Diving with Death
of yesteryear • Adventure Sport • Africa: The Good News • Book Reviews •
Share the ocean with a Great White
On your visit to Cape Town after your hunt, skip the wine tasting and get an adrenaline overdose.
The White Shark Diving Company was born out of a once small fishing village of Kleinbaai, which is a part of Gansbaai on Africa’s eastern coast and 2 hours from the city lights of South Africa’s mother city, Cape Town.
It is the experience of the staff that has ensured the WSDC team have remained as the industry leaders since the company’s inception 11 years ago. WSDC has by far the most experienced crew amongst shark diving operators. The skipper Ronnie has 14 years experience in these waters, and the DiveMaster Coenie (coined the Steve Erwin of the Shark diving world), has 11 years experience of handling Great Whites.
This all co-ordinated by the “Mayoress” of the Shark Diving fraternity Mariaan, who is the Operations Manageress in Kleinbaai.
The starts with either a transfer from Cape Town to Kleinbaai, or an over night stay at The Whale and Shark lodge, Here you will be greeted by our lodge manageress, Vuje, and her assistant Cloe for a leisurely buffet breakfast.
This is followed by briefing on the day of the dive from the site guide, translator (four languages), and videographer Lalo Saidy. Lalo has 5 years experience of filming Great Whites, along with his rescue diver qualification and is an integral part of the team while out at sea. He creates DVDs of every shark trip and you will have an opportunity after your dive to get a copy of your very own personal shark encounter on film.
A short stroll down to Kleinbaai harbour, and you will board the ‘White Shark’ which is a 34ft Dive Cat deep-sea cabin cruiser, to experience Africa’s wildest dream. Hold on, you tell yourself: you will survive this.
The trip out to sea takes about 20 minutes, where they anchor and start chumming (an approved method of attracting sharks).
The White shark diving company adheres to strict environmentally correct chumming practices, and, according to legislation, only uses sea based fish (normally tuna) which is gutted before use. It is the oil of the fish that is used to attract these magnificent creatures.
The great white is regarded as an apex predator with its only real threats from humans. They are very curious animals and can display a high degree of intelligence and personality when conditions permit.
The terror of the seas arrives and your heart misses a beat. The Great White Shark, (Carcharodon carcharias) lives in almost all coastal and offshore waters which have a water temperature of between 12 and 24° C (54° to 75°F). They reach lengths of more than 6m (20 ft) and weigh up to 2,250kg (5,000 lb).
When you are told that the great white shark is the world’s largest known predatory fish, you nod and clench your buttocks.
The Great White Shark is a surface feeder and most of the activity takes place on or very close to the surface. It is one of only a few sharks known to regularly lift its head above the sea surface to gaze at other objects such as prey; this is known as “spy-hopping”. This occurs fairly frequently during a diving trip, especially in our winter months (April- October) when there is a higher concentration of sharks and increased activity of Great Whites.
While very little is known about the Great White biology with regards to mating, gestation periods, etc.
Marine Biologists in South Africa have tracked a Great White swimming from Gansbaai to the northwestern coast of Australia and back - a round trip of 20,000 km (12,000 miles) in under 9 months!
Once the sharks arrive, the crew gives you an honorable option and they politely ask if you want to do surface viewing from the boat (because by now they know you are petrified) or they invite you don your wetsuit and do a cage dive. This is your opportunity to see the Great White up close and personal while the woosies view these magnificent creatures from the safety of the upper deck.
The theme from Jaws start playing in your head and you quickly try to remember if your life insurance covers being eaten by a Great White as a reluctant hors de ovre.
Diving time is unlimited, you hear them say. Yeah right, you think. I’m going to be in and out of there so quickly that my suit won’t even get wet.
Now the fragile-looking five-man cage floats partially above and below the water surface. This is it!
Heart pounding and adrenalin pumping, your knuckles turn white as you clutch the inside ring and wait for the shark to approach even closer.
“Now!” You pray and jump into the cage. As the cold water closes over you hyperventilate through the hooker system and franticly try to locate the shark. Death seems very near.
For a heart-stopping moment your eyes meet. The shark is close. Huge. Menacing. Terrifying.
And yet – strangely beautiful. Quite suddenly, fear is dwarfed by wonder as two superpredators meet face to face. The superb design and effortless grace of the Great White hold you spellbound as time flies by unnoticed.
You feel fully alive – and truly disappointed when you have to go back to the normal world.
Wrong. Shark cage diving is a fast-growing adventure sport and is completely safe - and think about what great stories you can tell your grandchildren one day!
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