Face to Face with Jaws: Shark Diving in South Africa

By Kate Turkington
www.kateturkington.com

It’s not hard to get swept up in the frenzy that is the Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week. If watching the great white sharks on TV doesn’t soothe your curiosity, then head to Gansbaai, South Africa May through August (a.k.a Prime Great White viewing season). About a 2 ½ hour drive from Cape Town, this Western Cape town is the self-proclaimed Great White Shark capital of the world. The town is decked out in shark-themed paraphernalia. Keep an eye out for buildings decorated in disused diving cages and murals fringed with triangular white teeth.

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For the very brave, you can get face to face with Jaws in specially designed shark cages (www.sharkcagediving.net). Those who don’t fancy actually diving with sharks, but still want to experience the powerful creatures, can take a boat trip to Dyer Island (www.white-shark-diving.com), home to 50,000 cape fur seals—the Great White’s favorite treat. Success rates are good, as rarely a day goes by without spotting at least one Great White. If you’re lucky you’ll get calm seas, 30 feet visibility, and a "player" or two (the term used by operators to describe an individual shark that hangs around the boat).

If you time things right, you could head for the Eastern Cape coast in July to intercept the Sardine Run (www.sardinerun.com), when millions of sardines (and the Humpback whales, dolphins, and sharks that eat them) make their way up South Africa’s Eastern coast to find warmer waters. Many SCUBA charters, including Reefteach (www.reefteach.co.za), offer daily excursions for experienced and non-experienced divers or those who want to watch from the safety of the boat.

Photo credit: Kathryn Moos

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