South Africa – also known as Great White Shark Capital of the World. It is unknown whether or not they do indeed have the greatest number of Great Whites, or not. But what we do know is that the concentration of this beautiful animal is extremely high in one specific area off the splendid shores of a small fishing village ~ Gansbaai, South Africa.
Great Whites are the most widely renown shark across the world. No one can deny that Steven Speilberg played a significant role in making the shark popular with the release of JAWS in the 1970’s. Granted this movie was spectacular and wonderful entertainment. However, the facts on this magnificent creature have since been far off key with “ideas” and “visions” from the blockbuster Hollywood movie. The ever popular Shark Week hasn’t exactly helped with the facts either. Shark Week, has admitted embellishing stories, or making unfounded theories seem realistic. With all of the popularity surrounding Great White Shark, the sad reality is we know very little about this animal.
Here’s a few facts we do know. They have six senses; not only do they taste, touch, hear, smell, and see but they have electromagnetism. This enables them to detect magnetic fields of their prey. And NO, their prey does not include humans. Most human attacks are mistaken identity – which is why you should never go out in murky, cloudy water if you live an area with sharks. Which is every single ocean. These creatures are older than dinosaurs, their ancestry dates back over 400 million years. And they have been on rapid decline since the 1950s when shark fin soup became in demand. Sharks are apex predators, at the top of the food chain in the ocean. They keep oceanic ecosystems healthy, when they prey the prey on the weak, sick, and old; essentially keeping the marine life at healthy normal levels. If sharks go then the marine life ecosystem loses balance, and that my friends is very, very bad.
But lets get back to business… the FIVE key things you want to know about diving with great whites in South Africa.
- Look for a dive outfit/tour that does good. There is a lot of controversy surrounding cage dives in South Africa, and this tourist attraction can bring in millions. Look for a company that puts money back into preserving the Great White population, a company that aims to help and protect them, vs. just making money off of them. We chose Marine Dynamics Shark Tours ~ they have won numerous awards, along with starting the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, they take meticulous detailed data, and I was really impressed with their presentation on the Great Whites and everything they are trying to do to save the species.
- Stay in Gansbaai, South Africa. Most people take a tour right out of Cape Town, but that means you are riding in a bus for for 2 hours to Gansbaai, then 2 hours back. This limits your tour time on the water, which limits your sightings of sharks. Instead I highly recommend renting a car and driving along the coast and hit up stops such as the penguin colony, and cute towns such as Hermanus, and of course Gansbaai. Give yourself a day for the drive even though it is only 2 hours. There will are plenty of sights you will want to see. I wrote about the Cape Whale Route here. We stayed at Crayfish Lodge and highly recommend it – it’s a luxury B&B at its best, and the owners are fantastic!
- For those that are less than enthusiastic about jumping in the cold water with a Great White, even while safely in a cage, you can stay on board the boat. In fact for this particular dive I actually enjoyed staying on top more. We went in December and the water visibility was low, and as exciting as the cage was, the view was better from above. I was able to just watch and appreciate the beautiful sharks for everything they are.
- When is best time to see them? You can see Great Whites all year, however April – December you have a 90% chance of seeing them at the surface. But water visibility is best May – August. In January – March they are still around, but it sightings start to get dicey.
- Dress accordingly. You would think this is a no brainer – but even in South African Summer Months can be chilly. So I would definitely pack layers for your boat trip. The water temps can vary between 50-68, but don’t worry the operation will provide you with thick wet suits!
Hope everyone enjoys this beautiful December Weekend ~ thanks for stopping by!