Gansbaai: Diving Shark Alley

2014-11-03 08:00 - Selene Brophy
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Duh dunt… duh dunt… duh dunt… Like the ominous sound track to the 80s Spielberg thriller Jaws, a shark cage diving experience crept up on me the more entangled I became in this fascinating world of the ocean’s apex predators.

The Great White Shark is an endangered species due to overfishing and contentious drumlines put up for our safety – but getting up close and personal with this supposed rogue of the ocean will utterly blow your mind.

So what was it like? Jumping into a cage in the most shark-infested waters in the world?

Well, it is an intense adrenalin rush for one; with my experience accompanied by the unfortunate chunder soundtrack of a fellow diver screaming "my stomach is so angry".

Yes, that pretty much sums it up. Straight off the bat I need to say - if you don’t have sea legs, take something strong beforehand or opt to go on a calm day.  

Take a look at our Shark Cage Diving gallery here...

We headed out with our hosts Marine Dynamics on their custom-built boat, The Slashfin – said to be the first aluminium boat of its kind in the industry, specifically designed and built for low maintenance, stability, speed and superior safety and comfort.

Our trip had already been delayed by a day due to bad weather conditions – another factor to consider when booking this experience - but as the saying goes, come hell or high water we were going to eyeball these magnificent creatures.

You’ll wet your wet-suit but it’s worth it!

It’s just the coolest thing to know that South Africa is the proverbial utopia when it comes to the Great White. From the waters of False Bay, described as the Kruger Park of the ocean by Shark expert Chris Fallows, to the most shark-infested strip in the ocean found just off the coastline of the fishing village of Kleinbaai – known as Shark Alley.

But it truly is more than a haven for thrill seekers.

Marine Dynamics describe themselves as a 3-in-1 multi-functional, eco- tourism and conservation enterprise.

Together with the Dyer Island Conservation trust, founded by Wilfred Chivell, these marine biologists are involved in some unique conservation and research programmes. All cool factors aside it really is a fragile and critically important marine eco-system we've got at the southern-most tip of Africa. These include the largest surviving colonies of the endangered African Penguin whose numbers are at an all-time low, the globally important breeding and calving grounds of the Southern Right Whale (Marine Dynamics have been operating eco-whale safaris for the past 12 years) as well as the vulnerable Great White Shark (Tour operators since 2005).

Take a look at this video detailing their unique acoustic tracking system - an expensive process that involves attaching a devise that transmits a signal which allows the biologists to track, monitor and interpret the shark's patterns and behavior.

The trust also employs the tedious task of matching the dorsal fins of sharks through a software system known as Darwin – which literally is a database of photos that matches the markings and scars unique to each of the sharks. It's alarming to note that  unpublished research estimated there were 2 000 to 3 000 sharks in the bay alone but five years of dorsal fin research conducted by the trust indicates the figures to be less than half of that. South Africa was the first country to declare the white shark a protected species and if ever there was a way to understand these creatures better it would be to get into the water with them.

“Life is not a problem to be solved it’s an adventure.” – Dyer Conservation trust founder Wilfred Chivell

If you plan on going here’s what you need to know:

No diving experience is required as guides watch for the sharks and indicate the direction they’re coming from.

You then need to hold your breath and dive underneath the water to get a close-up look. It can be quite difficult at first to orientate yourself underwater but it gets better with each opportunity.

The 4-metre cage can take up to eight individuals at a time, and while the boat can accommodate up to 30 individuals there is no time limit to the Shark Cage diving experience. Each set of divers is given a fair  chance to get a proper interactive experience. We had at least three spectacular sightings.

All equipment such as wet-suites matched to your size are provided, plus towels, booties and diving goggles.

The cost of the trip is R1 400.00 per adult and R850.00 for children under 13-years-old.

Selene Brophy was hosted by Marine Dynamics and The Travel Channel as part of the launch of a new adventure documentary series Descending.

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