of a long rope which was thrown out to attract the sharks – before diving under and staring awe-struck as the Great White’s circled us.
Till today I struggle to describe the Great White Sharks that I saw on that cold afternoon, simply because I am still in awe of the seamless blend of raw power, intense curiosity and menacing elegance that forms a small part of the real Great White Shark.
Understanding the fight for survival of the Great White Sharks, I would encourage every individual to grab the chance to see these beautiful animals and to assist in the fight against the practice of shark finning around the world by not supporting restaurants and entities that sell shark fin soup and other shark products. The general public grows tired of hearing this phrase, but that does not make it any less true: we have to actively work at safeguarding these animals for the generations to come, or sharks are going to be counted among the extinct sooner than we realise.
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