Getting up close and personal with Great White sharks by climbing into a metal cage into a freezing cold ocean, one hundred metres off Gansbaai’s infamous Shark Alley, has never been on my bucket list of things to do. This week, however, while staying amid flowering fynbos at Grootbos (www.grootbos.co.za) it was my turn to make a decision to either stay on the boat or dive right in. What’s the point in being a spectator in life? In a warm diving suit with a built-in hoodie, booties, and diving mask, I dipped beneath the surface of the water and went eyeball-to-eyeball with a number of large sharks. It was never terrifying, just fascinating and awe-inspiring. As usual, when I’m excited, I laughed a lot! I don’t know what the sharks thought of that. Some cruise by slowly, others flash past at lightning speed, jaws wide open. At times I forgot that I was under water, and took a breath … swallowing sea water! It was all part of the fun.
We went out to sea with a highly experienced, thoroughly professional outfit called Marine Dynamics Shark Tours (http://www.sharkwatchsa.com/en/home). On board Slashfin, its purpose-built boat, were a few different parties of American families, some gung-ho young and adrenalin-fuelled tourists, as well as a couple of marine biologists, researchers, student volunteers and lots of experienced crew. You could tell they were old hands by the way they moved effortlessly around the boat as it plowed through choppy waters and big swell to Shark Alley, made famous by countless National Geographic and Discovery channel documentaries.
The on-board team will demystify the Great White shark, explaining how these mysterious and misunderstood apex predators hunt and hide, how and where they feed, breed and breach. At the dive site, we saw a total of 15 different white sharks of varying sizes. The biggest shark must have been almost four metres in length. The crew showed us how to distinguish between a male and female shark and how to identify a specific shark by its unique dorsal fin and inevitable scars.
Would I do it again? Definitely! Will I still go swimming and surfing in the ocean close to home? Without question, yes I would.
By Jane Broughton, Cape Grace Blogger
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