“Gansbaai is known as the capital of the great white sharks, which, contrary to popular belief, are not angry and agressive animals”
Finally, the big day had descended upon us. I was going to cage dive with the great white sharks. It was 5am and I was already all set to go as I had barely managed to sleep during the night, because of the excitement. After driving for about half an hour, we reached Gansbaai, a small village situated between the towns of Hermanus and Pearly Beach on the coastline of the Western Cape. Despite the numerous cups of coffee that I had drunk since the morning, (I did not want to eat much to avoid any sea sickness on the boat!), I was still sleepy.
As we were waiting for the White Shark Projects boat, a ray of sun broke the darkness. And soon my black eyes took on a golden hue. The blue waters too turned into fire and everything became clear. I just stood there, almost glued to the soil, thanking the Sun god for blessing me with this view. The boat left the port and after an hour ride we finally anchored somewhere in the middle of the sea. Nothing around except the water and a few seagulls trying to grab bites of the dead fish on the boat.
Many believe that the great white shark is the most feared creature in the world. “Gansbaai is known as the capital of white shark, we take people to see the sharks everyday! We really focus on changing people’s perception and mindset about the animal. The media and movies often unfortunately portray the white shark as an angry and aggressive animal,” says Tom, a marine biologist working with the White Shark Project. “We believe there are only between 2,000 to 5,000 white sharks left on this planet and it is a very, very low number. Each shark has its own and unique personality, some are cautious, some are calm, some are curious. You never know which shark you are going to get, how long they will stay and how close they will come, every day it’s a surprise,” adds Tom.
As the White Shark Projects’ team brief us about the safety measures and other information, some faces in the boat go whiter than the sharks and soon when it is time to wear the suit to get in the cage, many desist and opt out of the tour. I was scared, too, but I suddenly thought that it was not so different from seeing a tiger during a safari! Both are great predators and the risk is equally the same. I decide not to think much and quickly wear my waterproof diving suit.
The shark project team had spread some dead fish mix in the water, the smell is quite strong, but it helps in attracting the sharks. The sharks are not yet here, I get into the cage where five other courageous people are waiting. The water is cold and at first, I did not really know where to hold and where to watch. “Everything is happening at the surface,” says Tom, the marine biologist. I just got in and as the cage was still open, I hear a voice saying “shark shark shark!”, “Close the cage!!!”, I screamed.
And as the metal door closes, I see it jumping from the water to grab the tuna head used to attract him. In this moment of excitement, I decide to dive further down in the cage and I see it barely a few centimeters from me, I can’t really remember how many rows of teeth I saw but there were definitely a lot and they were quite sharp. The shark did not seem to care about us at all. It was swimming peacefully. Soon a second one, bigger size appeared. On the boat people were screaming with joy and taking lots of pictures. We get back to boat, and with a big smile on my face I tell everyone, “I did it!”.