Monday, September 3, 2012

Shark Cage Diving: Take One

Gansbaai is a little town along the southern coast of South Africa that is known as Shark Alley.  Heaps of Great Whites live in its waters feasting on the thousands of Cape Fur Seals that live on a little island offshore.  The seals are to the sharks as ice cream is to Sara!  Sara knew how excited I was to get in the water (in a cage) to see the sharks up close and personal, so she gave me the cage diving trip for my birthday!

When the day for cage diving finally arrived, it was a tempest. The ocean swells were over 13 feet. Only two boats planned to brave the heavy seas and one of those was ours (the other the owner of the hotel where we were staying). Our captain, Brian McFarlane, warned us up front to take our motion sickness pills unless we wanted to help chum the water. He also warned us that it could be a poor day for seeing sharks, but we were happy to give it a go.

A big swell blocking the view of Gansbaai

Luckily there was no rain when we left harbor, but it almost didn’t matter since the wind whipped spray all over the boat. Unfortunately, the highlight of the day was riding the huge waves out to look for sharks at the island. We spent about four hours chumming (along with the help of quite a few sick passengers at the front of the boat) with little to show for it. We only saw one shark for a few seconds before the banging of the cage against the boat scared it away. It was far too rough actually get into the cage, and water visibility was so low that it would have been futile anyway. There were some long faces as we made our way back.

When we go back to dry land, Brian told us that it was the worst trip that he had taken out in 18 years. Not only was he planning to honor his no-sharks money back guarantee, but he was going to give everyone a voucher for a free trip any time we wanted to go! We immediately shifted around our plans to stay for another try the next day. We were very impressed with the way Brian handled everything (including the boat in those big waves), and we are very glad that we stuck around for another try!


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