Suddenly a great white shark barreled towards me with black zombie eyes and razor sharp teeth only inches away from my face. Would this be my last adventure?
Luckily the cage stopped it. I was shark cage diving in South Africa and adrenaline was coursing through my body. Great white sharks are the ocean’s most lethal predators — meeting them up close is pretty intense.
The fact that these sharks are responsible for the greatest number of fatal attacks on humans added to my excitement. I grew up watching Shark Week on Discovery, now I was living it!
Shark Alley is a unique area off the coast of Gansbaai where sharks come to hunt seals. It has one of the highest concentrations of great white sharks in the world.
Great White Sharks
Arguably the most feared animal under the sea, great white sharks have a notorious reputation. Growing up to 7 meters long and weighing over 3,000 kg, these pre-historic monsters can easily rip prey apart using powerful jaws armed with hundreds of serrated teeth.
Great white sharks are ambush predators, silently sneaking up on their victims from below at speeds up to 35 mph. They can even breach out of the water, soaring into the sky.
These sharks feast on tuna, rays, dolphins, seals, whales, sea turtles, and even birds. Along with an excellent sense of smell, they have a special 6th sense that can detect an animal’s electromagnetic field.
However the great white’s history of human attacks is what gives many people nightmares — or galeophobia, fear of sharks.
Cage Diving South Africa
After breakfast and a safety briefing with our tour operator Marine Dynamics, we boarded Slash Fin, a custom-designed boat used for underwater shark watching excursions. It took about 30 minutes to motor into prime shark territory.
The shark cage was lowered into the water and strapped to the side of the boat as we pulled on thick wetsuits and weight belts. I was in the first group, and climbed down into the cage. That water is cold!
The cage is only partially submerged, with hand and foot rails inside. No snorkels are used, only masks. You keep your head above water until the shark spotters yell “DOWN”, at which point you take a deep breath and push your feet under the bottom rail, holding yourself underwater to watch the action.
What kind of action? The kind that makes your heart race…