Swimming with Sharks – Sharon Spencer

Sharon gets up close and personal with Jaws

After a light welcome pre trip breakfast and a briefing before boarding, the boat set off to Geyser and Dyer islands from Kleinbaai Harbour, Gansbaai, South Africa at about 8am, the excursion lasted approximately 4½ hours. We arrived at the channel between the islands aptly named Shark Alley, the crew anchored and launched the shark cage into the water along the side of the boat. My Partner Matt and my Son Daniel, kitted up in their wetsuits and the crew immediately started chumming the water with tuna and fish oil, they also used a tuna head and a fake seal decoy which were thrown out on lines repeatedly and pulled back in towards the boat to entice the sharks further.

It wasn’t long before a Great White appeared beneath the surface, its dorsal fin and part of its tail silently sliced through the water, another shark joined it, two together, we were awestruck at these most wonderful and feared marine predators. Matt & Daniel were in the third group of divers to jump into the cage (which held 6 at a time), the water was cold. We all listened intently to the Dive Master who shouted the directions from which the shark was coming, “Divers Down!” and the divers submersed themselves, holding their breath in the safety of the cage next to the boat and awaited for that once in a lifetime eye to eye contact with the Great White sharks. “Down, Down, Down!” is shouted as the crew pulls the decoy and bait lines closer to the cage to lure these magnificent creatures closer and enticing them to bite. The bait is pulled over the edge of the cage and one of the Great Whites lunged to bite it, “Down Right!” as the shark crashed into the side of the cage, thrashing about and showing its huge gaping jaw and razor edged teeth now close enough to touch, the divers felt the adrenalin rush. The shark won and took half the tuna head as its prize. More sharks visited us, one stayed for quite a while, definitely more sedate and almost playful, it following the tuna bait closely, almost not giving in to temptation and going for the bite, teasing us.

I opted for the boat based viewing where I had an excellent all round view of the Great Whites from the boat’s upper deck. I watched their predatory activities from above and took some fantastic photos.

After our truly wonderful experience with the Great Whites, we continued on through Shark Alley passing Geyser Rock, a small island housing a permanent colony of approx 30,000 Cape Fur Seals, they basked on the rocks and played obliviously in the shallows of the water.

As we left the Islands behind and headed back to Gansbaai, we were fortunate to see a Southern Right Whale breaching, the whale breached 3 times, turning gracefully as it came crashing down with an almighty splash, another truly magnificent creature.

Back at the Harbour, the excursion ended with post trip refreshments and a viewing of the DVD of the day’s trip, we had encountered 8 different Great White sharks that day. We’d had an ultimate and varied experience with the sharks and a completely memorable day spent with some beautiful and awesome animals!


Sharon Spencer