If I came up to you and asked if you wanted to jump into a cage in the middle of an ocean filled with Great White Sharks, would you say ‘hell no, are you crazy’, or ‘hell yeah get me in that cage’? Guess what our answers were…
Although it is usually left until last minute, Jess and I are good at planning our trips. This time, we messed up.
We (Jess) had booked a cabin in a holiday park as that was the only thing available at a days’ notice. When we turned up however, we were told we had booked for the following night and they had no space for us tonight. Oops. So we were basically in the middle of nowhere, without anywhere to stay, we had no phones and didn’t know the area! Luckily Jess had noticed a McDonalds along the way (of course she did, she bloody loves McD’s), so we thought we would try our luck for some free wifi.
We were in South Africa, in the middle of nowhere, of course this McDonalds didn’t have any wifi!
Then we spotted our next best option, an information centre. At 6pm, it probably would be closed but it was our only hope! Our luck seemed to have changed, it was open and the lady managed to sort us out some accommodation!
Once we arrived at our newly built granny annex over looking the ocean, we used the FREE WIFI, to check our emails and which company we would be diving with tomorrow. An email was sitting in our inbox saying ‘sorry for any inconvenience’s, the shark diving trip tomorrow Is cancelled’. All of this palava for nothing. According to plenty of google reviews, this company is a bit of scam, always cancelling trips and will never refund you your money. Always check reviews before you book ladies and gentlemen!
They say lightning never strikes twice, but today it had for us. Somehow, once again our luck changed. The owner of our accommodation happened to have two available spots on a boat in the morning for a cheaper price than our original (scam) booking!
Arriving at the office on the jetty to sign in, pay and drink complimentary coffee, we had a chance to think how glad we were that everything fell into place. Sitting enjoying the sunshine, until I noticed the replica cage to the side of the office. I had to check it out of course. Standing inside it, the gaps in between the bars were a bit too wide for my liking. This raised alarms for me and the other people checking it out.
A few minutes later we had a safety briefing before heading out into the open ocean. We covered all the safety procedures and were given a chance to ask any questions we had. Of course the cage was questioned, but luckily this was an older model and the newer upgrades had much smaller holes! It was completely safe apparently – have you seen the video of a shark getting into a cage with a diver?!
The boat bounced across the waves like a kangaroo, heading out to deeper, darker water in the look out for Great White Sharks. We both took sea sickness tablets but even they couldn’t quite cut it. The water was so rough. We finally stopped at a prime shark location!
Our guides started ‘chumming’, which is how they encourage the sharks in. They basically throw loads of fish guts and remains into the water. It stinks. Apparently a shark can detect a single drop of blood from 3 miles (5km) away. Saying this, we still had to wait over an hour for our first shark to make an appearance.
The first shark was spotted. Action stations. Group one was ready to go in the cage. Jess was a bit nervous and decided that we should watch the first group to check it’s safe before we entered! Lucky we did. They all climbed into the cage – the entrance is at the top with no barriers or support, so one wrong slip and you could be shark bait – and into the choppy water. A small great white slowly approached. Down shouted the guides. So you push yourself under the water to watch the shark swim past.
This particular shark was a bit of a let down, so the first group were left in the water for a bit to wait for another. This wait turned into 20 minutes. We felt so bad for them, being in this cold, choppy water for 20 minutes with no sharks. When you go over a wave, it sometimes fills the entire cage so you actually have to push right up to the top bars to be able to get some air!
Eventually they got the poor guys out of the water and decided to try another location.
At the second location, the boat crew started the chumming process again. It wasn’t long before we enticed a shark. It was our turn in the cage, and our turn was now. Although we were nervous, it all happens so quickly that all you feel is adrenaline.
Once we were in the cage the shark seemed to disappear. I hoped it wouldn’t be the same case as the people before, because I could see Jess struggling to push herself up to the top of the cage to get a breath as the waves came by. Then along came a huge sting ray. Down, down, down! It was amazing.
Five minutes went by, then all of a sudden, the cage jolted. I could hear Jess scream. She was on the opposite side to me, and exactly where she didn’t want to be – on the end. Another jolt on the cage, and another scream, this time by Jess and another girl. Amongst the girls screaming, there was shouting from the boat, ‘it’s coming from the left again’, ‘down, down,down’. The jolting of the cage, was this huge Great White smashing it’s tail against the side of the cage, just centimetres away from Jess. Under the water, it was so silent. I could feel my heart racing with adrenaline. There it was with its piercing black eye, cruising past the cage full of people, so graceful yet terrifying.
Before we knew it that moment had past and we were out the cage back in the boat and the first group were back in for about 20 minutes but yet again the shark had swum into deep blue.
After all three of the groups had been, we had lunch. Feeling full to the brim (when on a budget you have to take advantage of free food), we headed out to the deck to lay in the sun.
A large dark shadow was approaching the boat.
It started to circle the boat. With a fin poking out of the water, it wasn’t hard to see what it was circling us. Another Great White Shark.
The guides made the quick decision to let anyone who wanted another go, get into the cage. Jess was happy to watch from the side, but I on the other hand wasn’t going to say no!
There were less people in the cage this time which was great and I had positioned myself in the corner to get the best view. We could see the silhouette of the shark in the distance following the Tuna head towards my end of the cage. I’m sure the last few seconds of the beast swimming towards us went in slow-mo.
The shark now a meter away, mouth wide open, rows and rows of razor sharp teeth coming towards me, next thing I know the shark smashes into the side of the cage and is swimming in an upwards motion almost on top of the cage and for a second it was like the shark was looking into my eyes as it was right in front of me trying to get this tuna head. I remember swearing a lot under water which wasn’t the best idea, but this was maybe the most extreme experience I’ve ever had.
Ben is one half of Ben and Jess’s Adventures. He is a dreamer, constantly coming up with extravagant and unusual ideas of where we should head to next. His favourite idea is to spend a year in China learning Kung-Fu taught by monks. Scared of nothing and always up for a thrill he can sometimes land himself in some unfortunate circumstances like this one time he broke and dislocated his wrist in Australia and ended up in hospital for a week! No matter how much trouble he lands himself in, his cheeky charm will always get him out of it!