Finding yourself submerged in the ocean in a cage coming face to face with a shark sporting razor-sharp teeth while having only a few metallic bars between you might sound like your worst nightmare. But if you’re a thrill-seeker, it’s just another thing to check off your bucket list. South Africa is the great white shark capital of the world (especially in Gansbaai), attracting daredevils from all over the globe to its waters to meet the creature behind the toothy grin. But before you go deep into the water, take your time to learn what you should know before going shark cage diving in South Africa.
Don’t rush your training
Prior to your diving expedition, your guide will go over all the safety protocols you should learn. Don’t get cocky and inflate your ego thinking you’ve totally got this. Instead, take your time to fully understand everything and ask as many questions as you can. Your guides are happy to help. God forbid, you should miss that part in training when they tell you to try not to pet them like someone’s Pomeranian.
You get what you pay for
If you got escorted into an alley by a local who promises you that his brother is a captain who will take you to see the sharks at a “very good price,” that’s your cue to abort mission immediately and get out of Dodge. Shark cage diving isn’t cheap, but with the right service, you’ll receive proper training from certified guides and be given equipment and cages that have been checked routinely to be up to safety standards. With thorough safety precautions, you’ll have peace of mind as you are lowered into the cage to meet your nightmare.
Bring warm clothes
Many tourists make the mistake of not bringing enough warm, dry clothes to bundle up in after the dive. The water is icy cold, which you’ll quickly forget about once you see the shark swimming towards the swarms of floating fish near your cage. Once the dive is over, you’ll want to have your own backpack prepared with fleece sweaters, wool socks and your own blanket. Even if most charter boats give you one, they sometimes aren’t that good. That way, you’ll have the rest of people on board leering at you with envy as their teeth chatter.
Prepare for the gut-wrenching foul smell of gutted fish and other nauseating things
Getting into the water with the giant monster of the sea isn’t the only thing you have to prepare for. As soon as your captain arrives to the location, he’ll/she’ll bust out the bucket of fish chum to draw in the shark. But oh man, they don’t exactly smell like roses in the springtime. Prep your olfactory for the intense fishy smell. It’s wise not to eat a big meal before the dive. And lets not forget, you better hope you have healthy sea legs as South African oceans have rocky waves. Bon voyage!
Invest in waterproof cameras
You’d be surprised to find that many tourists forget to bring a waterproof camera/video camera such as a go-pro to document their experience and share their harrowing encounter with friends and family back at home. Taking pictures above water with a regular camera isn’t as exciting as taking pictures below the surface while ol’ great whitey rattles your tiny cage with his ginormous fangs. And it’ll provide concrete evidence for the naysayers who call shenanigans on your newfound bravery.
For heaven’s sake, don’t EVER get out of the cage
Contrary to popular belief, you aren’t completely locked into the cage as you are lowered, the top lid is closed but unlocked and is left as it is in case of emergencies. However, this does not mean that you can freely decide to open the top latch and swim your way back to the boat whenever you want. Stick with the routine and don’t let your panicky state get the best of you. Use your signal as instructed to have them bring your cage back up and you’ll be out of the water in no time.
You don’t actually have to get into the water to see them
If you booked a trip and at the last minute get cold feet, no worries, you can still see the majestic mammals from above. Most charter boats will dangle bait above the surface, inviting the sharks to poke their heads and reveal their pearly whites as they try to nab their dinner.