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For the brave and adventurous of his managers James Beckley invited us to a thrilling day out to get our adrenalin going, African style. We have been bantering about this experience as you can imagine for the last few months back in the comfort of Pearly Grey and now the day is upon us. James arrived with his minibus at 04:00am to collect us at The Peninsula Hotel our RCI residence for Cape Town.
It was still dark when we set off on a 2.5 hour drive to our destination and we arrived just in time for sunrise. We were welcomed by the Supreme Sharks team with a hot breakfast and then completed the necessary paperwork, basically signing our “shark bait” butts away. The Shark Team explained how they work with the Great Whites in the area and also assist with the conservation of these beautiful creatures. They wittily explained how we will spend the next couple of hours diving and viewing these magnificent predators in their natural habitat, how exciting. We were then measured up for our full body wetsuit along with a dry bag and towel. You can imagine as with any extreme sport these guys are full of banter and a twisted playful humour, the briefing was funny yet very real. Along with the skipper and boat crew our boss James then led his team to the harbour to board the vessel “Great White”. James (Restaurant), Gemma (Reception), Antonio (Accounts), Dennis (IT) and Philip (Sales) all followed in excitement and anticipation. With our bright orange, durable-plastic fisherman’s jackets we looked like a scene from a fishfinger advert!
Our boat then launched from the picturesque harbour of Kleinbaai and after about 20 minutes of rocking and rolling as the bow of the vessel slams through the coastal waves, we reach a calm and still area and drop anchor. The scene of the vast open foggy coastline is quite eerie giving a spooky feel to the atmosphere together with the morning chill in the air. Then the crew start chumming the area around the boat (this means baiting the water with fish blood and guts for you non-marine types) to get the sharks tempted to come closer, making it real for sure now!
Another safety briefing followed and then it was time for action. We waited for the first glimpse of a Great White Shark dorsal fin. In the meantime we awkwardly donned our diving gear which I must say was a feat in itself. Never before had we felt more like a team while helping one another squeeze into these clingy wetsuits, Team PG management bonding at its best!
At this point the seagulls are squawking overhead, swooping in frenzied dives into the sea to grab the shark bait floating on the ocean surface. We sat in a line of anticipation on the edge of the boat waiting for a Great White to approach, then as if from nowhere a large dorsal fin breaks the surface water. Within seconds the boat crew started dropping us into the cage (like puppies) by the scruff of our wet suits. No backing out now, the cage lid was promptly closed and we become the bait. As if our beating hearts weren’t enough to attract the sharks the crew baited the area again and launched large fish heads into the water and pulled them back towards the cage. Once the bait was taken by the shark it headed towards us and the crew shout “everyone down”. We all submerged with our masks on just in time to see a shark heading straight for our cage, teeth showing and a menacing look in its eyes. The sheer power of this magnificent fish as it crashed into the cage was immense. We all had a feeling of extreme exhilaration and appreciation for these predators.
Now what do you do while you’re in a shark cage with a 12 degree water temperature and you’re waiting for the next shark to come along? Of course you play a game of ‘I Spy’. As far as we could see the only visible object on the horizon was a large yellow float, so…. I spy with my little eye something beginning with Y. I don’t know whether it was our laughter that attracted the next visitor but heading directly for us was a huge 5 metre long shark and this one looked even more menacing than the last one. We were so lucky to see how they behave in their natural environment.
Back on the boat and into our dry clothes again we enjoyed the views from the upper deck as the second group did their dive. Great Whites are also known for their ‘spy hopping’, breaching right out of the water in pursuit of prey, which makes for great action shots. Gemma was clicking away with her camera and realising it’s not easy to catch that “Jaws-moment shot” but was pleased with her efforts when she got this snap.
Great White sharks can be found in almost all coastal and offshore waters which have water temperatures between 12 and 24 degrees Celsius. The Kleinbaai coast has one of the densest known populations of Great White sharks hence it being named the Great White Capital of the world! So, of course this was on the “to do” list while we travelled through this amazing country. Well done Antonio, James (Jimmy), Gemma, Phil, Dennis and to James Beckley for inspiring us all to do it.
Back on dry land we are served a bowl of hot delicious soup while our crew give us an informative debrief and recap of our experience. Now ready for our drive back to the girls to regale them with our courageous adventures, thankfully all in one piece and with memories to last a lifetime.
Some interesting shark facts include: