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Shark Cage Diving in Cape Town was at the top of my bucket list for South Africa. I had heard that a place not too far away, Gansbaai, was the best in the world for diving with great white sharks, and as an adventure blogger I couldn’t quite pass the extreme opportunity up to take this cage diving tour. So when I returned from by long African overland tour, this adventure tour was the first on my list.
I first wanted to make sure, though, that I went with a company that respects and values the sea life that they interact with. After going on many game drives and seeing that a lot of people really don’t know what they are doing when it comes to wildlife, I wanted to ensure that this cage diving adventure was eco-friendly. So I was pretty stoked when my hostel Once in Cape Town recommended Marine Dynamics to me.
Shark Cage Diving in Cape Town: Marine Dynamics Bio
Marine Dynamics is the only shark cage diving experience that guarantees a marine biologist onboard each and every dive, who educates passengers as they go. The owner of the company actually also established a larger conservation effort, the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, which gets its operational and fundraising platform from Marine Dynamics. The DICT works with a few companies in the Gansbaai area to promote conservation, research, and education of the ‘marine big 5,’ which are all present in the area.
The DICT specifically works with a penguin rehabilitation center (there are lots of penguins in and around Cape Point and Gansbaai), a massive volunteer program complete with an amazing living space, garden, and pool, and does shark diving in an eco-friendly way.
Marine Dynamics promotes the same ideals of conversation, research, and education with all of their dives, and use the adrenaline-inducing adventure of cage diving as a way to also inform people of the dangers facing sharks and what we can do to help. They are also fair trade tourism certified, and use their funding to research migration and behavioral patterns of the great white sharks, which actually might be endangered but lack the research to prove anything.
To find out more about the good things Marine Dynamics and the Dyer Island Conservation Trust are doing, click here! ( and see some photos at the bottom!)
Not a bad place to be out on a boat! 😉
Shark Cage Diving in Cape Town: The Day Begins
Just a few hours out of Cape Town, I was picked up at my hostel in the morning and jetted off on a lovely drive down the South African coast. Although I had already scarfed down a quick brekkie at my hostel (late as always), I was very pleasantly surprised to come upon an entire buffet breakfast when I arrived at the Marine Dynamics office! Definitely not caring that I had already eaten, I happily munched down a second breakfast as our lovely marine biologist, Tami, gave us a bit of a welcome speech an showed us a video about how our day cage diving in Cape town was to go.
We put on life jackets and waterproof coats before boarding our boat. Gansbaai is the closest shark diving site in the world, a mere 10 minute ride out of the port! Apparently this is super lucky because the other great shark diving sites in the world are much farther away from any mainland; 3 hours in New Zealand and even 27 hours away in Gualadupe! Noooo thank you. 10 minutes is fine with me!
South Africa is also the only place in the world that there are sharks year round – they apparently stop here in and around the ‘shark alley’ in Gansbaai for 2-3 weeks at a time before moving along their migratory route, often cruising around an over 200km stretch of coastline while they are at it.
This is good because although the shark cage diving boats do bait and chum the sharks to come near, it doesn’t illicit any type of dependent behavior because the sharks are not there very long at all. Tami also let us know that the chumming process is also quite natural. Just a few kilometers away are Dyer Island and Geyser Rock, which is home to over 60,000 seals. Here you would find more fish bits and oil floating through the water than all the chum in the harbor combined! She made it known to us that she would never take part in any activity that was bad for the sharks or their natural behavior – her passion for the animals was beautifully and overwhelmingly apparent.
Due to the speed of the boat and the wind, we had to hold on!
The seagulls could definitely smell the chum!
Time for a nice brunch for this guy!
Shark Cage Diving in Cape Town: We Wait
Anyway, as soon as we got to our docking spot, the crew began letting the chum into the water and throwing out these wooden seal-shaped decoys meant to draw the sharks in. We put on thick wetsuits, boots, and caps, and nervously-yet-excitedly waited for the adrenaline rush of a lifetime!!…
and waited….. and waited….
Unfortunately, nature is always completely out of your control! As soon as an hour or so passed and things got a tiiiiiny bit awkward, Tami brought us all up to the top deck for some sun and for a Q & A session, where I learned a lot of the info I have mentioned above. They gave us the opportunity to get into the cage anyway as we waited, so of course I had to take a quick plunge to get as much out of the experience as I could, sharks or not!
Apparently the oxygen levels had dipped in the water that morning for whatever reason, and the temperature had done the same. Gansbaai is very close to the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and is also known to get some Antarctic upwellings as well. So those conditions were not so favorable.
But, the worst impact on the adventure was that apparently there were some Orca whales spotted a few days prior (and actually on the same day as I later found out). Orcas are the only predator to great white sharks, so will immediately scare them off if they’re around. Bummer!!
Shark Cage Diving in Cape Town: Salvaging a Beautiful Day
To salvage the day we had a great talk on the top deck, taking photos of our beautiful surroundings while learning more about sharks. We took the boat over to Geyser Rock near shark alley, and got to witness literally thousands of seals laying around and playing in the water. No matter what, it was still a gorgeous day and we made the most of it.
Just about 60,000 seals!
LOOK AT THEM ALL!
Big King seal himself, up at the top catching some rays
When we arrived back I got to go and check out the penguin rehabilitation center that Marine Dynamics had recently opened. There are lots of penguins in the area, and previously there was only a center all the way up near Boulder Beach, a popular penguin beach right outside Cape Town, which was too far for them to swim. Here they help penguins that had been attacked by sharks or seals or run into any other problems out in the sea.
The penguin population is actually currently down to 5% of what it once was, due in part to these shark and seal attacks, but also because, until the 60’s, people often used to steal their eggs to eat as a delicacy! Can you believe that? What poor little things; they are lucky to have Marine Dynamics around to help their population grow.
I also got to check out the volunteer center before departing. People come and volunteer on the cage diving boats and at the penguin center for one week to multiple months, and they have an amazing living area. They’re got dorms, a kitchen, a living space, a movie room, a pool, and vegetable garden where they actually grow all the veggies for the Marine Dynamics in-house restaurant, they have planned activities in and around SA, and have marine biologists come in and give talks often. I would love to come back and volunteer next time I’m around!
So anyway, it was a bit of a let down, but as I have definitely learned in Africa, nature is always a gamble! Some trips diving with sharks are successful, and others aren’t.We definitely salvaged the day and I learned a lot, so it definitely did not go to waste 🙂
This poor little baby lost a flipper, and is now learning how to swim and function without it!
Aren’t they just adorable?
The lovely pool the volunteers get to use in their down time
The garden where they grow all the veggies they eat/use in the restaurant. Sustainability for the win!
Another amazing project they are undergoing is putting these tubes along beaches for people to dispose of fishing line and other harmful rubbish.
Spread the word about being eco-conscious while shark diving – Pin this to your Pinterest boards!
ESSENTIALS FOR SHARK CAGE DIVING IN CAPE TOWN:
Thanks to Marine Dynamics for hosting me on this adventure shark cage diving in Cape Town – as always, all words are my own!