Location: Ganbaai, South Africa
Everyone have a seat, hold on, and try not to fall off!
-Tour Boat Guide
We’ve had plenty of tours that required us to wake up early in the morning, but we’ve never had to wake up at 3:15 am before! Our destination today was Gansbaii, a two hour drive from Cape Town, and in order to be there to accommodate the weather, tides, and breakfast time for the sharks, we had to be out early.
A shared shuttle picked us up at 4 AM, then we left the city to pick up two more guests… from a KFC parking lot. Even the van driver thought it was weird to have a pick up there! And so did some curious cops who came by to question the van driver. But sure enough we were eventually joined by two German brothers. The rest of the drive to Gansbaai went quickly.
We had a quick orientation and safety briefing at the dive shop and then made our way to The Barracuda, the boat which would take us to Shark Alley. At first the seas weren’t too rough coming out of the bay, but halfway there the surf got rougher with 1-3 m waves. We forgot to pack Dramamine on this trip….
Once we arrived at Shark Alley, off the coast of Dyer Island, the crew began chumming the water. Other cage diving boats would arrive nearby and also chum the water to attract sharks. During this time Ryan and some of the other passengers changed into wet suits. Rachel decided not to partake in the dive. We had a long wait between arrival and the first sighting of the sharks, and during this period the winds picked up speed, it got colder, and the surf became rougher. Plus the boat had to move again to find a better spot to attract sharks.
Eventually a great white shark showed up and began going after the large fish head used as bait. The crew would move it around in the water near the cage so that those inside would get a better view of the shark in action. There were 7 people to a cage, and two groups of people. Ryan was in the second group. The first group had about 30 minutes in the cold water, but that’s because it took that long for the shy shark to make a satisfying numbers of passes past the cage. During this time, Ryan tried to stay warm, keep one eye on the shark, and another on the horizon. Rachel worked very hard to keep her eyes on the horizon. She did not want to share her breakfast with the fish. Many other passengers were not so successful. Because of this, Rachel was not able to get the pictures she was hoping to get. But what she did get is shared below.
Around 9:00 it became Ryan’s groups turn to get in the cage. It was a tight fit, with color coded ropes signifying what was safe to hold onto and what could not be held because it could be accessible to the sharks. Most of the time would be spent holding bars to keep the upper torso and head out of the water. When the shark neared, everyone was told to drop and fully immerse into the cage to see the shark swim by.
The water was cold, about 52 F, but the wet suit did a reasonable job of keeping him warm. If all else fails after seeing the shark, a combination of adrenaline and selachophic induced incontinence could also work to stay warm. The latter two were not necessary.
Ryan was in the water for about 15 minutes, and the shark made a number of passes past the cage. He managed to get some video of the passes, but the camera was pointed at the wrong angle to capture the shark with its jaws open attacking and eating the fish heads. Here are some screenshots from the video.
By this point the seas were too rough, and the Captain made the decision to pack and make it back for shore. No one complained. he gave the quote found atop this post, everyone complied, and we hastily, made it back to port. It was not a smooth ride…
On the drive back, the driver stooped at vantage points in Gansbaai and Hermanas to try to whale watch. Unlike yesterday, we weren’t able to see any whales in the bay. We were back at the hotel by around 1:45.
We had two ideas on how to spend our afternoon: if the weather was good we would take the cable car up table mountain, if not we would go to the aquarium. Table mountain was covered in clouds so we went to the aquarium at the Waterfront. So now we have another good reason to come back to Cape Town.
Cape Town has a moderate sized aquarium, mostly with species native to the country. Some of the highlights include, a tank with transparent viewing tube featuring only clown fish, large tanks with sharks, rays and other large fishes, and finally Penguins!
They featured the local African Penguins, and rescued Northern Rockhopper Penguins.
Tomorrow we fly from Cape Town to Kruger National Park and begin the safari portion of the trip.
Total steps: 10,506
Total great white sharks: 1
Total penguin species: 2 (African and Northern Rockhopper)
Total “Marine Five” species seen this trip: 4 (African Penguin, Southern Right Whale, Great White Shark, Cape Fur Seal)