Swimming In Shark Alley

shark cage diving, Sharks, South Africa

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I know what you are thinking. How sexy do I look in that orange PVC Rain jacket. But this story isn’t about me, or the jacket –  it’s about the time I went Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai, South Africa.
Who isn’t fascinated by Great White Sharks? Whether feared or admired, getting the chance to go face to face with one of these monsters was something I had to experience. The boat ride was pretty choppy, and cold. An hour into our journey we stopped at what they call the McDonalds Drive through, a point between two islands inhabited by thousands of birds and seals. Naturally, the great whites were going to get a bite to eat here, so it was the perfect place for a sighting.

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I’m not sure what I imagined the cage to look like, but i thought it would be a lot more secure than this – the gaps between the bars were easily big enough for a shark to slip through. Having said that, there was 10 of us going into the cage at once, so at least i had a one in 10 chance of survival if a shark decided to attack.

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I didn’t really anticipate how cold the water would be either. I wasn’t very prepared for what the Antarctic ocean had in store for me despite wearing an inch thick wet suit it still completely took my breath away.
Wet suit, goggles and weight belt on – I  was the first person to enter the cage. This was no act of bravery but in fact the opposite. I’m a complete wimp and find that unless i throw myself into something and do it first, I might just over think it and back out completely.
The first few minutes of being in the cage were completely insane. My heart rate and senses were through the roof scouring the Sea around us for a pair of eyes or nose spearing towards us. My intuition kept jolting at the rhythm of the ocean and it was extremely difficult to keep some sort of buoyancy. The bait was dropped in front of the cage ‘protecting’ us, and we all held our breaths as we waited.
My heart jolted as I sensed something out of the corner of my eye – but it was in fact a dead seal bobbing on the waves. 10 minutes passed and the adrenaline subsided. The visibility only allowed us to see a couple of meters in front of us – and although we could hear jeering from the boat at the sight of some great white sharks, they were not close enough for us to encounter them.
Our time was up and I was pretty disheartened as the next few groups piled in the cage. We watched anxiously in jealousy that another group may get to experience what we had also come to do.
And there he was. Taken on my wind up underwater camera, It’s pretty impressive that Simon managed to capture this shot in the seconds that this great white graced us with his presence. I will never forget the awe I felt as i looked into those rolling eyes. Like empty sockets.
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Inevitably, the last group got to meet a Great White – we were kicking ourselves for going first, if we had of waited until last then perhaps that would have been us.
So they let our group give it another try! I was actually quite reluctant. As i mentioned, the water was freezing, and being out at open sea the wind and waves weren’t kind. All i had to keep me warm was the orange PVC Jacket. I had just about dried off and warmed up – so i feared being let down again and left as an icicle again. None the less, i had to get back in – when was i ever going to get the opportunity again?
Me Simon and our friend Justin were pretty desperate to see a shark by now. We began mimicking seal noises and even debated cutting our leg to draw in the sharks. Unfortunately the Great Whites weren’t fooled by us, and this time i wasn’t lucky enough to meet Jaws.
Having been disappointed with the outcome, it’s still one of my fondest memories. The anticipation, being out in the open sea and appreciating the beauty and power of these endangered creatures.
I will be back, Bruce.

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