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Great White Shark Diving and Breaching Tours
Take a once-in-a-lifetime plunge and swim with the masters of the sea
Imagine you’re standing on the back of a boat. It’s dawn, and the ocean around you is waking up under orange-stained skies. All seems calm. Suddenly, with a force unmatched by any other creature in the sea, a great white shark leaps out of the water and sails across the sky, revealing the jaws of a killer and several rows of serrated, sharp triangular teeth, before disappearing with a loud, graceless splash back into the cool depths below.
This isn’t a scene carved straight from your nightmares, but rather another day at the office for the folks at White Shark Diving Co. The organisation specialises in shark breaching tours, excursions which feature the torpedo-shaped animals rocketing out of the water and into the air, and cage dives, adventures which give those brave enough to enter the territory of the largest predatory fish on earth the chance to catch a glimpse of these creatures up close and personal.
Based roughly two hours from Cape Town in Gansbaai, South Africa, the tour operator is the only one of its kind to offer both activities in one convenient package. Known as the shark capital of the world, the area is home to tens of thousands of seals that offer nutritious, fatty meals for the hungry carnivores, which means you’re practically guaranteed some quality face time with the endangered species.
Great White Breaching Tours in Shark Alley
To actually witness a shark breach is an extremely rare experience, but during the winter months in Shark Alley, a shallow strip of ocean between Dyer Island (8km from Gansbaai) and Geyser Rock, the awe-inspiring phenomenon can be observed time and again. In light of the roughly 60 000 Cape Fur Seals using the waterway as a breeding ground, Shark Alley is said to have the world’s largest year-round great white population. From May to September, in particular, little seal pups provide easy, accessible meals for the hungry fish, and the channel becomes a hub of feeding and fear.
Also, the water is warmer during the colder season, which makes the sharks more energetic and likely to swim closer to the surface. In short, these cooler months are the prime time to see the great whites leap out of the water. This act of catching air – the sharks prepare for a launch by travelling up to 40km/h under water – is a hunting technique to catch the seals unawares.
White Shark Diving Co. facilitates breaching by baiting the deep sea creatures with a harmless foam ‘seal’ attached to the back of the boat – the breaches often end up higher and more spectacular simply because the decoy weighs a lot less than an actual adult 80kg male seal (so you can imagine just how far out the water the sharks can sometimes jump).
The breaching tour boats leave Gansbaai at the crack of dawn, because this is when the sharks feed, and there’s just enough visibility for the hunters to mistake a foamy fake seal for the real thing. The decoy is pulled behind the boat for about an hour, during which time the people on board can expect to see some unbelievable examples of natural predation. Once the breaching is over, the crew prepares for the shark cage dive, which takes place close to Dyer Island.
Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai
In conjunction with breaching tours, White Shark Diving Co. offers enthusiasts looking for a nature-induced thrill a chance to encounter these lords of the deep in their natural habitat. A shark cage diving experience or a breaching and diving combo starts nice and early with a light breakfast and briefing at the Kleinbaai harbour before heading out onto the sea. Since Gansbaai is about two hours from Cape Town, the tour operator offers transportation to and from the harbour, or you can opt to drive yourself.
White Shark Diving Co. takes a maximum of 12 to 15 passengers on the boats to ensure a uniquely exclusive experience that affords those on board prime viewing spots and more individual time in the cage (if they are unable to embark on an outing due to weather conditions, tides or number of bookings, then enthusiasts will be notified and be told that a standard shark cage diving trip is an option). The cost of a trip includes diving equipment, wetsuits and towels, plus an extremely knowledgeable crew who do safety and fuel checks well before you embark. The boat spends about two and a half to three hours out at sea, and divers can enjoy refreshments and panoramic views on the viewing deck while they’re not in the cage. The exhilarating day ends back at the harbour with post-trip snacks, hot drinks and a viewing of the day’s bravado captured on DVD.
What if there are no sharks during the shark cage dive?
The Western Cape’s oceans are known to be temperamental and conditions have to be just right for a day of great white shark cage diving. Water temperature drops of as little as 10 degrees Celsius could mean absent sharks, as the animals swim deeper to keep warm. High swells and strong south-westerly winds are also no good because they make anchoring the cages difficult and unsafe. Though, most of the time, especially between the months of May and September, the sharks are present and accounted for and conditions are optimal. In the (highly unlikely) event that the sharks are away during your dive, White Shark Diving Co. will reimburse you with a voucher for another day’s excursion.
How Much Does Shark Diving Cost?
White Shark Diving Co. only offers breaching and diving combo tours from mid-May to mid-September, the remainder of the year, only shark cage diving experiences are offered. A combo trip costs R1 850p/p without transport or R2 200p/p for door-to-door return trips to Cape Town area. A shark cage diving trip without the breaching tour costs R1 450p/p and R950p/p for children aged 12 years or younger. If door-to-door transport is needed, an additional fee applies. The pick-up time for those requiring road transport will be confirmed the day before.
Because White Shark Diving Co. only takes a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 15 passengers per trip, the company may have to re-arrange dates for shark diving tours to be able to accommodate everyone, so do remember to keep a flexible schedule in case this happens.
White Shark Diving Co. is the only dive company in Gansbaai to be certified by Greenline, which is operated by the Heritage Environmental Management Co. This means that they adhere to the latest international and local tourism standards, and all of their activities aim to keep any harmful social, economic and environmental impacts to a minimum.
Each Shark Cage Diving Tour Includes:
- Optional transport to and from Gansbaai
- Light, pre-trip breakfast
- Safety briefing
- Boat ride to Shark Alley
- Diving equipment, wetsuit and towel
- On-board snacks and refreshments
- Watching sharks breaching
- Shark cage diving
- Post-trip lunch and hot drinks
- Optional DVD of the day for R350 per DVD
Remember to bring
- Waterproof sunscreen
- Swimming Costume
- Warm Jacket
Keen to learn more about what it feels like to be in the cage, just inches away from the jaws of a great white? Read about our experience shark cage diving with White Shark Diving Co.
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