Mosters of the deep: Diving with sharks in Cape Town, South Africa

Today’s post was written by Jack Jones. Jack is a freelance travel writer who has travelled extensively throughout Australia, Asia and Europe.

Two days ago I presumed monsters were about as real as Father Christmas, or the bogey man, or the Easter Bunny.

Turns out I was wrong.

Scientists know about them – they’ve even given them a nonsensical (aka Latin) yet weirdly evocative name: carcharodon carcharias.

You know about them too, as it happens. It’s just that you call them Great White Sharks.

That’s what I used to call them too. And then I met one, face to face, eye to eye, teeth to teeth. Now I call them by their rightful name: monsters.

As far as backpacking experiences go, doing a cage dive in shark infested waters is up there with bungee jumping, skydiving and road tripping. And like the above, they are not as cheap as one might like, but a fairly essential ingredient of a world trip nonetheless.

I was in Cape Town, South Africa, keen to experience its outdoors. I’d done the obligatory trawl through the museums, I’d subjected myself to the usual bewilderment in the modern art galleries and I’d nosed around the shops browsing cool things I couldn’t afford. It was time to move things up a notch.

The day dawned warm and sunny – no surprises there, this was Africa after all – but the glorious weather seemed at odds with the menacing occasion. A lead sky and lashing rain and booming thunder would have been more appropriate.

There are numerous companies that specialise in cage diving in Cape Town, but I chose one called White Shark Ecoventures. I was impressed with their ethos (they founded the Great White Shark Protection Foundation – a body dedicated to protecting and preserving the species) and although their fee was steep for my backpacker budget ($226 for a one day tour) it was competitive nonetheless. Plus, I felt I deserved a treat after gorging on instant noodles night after night for the last six months to keep costs down.

As we chugged out to sea, my nervy group and I were told all sorts of interesting things about the toothy predators – most of which I promptly forgot because frankly my mind was in other places. What if they chew through the cage? What if they just swallow the whole thing? Is it possible to live in a shark’s belly, like that Jonah guy in that whale? What if one of my limbs floats astray through the bars and is swiftly chomped? What if the cage becomes unattached and sinks to the sea bed? What if my heart says: ‘You know what, Jack, you’ve crossed the line.’ What if, what if, what if..?

Soon enough, the time for what ifs came to an end. The first group of five had just clambered back on to the boat. Their faces were contorted with (what I presumed to be) adrenaline and their hands were shaking with (what I presumed to be more) adrenaline. They were all talking at once – loudly.

Fast forward ten minutes and I’m under the water. The cage seems fine, but I wouldn’t want to test the theory. I’m staring intensely into the gloom, but there’s nothing. I don’t know whether to be relieved or annoyed, and just as I’m deciding on the former, a dark shape glides past in my periphery. A stream of expletives runs through my mind, and my heart palpitates. The dark shape has u-turned and is now coming straight at the cage. It materialises into a hideous grimace of jagged white teeth and two cold, jet-black eyes.

It’s about now I decide I’m in the company of a monster. And although I’m terrified, I’m suddenly filled with awesome respect.

Travel is about pushing the limits, testing yourself and facing your fears. This experience ticked all three of these boxes, and although it was expensive and I’ve since woken up in cold sweats, it was the most incredible experience of my life.

4 Responses to “Mosters of the deep: Diving with sharks in Cape Town, South Africa”

  1. Ali says:

    Awesome post! I would love to do this someday!

  2. Rebecca says:

    Wow, wow, wow! What an awesome experience.

  3. Uhm, freaked out much? Sharks are incredibly scary to me, but I can never pass up watching Shark Week on TV 🙂

  4. Chris says:

    This is a thrilling experience for adventure seekers. South Africa is the adventure capital of the world, I am sure wth all the extreme sports on offer. A good memory to keep for life- When you get over the night sweats!

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