White Shark Diving Company in Gansbaai, South Africa

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{Glinda’s View }

Your adventure starts early at White Shark Diving Company in Kleinbaai Harbour in Gansbaai, South Africa. The team at WSDC take safety very seriously. About an hour was spent teaching each adventurer about what to do and what NOT to do while on the boat or in the cage. We both felt safe with the instruction we received and with the staff. Snacks and drinks are provided during the training and on the boat. Spend the time chatting with and getting to know you crew and fellow divers. The camaraderie helps to pass the waiting time and helps to cut down the nervousness for those that are anxious.

Wetsuits and towels are provided. I highly recommend asking to try on your wetsuit prior to boarding the boat, and if possible, carry your gear to the boat yourself. My X-Small wetsuit some how turned into a medium between the shore and the anchored location. Without a properly fitting wetsuit the experience was extremely chilling because I had zero suit to help insulate me from the cold water. I also had to wear extra weight in order to hold myself down in the cage because the extra suit and the water/air gaps between my body and the suit made me too buoyant, and it was really difficult for me to hold myself under the water. Mistakes happen, adjust and make the best of the situation with what you have. I still had a great time despite the issues.

Glinda showing her excitement for the dive.

Glinda showing her excitement for the dive.

The cage is not a dive in the sense of a scuba dive or swimming. It was standing upright in a cage while pushing and holding yourself down under the surface of the water while you hold your breath. To help myself not panic about the cold temperatures I created a mental repetition of push down, hold down, arms/legs in the cage and don’t forget to breathe. By finding something to do in my head it prevented me from thinking I was freezing and allowed me to calm down faster. To maximize under water viewing time I recommend figuring out how to control your breathing. Spend the beginning of your first dive perfecting your breathing and holding yourself under. The faster you get comfortable with holding yourself under and your breathing technique the more time you will have to view the sharks instead of spending the time fighting yourself to get comfortable.

A look down at the cage.

A look down at the cage.

We were incredibly lucky during our trip. We saw 9 different white sharks, and the 1st shark made an appearance within the first 5 minutes of anchoring. We had 14 people on our boat and rotated 4 per cage, 3 dives with an option of a 4th dive. Each cage time was about 20 -25 minutes which was more than enough considering the frigid temperatures. The boat had an upper deck which provided spectacular views of Dyer Island, the shorelines and of course, the sharks from above. Although, it was incredible to see the sharks beneath the water, I loved watching from above. Observing how the their fins sliced through the surface or how they swam around each other but never too close to each other. One shark was obviously an established authority because the other sharks would scatter in its company. The largest shark would also tail slap the water more often than the others would – obvious communication, perhaps a territorial warning? Be sure to take in the whole experience, don’t get obsessed with only observing under the surface.

A great white gliding by a dangling fish head.

A great white gliding by a dangling fish head.

There is a great debate on whether shark cage diving is ethical or not. The debate stems from the dive boat operators chumming (dumping a mixture of fish parts and blood into the water) the water to lure the sharks closer to the boat or to provoke a certain type of feeding behavior from the animal. I had a hard time writing this post because at this time, I believe there are pros/cons to both sides of the debate. I  believe there has to be a better way to provide an up close view of  the sharks other than chumming the water. I also believe cage diving provides an amazing way to educate the public and spread the plight about these fascinating creatures. As the scientific community learns more about white sharks and ocean life and temperatures keep changing this debate will keep adding more layers. As more people get involved and ask for and demand stricter cage diving regulations the debate will continue to grow and change. The issues are not as cut and dry as some may think, even the scientific community is split on different aspects of this heated issue.

The fish heads.

The fish heads.

If you are thinking of participating in a cage dive, DO YOUR RESEARCH. Find a boat operator with a solid reputation. Ask questions. How does your organization assist/support with shark protection and preservation? How does your company educate the public to help protect sharks? Ask what affiliations and memberships they posses. Does your company assist the local researchers by taking pictures to help identify local populations? How does your company assist with injured sea life in the area? Be conscious of your choice.

The chase is on!

The chase is on!

Maynard ready for the adventure to begin.

Maynard ready for the adventure to begin.

[Maynard’s View]

I am pretty certain the main reason for our visit to South Africa was because Glinda absolutely loves sharks. And Gansbaai, South Africa is one of those places that is synonymous with seeing White Sharks in action. I had a slight reservation about this adventure, and it was not the one you are thinking. I am one of those lucky people who get motion sickness. None the less, I was determined not to ruin this for Glinda and have a kick ass time to boot.

The journey out to the dive spot was smooth and the buzz of excitement was on everyone’s lips for the days activities. The views were nice and the time passed relatively quickly, before you knew we were on station and ready to get in the water. The call for the first volunteer came and Glinda’s hand shot up so fast I could swear I felt the whoosh. The divers were split into groups of four, with each group getting the option to go up to three times. It was enthralling to be in the water with these curious majestic creatures. They are so sleek and powerful with every inch of them seeming to have a purpose.

Safety was involved in all aspects of the adventure, and the crew kept a close eye on all activities on and off the boat. They were also very adamant about the most important rule; no one was to breach the cage with any part of their body, and doing so would put and immediate end to the adventure and would have us steaming for shore. As beautiful as they were, a healthy dose of respect was required to share the same space as the white sharks.

Glinda and Maynard trying to warm up.

Glinda and Maynard trying to warm up.

The water was icy and even though the wetsuit provided some insulation, eventually the temperature difference had eaten up a lot of energy. Lunch was perfectly timed and with all the excitement, I hadn’t realized how much I needed it. With the batteries charged and a giant smile across Glinda’s face I was certain this day was going in the books as one of our best.

Celeste with The White Shark Diving Co was a breeze to work with, not only did she help us arrange our diving experience; she also secured a guesthouse for us. We stayed at the Marine Guesthouse which had seen its share of divers; in fact all of the other guests were also there in search of the Great White. Food was your responsibility at the guesthouse and the host family was warm and very accommodating. If we ever return to Gansbaai, we will feel at ease staying at the Marine Guesthouse.

Looking out into Gansbaai Bay.

Looking out into Gansbaai Bay.

Logistics:

White Shark Diving Company: is a cage diving company that runs off the western coast of South Africa in the town of Gansbaai. They specialize in allowing you to observe the magnificent White Shark in its natural habitat. More info can be found on there website.

Location: 9 Kus Dr, Van Dyks Bay 7220, South Africa

Duration: Total time is 4 1/2 + hours, with 3+of those hours on site diving and viewing sharks.

Who Should Do It: Adventurers with healthy respect and curiosity of the great white shark. As we said above, do your research for a reputable dive boat operator before you reserve your spot.

Thing to know before you go: If you get seasick take precautions! There are a lot of anti-seasickness options out on the market. If you have the time, try a few different types before your big adventure. I always take 2 Dramamine because I would rather be safe than sorry.

If you hate the smell of fish bring a small cloth spritzed with a pleasant odor to cover your mouth and nose. Don’t use too much perfume because that could cause you and/or your fellow divers to be sick. You can also try using Vicks vapor rub or some sort of menthol smell to rub under your nose to help deter the fish smell.

Bring something warm to wear in between your cage time and on the way back. A towel was provided, but I wish I had brought an extra towel and an extra sweater or sweatshirt. I brought one sweatshirt and waited to wear it until the end because I didn’t want it to get wet.

In between dives unzip and remove the top part of your wetsuit. It will help to keep your upper body drier and warmer.

Bring wet wipes or some sort of wet clothes to clean the salt water off of your face and hands.

Cost: ZAR 1350.00 per person and ZAR 900 for children 12 and younger.

Included in that fee:

  • All diving equipment and towel
  • Refreshments on board the ship
  • Light pre and post excursion meals
  • Services of an experienced crew which include an on board videographer
  • A certificate of completion

Money: South Africa uses the Rand (ZAR) and the best exchange rate is given at the ATM. You would be advised to carry a mixture of cash and cards. Cards will be acceptable almost everywhere, but if the occasion calls for cash ATM’s are not as readily available outside the major metropolitan centers. Keep foreign transaction and conversions fees in mind when making transactions. Using travel cards that have no foreign transactions fees are advised for all international travel.

Recommendable: Yes!

Gansbaai Selfie!

Gansbaai Selfie!

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