A Play by Play of Shark Cage Diving in South Africa

by Sandy Salle on February 4, 2014

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Post written by Hills of Africa Travel’s Marketing Director, Britt Urbach

Thinking of visiting South Africa? Well if you do, you MUST go shark cage diving! And for those of you saying “heck no!” you can watch the sharks from the comfort of the boat.

So what’s it like to go shark cage diving? I’m going to give you a play by play and show you just how amazing it really is. See below for what it’s like to go  swimming with one of the most fascinating creatures on earth:

If you’ve ever watched The Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, then you’ve seen the staff and marine biologists of Marine Dynamics, South Africa’s most acclaimed shark cage diving company. Well I had the pleasure of embarking on an exciting journey with the Marine Dynamics team one overcast October morning in  Kleinbaai, Western Cape.

We awoke at 7am at our accommodations, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, and hopped into our transfer vehicle for our 8am shark cage diving expedition. Upon arrival at Marine Dynamics’ headquarters we were treated to a tasty breakfast of eggs, cereal, muffins, tea, and coffee in a buffet-style arrangement. As we waited for the other guests to arrive we spoke with Allison, the marine biologist who would be joining us aboard Slashfin, the Marine Dynamics shark cage diving boat.

Before departing we watched a brief video that explained what we would be doing and introduced the Marine Dynamics team. After the video we were assigned our life vests and rain jackets and headed down to the boat, which was a nice three-minute walk from the headquarters. As soon as we were all aboard Slashfin, which can hold 40 passengers and 7 crew members, we departed the dock and headed out of the harbor. Along the way the captain stopped the boat and pointed out a Southern right whale, which was with her baby right off the port bow. What an exciting experience to already see one of the Big Marine 5 in just 10-minutes of being out on the water!

After we got some photographs of the whales we continued our journey for another five minutes before stopping at our shark cage diving spot. Our hearts were pounding and we were shaking with adrenaline–at least I was! Once the boat stopped we were each assigned our wetsuits and goggles (this is the only equipment that is used–there is no scuba or snorkeling gear used).

As the crew chummed the water with a nice stew of fish and who-knows-what-else, we suited up in our gear. As we waited for the sharks to arrive Allison came over to us with her water testing equipment and explained that she would be testing the water for oxygen levels and temperature and also to see if one of the female sharks she had tagged was in the area.

Guess what the water temperature was? 60-degrees Fahrenheit! It was a bit chilly to say the least . . .

It was one hour before the first shark was spotted, which was our queue to hop in the cage. My heart was pounding and I was definitely shaking a little bit–not sure if that was due to the cold weather or from pure adrenaline–maybe it was a combination of both. I was the first to hop in the cage, which is a long, narrow, steel cage. I moved to the end of the cage as the five other individuals in my party hopped in next to me. We were shaking, laughing, and maybe experiencing a hint of panic at the same time, but as soon as the mate said “shark on the left!” we all pulled ourselves under the water and watched as a 14-foot long great white shark gracefully swam past us. It was beautiful!

All of a sudden, I was no longer fearful (just absolutely freezing) and was watching this gorgeous animal as it delicately swam through the water, it’s tail brushing up against the cage every once in a while, giving our hearts a jolt! After approximately 20 minutes in the cage it was time to exit, but not before the crew threw in a seal decoy and a great white breached right out of the water! Wow that was cool!

After exiting the cage, we changed into warm clothes in the cabin and headed up to the top deck to see if we could get some great views of the sharks as the next group of passengers went into the cage. We sure saw some amazing sights for the next hour! There were also sandwiches, hot chocolate, and chips for us to snack on.

See below for a video of a shark breaching:

Once the last group of passengers exited the cage we were back off to the dock. Upon arrival at the headquarters we enjoyed soup and crackers and watched the video that the videographer took while on board Slashfin. It was great to see all the passengers having a blast and to see the sharks with so much energy as they burst from the water to snatch bait.

After the video we headed back to Grootbos and enjoyed an exciting cultural tour! But I’ll share that experience with you in another post . . .

Have questions about embarking on a shark cage diving expedition? Ask me in our comments section! 

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