Meet one of the world's most fearsome predators while shark cage diving near Cape Town.
An encounter with the Big Five may stand foremost in a wildlife lover’s imagination, but the country is also home to the great white shark capital of Gansbaai. The fishing town is roughly two hours’ drive from Cape Town central and has in recent years become one of the Cape’s prime tourist attractions - particularly its shark cage diving. About 8km offshore, Dyer Island hosts one of the highest known concentrations of great white sharks in the world. The shallow channel between the island and Geyser Rock has been appropriately dubbed ‘Shark Alley’.
There is something inherently electrifying about having a 5m (16.4ft) underwater titan pass within a few precious meters of you. Armed with a generous mouthful of serrated teeth and powerful jaws, the great white shark dominates the coastal waters of South Africa. Though perfectly safe, the combination of primal fear and thrill will fix itself in your memory for years.
On a shark dive, passengers onboard have three options. Qualified divers (with at least an Open Water One) are permitted to scuba in the cage, while unqualified divers have the option to either hold their breath or snorkel. The cage allows three divers at a time who are submerged no more than half a meter underwater. Children over 10 years old may enter the cage if they are accompanied by an adult. Divers are outfitted with a 5mm wet-suit, booties, gloves, a weight belt and mask. All the necessary equipment is provided by the dive company.
For the less adventurous, observing from the boat deck may be equally thrilling, as great whites are surface predators and will swim rather close to the boat. There is also no better viewpoint for a breach.
Great white sharks are attracted to the area for the generous amount of chow. Thousands of African penguins inhabit Dyer Island, while Geyser Rock hosts around 60 000 Cape fur seals. On a typical dive, passengers may encounter up to 10 sharks. The best months to see sharks in South Africa are between March and September. Although there is less activity in the months between October and January, sharks are still regularly encountered on such tours.
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