The largest breeding ground in the world for Great White Sharks is about an hour’s drive from Cape Town, in False Bay. It’s an exhilarating experience but please bear in mind it’s not without risks. Boats do capsize in the high seas around the Cape and people have been injured or died on these trips. However, considering the volume of operators, the accidents are very infrequent. Most travel insurance companies will not cover shark cage diving, though, and the indemnity forms are draconian!
Shark cage diving is also controversial: many locals blame the (infrequent) incidents of shark attacks on humans on the ‘chumming’ (the practice of throwing fish entrails and blood into the water to get the sharks to surface). Additionally, many marine biologists have compared the practice of chumming in order to see sharks to walking through the Kruger dragging a sheep carcass to see lions: the point being that wildlife should be observed when it chooses to make itself visible, not when humans want to see it! That said, the other side of shark cage diving is that it without it, these wonderful animals would still be tarred with the image of them created by that movie (you know the one we mean). Little is really known about sharks and so the money that is raised from the diving trips often (but not always) gets used to further research and protect the species.
It’s also quite a time commitment: you’re talking about a two hour drive to get to Gansbaai (the closest place you’ll definitely see sharks in the summer) and a two hour drive back. Plus, the hunting for sharks can take a long time and there’s no guarantee you’ll see them. You need to leave around 04h30 in the morning to be on the water by 07h00. You’ll most likely not arrive back in town before 13h00 or 15h00. The cost per person, which includes food and transport, is around R1 700. Have a look at the company we like to recommend, which is www.whitesharkprojects.co.za, mainly because of their strong environmental track record. We can book any trip for you but bear in mind that it is weather dependent and you may have your boat cancelled at the last minute.
You may also be interested in www.apexpredators.com, who offer a wider range of diving tours and chances to view other sharks than just the Great White. They are also a little closer to Cape Town in Simonstown. Timing and costs are around the same as with the Gansbaai trip but as they are closer to town, the drive there and back will be more like one hour not two. The main attraction of Simonstown is that it’s close to Seal Island, and sharks eat seals. So if you’re really lucky (and you do have to be really lucky) you get to see sharks hunting, which is a whole other experience. However, this experience only really works in the winter.
In the summer, most of the sharks, particularly the Great Whites, are found actually out at sea, because their diet changes to fish. In the winter, you’ll be able to watch them hunting for seals and penguins, as you may have seen on the Discovery channel.