Get into the summer groove with a cool new weekend must-do
White Shark Diving Company’s Shark Breaching and Diving Combo Trip
Witness a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle – a great white shark breach – with shark cage diving experts WSDC in Gansbaai
Imagine you’re standing on the back of a 12-metre long sea-cabin cruiser catamaran titled White Shark. It’s dawn, and the ocean around you is slowly waking up under orange-stained skies. All seems calm. The sea is still, almost glass-like, beneath the hull of the vessel. Then, all of sudden, 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 predator and several rows of serrated, sharp triangular teeth, before crashing back in the water creating a frenzy of spray.
No, this isn’t a scene from a Hollywood blockbuster or National Geographic documentary, but rather another day at the office for the folks at White Shark Diving Company (WSDC). The Gansbaai-based organisation specialises in shark breaching excursions, which feature these phenomenal predators torpedoing out of the water and into the air, as well as shark cage diving adventures, which give those brave enough to enter the territory of one of the largest predatory fish on earth the chance to catch a glimpse of these creatures up close and personal in their natural habitat.
Based roughly two hours from Cape Town in the little coastal fishing village of Gansbaai, the shark cage diving operator is the only one of its kind to offer both activities in one convenient package. Known as the ‘great white shark capital of the world’, the Gansbaai area is home to tens of thousands of Cape Fur Seals that offer nutritious, fatty meals for the hungry marine carnivores – this means you’re practically guaranteed some quality face time with the endangered species!
Great White Breaching Tours in Shark Alley
To actually witness a great white shark breach is an extremely rare experience, but during the Cape’s winter months (June to August) the awe-inspiring phenomenon can be observed time and time again. The breaching excursions take place in a shallow strip of ocean between Dyer Island (a roughly 15-minute boat ride from the mainland) and neighbouring Geyser Rock – owing to the frequency of great white sharks in the channel, this body of water has been fittingly dubbed ‘Shark Alley’.
What’s more, in light of the roughly 50 – 60 000 seals – the white shark’s favourite food and primary source of nutrition – that use this waterway as a breeding ground, Shark Alley is said to have the world’s largest year-round great white shark population. From May to September, in particular, little seal pups provide easy, accessible meals for the hungry predators, and the channel becomes a hub of feeding activity.
Owing to the fact that the ocean is warmer during the colder winter season, sharks tend to be more prone to swimming closer to the surface. In short, these cooler months are the prime time to see the great white sharks leap out of the water. This act is a hunting technique used to catch the seals unawares – by swimming close to the surface, the sharks can reach speeds of up to 65 kilometres per hour and propel themselves three metres into the air, an incredible feat for a creature that weights between 600 and 1 100 kilograms.
WSDC facilitates breaching by enticing the sharks with a harmless foam ‘seal’ decoy attached to a rope and dragged behind 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. Considering the energy required to execute the seal-ambush technique, it’s not surprising that shark breaches are a fairly rare occurrence and are generally only seen at particular times of the day and under certain conditions.
The breaching tour boats leave Gansbaai at the crack of dawn as this is when the sharks feed and there’s just enough visibility for the hunters to mistake a foamy fake seal for the real deal. 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 the group for the shark cage dive, which takes place close to Dyer Island.
Shark Cage Diving in Dyer Island
In conjunction with breaching tours, WSDC offers shark-enthusiasts looking for a nature-induced thrill the chance to encounter the kings of the deep in their natural habitat in the form of shark cage diving. Offering the breaching and diving combo trip as well as an individual diving tour (not to mention, a viewing-only excursion for those who do not dare to venture into the water), passengers are truly spoilt for choice and will no doubt return to shore feeling wholly sharkily satisfied.
Limited to a maximum of 22 passengers – WSDC strives to provide as much shark cage viewing time as possible as well as a more personalised and exclusive experience for passengers – guests take consecutive turns in the eight-man floating cage. The tour includes a light breakfast on arrival as well as an extremely knowledgeable crew who do safety and fuel checks well before you embark. On-board – the boat spends about two and a half hours out at sea – divers are equipped with all the necessary diving attire for the cage dive and can enjoy light refreshments as well as panoramic views from the viewing deck. 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.
Social Responsibility and Conservations
WSDC is the only dive company in Gansbaai to be certified by Greenline Responsible Tourism, which is operated by the Heritage Environmental Management Company. 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.
What’s more, the Gansbaai-based experts are also fully committed to the preservation of great white sharks and the marine environment as a whole. This belief and dedication to the marine life form is truly reflected through the various conservation and social responsibility initiatives the company is involved in as well as through its volunteer programme.
INFO AND PRICING FOR WHITE SHARK DIVING COMPANY BREACHING AND DIVING COMBO TRIP
The Shark Breaching and Diving Combo Trips are offered during the Cape’s winter months from June to August only. Each breaching and diving trip roughly runs for approximately four and a half hours where a maximum of 12 and a minimum of six passengers can partake. Price per passenger is R1 950.
Return transport from Cape Town or close surrounds to Gansbaai can be arranged at an additional cost of R400 (travel time from the Mother City to Gansbaai is roughly two and a half hours). Times will be confirmed on the day prior to your trip as exact times vary due to seasons, tides, sea and weather conditions as well as the number of daily trips and shark activity.
NOTE: If WSDC can’t confirm the breaching component of the trip owing to weather, sea or operational circumstances, the reputable shark cage diving company will give guests the option to convert their trip to a standard shark cage diving tour.
*If no sharks are spotted on your trip, WSDC will provide you and your party with a voucher for another trip.
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. as well as more about its Volunteer Programme.
Use our events section for an up-to-date overview of happenings in Cape Town. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter and if you have a smartphone, add m.capetownmagazine.com to your home screen for quick access on the go!
Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, join our Google+ circle, connect with us on LinkedIn, check out our photos on Instagram and follow our Pinterest boards for updates on what’s happening in and around the Mother City.