Cape Town: Cage Diving With Sharks!

I honestly wasn't sure if I would go through with this adventure in South Africa. 

I had read about it online, and saw that there were plenty of cage diving excursions that didn't require you to wear scuba gear to participate. But I was still uncertain about doing it. I am not a good swimmer - just the basics - and I don't like to get water in my ears.

"This probably isn't a good idea," I thought.

But the sharks themselves? I actually wasn't scared of them.

"This is an established business," I thought. "And you're in a cage, safe from them."

But that first glass of wine after breaking my Shamanic Dieta (30 days, no alcohol, post-ayahuascua retreat) made me brave. And I had the concierge at my hotel book it for me. So my second to last day in South Africa, I was picked up mid-morning and driven two hours to Gaansbai, a small fishing village in False Bay.

The excursion company I went with is one of the originals and has been in operation for over 20 years.

We were given a safety demonstration and instructions on how to get in and out of the cage from the marine biologist on staff before leaving dry land.

No scuba gear is used, but you do wear a wetsuit and a mask. When you are in the cage, a small portion of it stays above the water. You are told by the crew on the ship when a shark is approaching, and you pull yourself under water using bars recessed inside the cage.

The boat that is used fits 18 passengers, not counting the crew.

We were loaded onto the boat, and then driven into the water to head 15 minutes out to sea.

I chose to site in the very front of the boat. Big mistake. I was sprayed badly with water because of the wind, waves and our speed. I was drenched!

I was also assigned - because others were too chicken - to be in the first group of people inside the cage. Not only that... I was the first person down into the cage.


Once inside, they put the cage-top down, and we were floating in our wetsuits inside the cage.

The crew threw "chum" (freshly killed fish) into the water to coax the sharks nearer to the boat. They also had a freshly killed fish head attached to a hook on a rope, and one of the crew would cast the fish head out into the water...

It took about 10 minutes of being in the cage before we spotted out first shark.

"DOWN! DOWN! DOWN!" called the crew.

This meant we were to pull ourselves under and look. The water wasn't very clear. But I spotted one. I was on the right side of the cage... And the shark appeared to be about five feet away.

When we came back up, I was the only one who had seen the shark from inside the cage. This "dance" happened a few more times. We'd go under, only I would see the shark off in the distance.

But then that changed...

"DOWN! DOWN! DOWN!" called the crew.

We pulled ourselves down. This time, the shark was right in front of the cage.

Well, let me be more specific...

The shark was right in front of my spot in the cage.

His face was inches away from the cage where my hands and face were. And then he decided to ram into the cage.

I immediately popped back up above the water.

"HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT!" I screamed between maniacal laughter and choking on salt water.

"That's not holy shit!" said the Australian crew member. "That's a shark, lady!"

After that, I wasn't afraid. We went down a few more times, with the shark continuing to bang on the cage. Then we got out, and it was another group's turn to go into the cage.

I made sure I was the first one out of that cage though.

Ah! Happy to be out of the water!

I don't have a "Bucket List" for my life... But perhaps I should start one and retroactively cross things off. This would definitely be going on it!