Travel: Shark Cage Diving – The Heart of the Cape Town Adventure Tourism Industry
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By: Sarah Manners
Over the past 350 million years sharks have dominated the oceans of the world. The fiercest predators in their domain, sharks have earned their reputation as the hunters of the sea. Humans have become fascinated by them and have a healthy combination of fear and respect for these beautiful creatures.
South Africa, more specifically Cape Town, is without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best destinations worldwide for experiencing sharks, especially Great White sharks, at close proximity. The population of sharks is unparalleled elsewhere, and the locations are so accessible and in close proximity to land, that you are virtually guaranteed to witness numerous animals engaging in what they were born to do.
The Adventure of a Lifetime
Shark cage diving and surface viewing has become increasingly popular within the adventure tourism industry over the past decade. It is the experience of a lifetime being able to witness these magnificent animals in their natural habitat.
Each year thousands of people travel the globe to see and dive with the 400 species of shark in our oceans. Each year they undertake this adventure with apprehension and excitement and each time return with a passion and deep seated respect for these fascinating creatures.
Swim with the Sharks
Shark cage diving is a strictly regulated industry, with only a few operators having been granted a license to engage in this activity. Great care is taken not to interfere too much with the natural behaviour patterns of the sharks. The feeding of sharks is also strictly prohibited, to prevent them from associating boats with an easy meal.
Passengers on the shark cage trips are most likely to experience Great Whites as other sharks tend to keep a low profile in their territories. The Cape Coast is one of the most famous Great White territories world wide.
On boarding the boat for the trip out to sea, the passenger’s anticipation is overwhelming. It can take up to an hour of chumming before the first shark appears. Once the sharks have settled down, the first group of cagers prepare to enter their cage while the rest retreat to the back of the boat or viewing platform to witness the spectacular proceedings, eagerly awaiting their turn in the cage.
The bait line is slowly drawn towards the cage. As the bait line approaches so too does the Great White. The cage experience has been described by some as an emotional, heart-stopping and truly thrilling experience.
The experience is not only thrilling for those in the cage. The passengers on the boat are able to enjoy the surface viewing from an unparalleled viewpoint and to observe and photograph the Great White sharks from only a few feet away. Surface viewing here is amazing as passengers get an all-round view of the sharks attacking, circling and descending.
Shark Cage Diving Locations
There are two areas where Great White diving is done, Gans Bay and Mossel Bay. Both these destinations are easily reached by land or air from Cape Town International Airport. Both destinations are also major tourist hot spots and accommodation and restaurants are of an excellent standard.
The best time of year for Great White viewing is between April and November mainly due to the mass-pupping of seals. Sharks are a little less active between December and March but are not completely absent from the areas. During caging and viewing trips Great White sharks are encountered 95% of the time, on a good day upwards of a dozen Great White sharks ranging between 2, 5 and 4, 5 meters may be encountered.
There are a multitude of companies operating shark tours in and around Cape Town many specialising in specific sightings because of where they are based. On most of the tours you will be able to experience many other aspects of marine life apart from the sharks: schools of dolphins; seals; penguins; bird life and occasionally whales.
Experience the Thrill
Whether sharks intrigue, fascinate or frighten you, it is the experience of a life time being so close to them and observing them in their natural habitat. Being with these mighty kings of the deep is one of the most popular activities in adventure tourism at the moment. Whether you wish to dive with Great Whites or simply view them from afar, Cape Town is the perfect location for you.
Shark cage diving is once in a lifetime opportunity for shark lovers and adventure junkies alike. Experience the ultimate thrill whilst diving with ragged-tooth sharks, a turtle, rays and game fishes in the I&J predator exhibit at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town
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