Gansbaai, South Africa, Africa
White Shark Guest House
We woke up this morning at 5:50am for shark cage diving, and couldn’t have been more excited! We got dressed, went right across the street to Great White House and had a little bite to eat before we got an introductory chat with the resident marine biologist. There were about 30 of us who were going out in the boat, and it was quite a mixture of people. We got into a few vans and headed down to the harbour. We got our life vests, and waterproof jackets and took a seat on the top deck.
As we started heading out of the harbour we saw some seals chilling in the water and they actually waved goodbye to us as we left. I wasn’t sure if it was a “have fun” kind of wave, or a “hope you enjoyed your life” kind of wave, but either way it was nice. We cruised for about 15 minutes out into the bay and stopped by a buoy. The company, Marine Dynamics, came out about two hours ago and dropped the shark cage to the bottom of the bay with some shark food in it to attract them. When we arrived they just had to pull the cage up and attach it to the side of the boat and we were ready to go.
The setup wasn’t quite what I had expected, but it was still excellent. I had pictured a two person cage, floating out in the water, with scuba tanks so we could chill under water. It was none of those things. It was an eight person cage, fixed to the side of the boat, and we had no scuba gear. We had wetsuits of course (the water was only about 7 degrees Celsius), and goggles, but that was it. The cage had three bars inside, one at head level, one at waist level, and one at ankle level. You would hang out in the cage with your head out of water until the baiters on the ship would tell you “down left”, and then you would use the bars to pull yourself under water and hold your breath to see the shark that was under the water to the left.
At first I didn’t think this was a good system because I wanted to be under water all the time, but it turned out to be an excellent system. The baiters could see what was happening under water a lot better than we could from on the boat, so if our heads were under water the whole time, we couldn’t have heard them telling us where the sharks were, and we probably would have missed something.
We stayed on the boat and watched the first three groups go into the cage, and since eight people were going at once, they were able to stay in the cages for much longer than I thought. Each group got about 40 minutes in the cage, so we were all able to see some sharks. For the first couple of hours that we were on the boat watching the other groups go, we got to see loads of great white sharks, and some short tailed rays. The rays were massive, and seemed really interesting in the fake outline of a seal, and not at all interested in the actual bait that was put out.
We got our shot to go in the last group, and I asked if I could go in last so I could be at the end of the cage. I figured that way I could see straight forward and out the side. It was a good option as I think I got a better view than the people in the middle. We got in the cage, and immediately saw a couple of sharks come by. It was a bit difficult to push yourself under water because the wetsuit is very buoyant, so using the GoPro camera at the same time was even harder. It was still an amazing experience where we got to see a few different sharks come and go, with one of them freaking out trying to get the bait.
The bad thing about being in the last group was that we didn’t get the same perks that the other groups had gotten. They were all greeted with a hot chocolate as soon as they came out of the water, we weren’t. We also weren’t given any time to change into our dry clothes before they started cruising back to shore, so trying to take off a wetsuit and get completely dressed on the top of a moving boat wasn’t much fun.
We got back to Gansbaai and went straight to Great White House where we got a hot bowl of soup and watched the video that they had taken during the day. It wasn’t edited or anything, but I did get a link where they’re going to post the video in the next few days so I can download it at home. Maybe it will be a bit different when I see it later.
We got a tip from Renee to go to Hermanus for the day as it’s a nice little town where we might see some whales off the coast. We had a less than stellar lunch at Lemon Butta, which had also been recommended, but we had a great view of the ocean as we ate. We walked through the markets in the town and then took a walk from the old harbour to the new harbour on a beautiful little path along the coast. They have a man who watches out for whales all day and if he sees on he blows his horn so the tourists know to look out for them. We were listening for the horn all day but never heard it. It was disappointing not to see a whale, but we still had a great afternoon in Hermanus.
We drove back toward Gansbaai and decided to stop at De Kelders again even though the sunset wasn’t nearly as nice as last night’s. We were so lucky that we stopped, because as soon as we got out of the car a couple ran by us looking very excited. We followed them down to the rocks, and sure enough, there was a mother and calf right off shore. The most surprising thing to me was that they were only about 20 feet offshore. There must be a huge cliff right past the rocks, because I couldn’t believe just how close they were to the shore. They weren’t doing much, but they were bobbing up and down and every once in a while open their mouth to say hi.
It was a very nice way to end our day. After seeing so many sharks and rays in a more chaotic experience, seeing some giant whales so close and peacefully was a perfect way to end the day. We headed back to the guesthouse, grabbed dinner at Great White House and then came back to pack up. Tomorrow we are heading over to Stellenbosch to try some nice wines, and relax for a couple of nights.