One of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had to date: shark diving!
I woke up in Hermanus before dawn and drove the long, dark stretch of road over to Kleinbaai to meet up with the White Shark Projects team for a morning dive. Even the drive there seemed a little eerie, with bicyclists and people on foot popping up out of the darkness on the side of the road, making the drive pretty harrowing. I was lost in thought imagining all sorts of scary shark scenarios and they were forcing me to pay attention to the road! Thanks for keeping me present, roadside people.
Once there the White Sharks team geared us up with wet suits and had a complementary breakfast prepared for us to fill up on before we set out for the shark-infested sea. After a short briefing on safety issues and our itinerary for the day, we boarded our trusty vessel:
We spent the first 30 minutes motoring over wildly rough seas to a spot that the crew thought would be calm enough for us to throw down the anchor, settle in and wait for the sharks to find us. To help the sharks gain interest, the crew threw out some really tasty looking chum:
As soon as the sharks were coming around it was time for us to suit up and jump in the water with them! There was a general invitation to get in for whoever wanted to go first, so I figured if I was going to do it I had better just do it and not wait to chicken out! So in we went!
4 of us jumped into the cage that is secured to the side of the boat, wearing weights and hanging onto the railing to keep us under. We were anxiously waiting for our first sighting thru the murky water when the giant jaws of a great white shark leapt right at our faces to attack the chum directly in front of the cage!
I was happily taking their photos when my foot slipped out of the cage and I was certain it would be their next dinner morsel, but luckily I managed to get it back in before they swam back around. That was probably the scariest part of the whole ordeal. We had about 20 minutes each time we went under to photograph and observe, which is actually pretty long and tiring.
Sharks are found in abundance in that region because it is home to a seal rookery that is full of vulnerable baby seals that the sharks prey on. The region between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock, the two island rookeries, has become known as “Shark Alley” because of the amount of sharks that hang out there. We took a tour around the rookery and saw an impressive amount of seals covering every habitable square inch of the island! It is estimated that there are around 60,000 Cape Fur Seals living there.
Sea-soaked and happy from such a great experience!
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