Minister of Tourism in the shark pit – Derek Hanekom goes cage diving

2015-12-18 13:00 - Louzel Lombard
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Cape Town – It’s not only the ministers of finances who have been thrown overboard this December…

SA’s Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom took a plunge into the icy blue ocean on Thursday, 17 December, into a literal shark pit off Gansbaai.

The Minister and his wife Patricia, hosted by Marine Dynamics on their iconic custom-built shark cage dive vessel, Slashfin, were taken to dive with the Great White Sharks of the world-renowned Shark Alley around Dyer Island.

Traveller24 joined the excursion, and found the Minister to be a real "bok vir sport".

For a man of the cabinet Derek Hanekom has no formalities about him. His casual spirit is reflected in his adventurous attitude. You can never be “too old to do adventure tourism," he says before we're steered out of the puny Kleinbaai harbour on Slashfin

Once the speedy drive to the shark hotspot is completed, and everyone is geared for the dive, Hanekom wobbles around on the boat in his wetsuit encouraging the other guests to take selfies with him.

He travels with a pair of intimidating bodyguards, but on the trip, these boardshorts-clad lads are more into shooting photos than anything else…

And there are no shortage of subjects. In total, on a two hour excursion, we spot and swim with five great white sharks around the cage.

But the highlight, apart from the enormous apex predators gracefully circling Slashfin, comes when a giant stingray floats by doing a ballet-like dance around the submerged shark cage. Bubbles erupt from Hanekom's snorkel as he throws a 'thumbs-up' under water after the 'ray disappears into the murky waters.

He spends at least an hour in the cage, and tells the other divers, "I can do this all day!"

After the dive, he sits on the top deck of Slashfin with Trish – as he calls Patricia – reminiscing about the experience. “Everyone should do it sometime in their lifetime,” he decides.

He shamelessly boasts that South Africa is one of the most incredibly beautiful countries in the world, saying she offers best of land and sea.  

After sitting in the sun for a while after the dive, he peels off the wetsuit limb-by-limb and stands in the blazing sun for a minute in nothing but his dark blue Jockey underpants. "No photos allowed," he jokes.  

(Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom (left) with Sharief Starke, his Director of Administration. Photo: Kelly Baker)

On the way back, leaning against the rail of the boat, he quips about being thrown overboard like his colleague former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene.

Want to go? Here’s what you need to know:

What: Marine Dynamics Shark Tours  Marine Dynamics is the winner of the African Responsible Tourism Award and Lilizela Award for Best Marine Experience in South Africa.
Where: Great White House, 5 Geelbek Street, Gansbaai
When: The winter season provides the best underwater visibility, and water temperature is about the same as in summer.
Cost: R1 600 per adult, R950 per child under 12 (2015 rates)

Louzel Lombard, for Traveller24, was hosted by Marine Dynamics with Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom.

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