Where Can you Go Diving With Great White Sharks?Dyer Island
Known as the Great White Shark diving capital of the world, the stretch of water between Gansbaai and Dyer Island is also referred to as "shark alley". Gansbaai is 100 miles from Cape Town, about a 2 hour drive by car. Gansbaai is also just half an hour drive away from Hermanus which is South Africa's best spot for whale-watching.
A couple of Great White Shark Diving Tour Operators work out of False Bay which is very close to Cape Town. Cage dives in False Bay require you to have basic scuba certification which is offered on site.
How Do You Dive With Great White Sharks?Book your adventure with a reputable operator and they will take you out to sea in their boat. The crew will then lure the sharks to the boat with some tasty fish heads and livers. This process is called "chumming" and "baiting". Once the sharks are circling the boat you are invited to hop in to the specially designed diving cage.
The Diving Cage
Rodney Fox, an Australian diver, has been credited with inventing the shark cage. Rodney became shark bait while spear fishing in Australia. After getting sewn back to his original shape, he turned his attention to the study of the Great White Shark and to avoid being attacked again, designed the first under water observation cage.
The diving cage is .....
- Safe.The diving cage is specially designed to withstand the bite of a Great White (although they haven't ever attacked a cage to date) while still allowing the diver a good view of the shark. The diving cages are made from 12mm galvanized steel.
- Easy to use. The good thing about the diving cage is that you don't need to know how to scuba dive, snorkeling will do for most dives (not in False Bay). Shark cages have tubes going up to the boat, so divers simply suck on the tube to breathe fresh air.
- Able to hold several people.
Cages are built to hold two, four or even six people, so you can get to experience the sharks with the whole family.
- Close to the surface. The cage actually floats and doesn't go deep at all since sharks are surface feeders. It's therefore easy to keep in touch with the boat crew and you can always get out of the cage quickly if the adventure becomes a little too exciting.
Spending Time With the Great White SharksDives usually last 10-15 minutes and if the weather is good you can get a few dives in per day. Trips often last 4-5 hours with the first hour spent finding the sharks and attracting them to the boat with bait.
Who Can Dive With Great White Sharks?Some diving operators require a basic level of diving proficiency while others don't. The dive master on board the boat will quickly let you know whether you can get in the cage or not. Most dives don't actually require diving per se, snorkeling is the way to go.
Viewing Great White SharksFor those who aren't keen on smelling a shark's breath, but are still interested in seeing them, there are plenty of shark viewing opportunities on the boat. There are special platforms you can sit on that provide excellent photo opportunities of the sharks especially as the crew are "chumming" and "baiting" them. Since Great White Sharks are surface feeders you can get a good look at the 16 rows of teeth.
Best Time to Dive with Great White SharksWinter is the best time to dive with sharks from May to October. Although getting to see the sharks is not guaranteed, the success rate is very high, around 95. The weather can be unpredictable though in winter with gales and cold spells so its best to book a tour that lasts a few days just in case the weather doesn't allow for a dive. The sharks are still around during the summer months but not in such dense numbers, so days can possibly go by without a sighting.
SafetyAll Great White Shark cage diving operators will have the latest safety equipment on board. The gear and cages are regularly inspected by the Government. Paramedics are usually on board. To date there have been no known shark attack injuries on any of these trips.