MY GAP YEAR 2007/8

SHARK DIVING IN SOUTH AFRICA

We woke up at the crack of dawn to escape the traffic of the Garden Route. A lovely (long) drive took us pass vineyards and ostrich farms… Let’s talk about ostriches for a moment. They really are the most pointless and weird looking animals on this planet, the drag queen of the bird world, with their razzmatazz ‘look at me’ feathers and out of proportion legs! Apparently some crazy people over here race them.

Now where was I? Oh yes, so after a long drive we hit the most southern tip of Africa ‘Cape Agulhas’. Here is where the Atlantic meets the Indian Ocean. (I’m sure my Dad can give us a few facts on the area)

Cape Agulhas had some wonderful Art Deco building dotted along the coastline, which I loved but Ellie hated. She pointed out a house she liked, which can only be describe as a three story Fred Flintstone house. Our final stop for the day and our base for the next couple of nights was the fishing town of Hermanus.

Hermanus has the look and feel of a Cornish fishing town, but with one dark secret that has put it firmly on the world stage. It’s home to the breaching Great White Shark. This is one of only place in the world where the Great White has learnt a clever trick of catching its favorite meal, seal (and I’m not talking about the one hit wonder Seal, though feeding him to the sharks wouldn’t be such a bad thing). The Great White lurks on the seafloor looking up and waiting for shadows above that look like seals. Then it swims so fast and hits the poor seal so hard the shark can breach the water and catch the seal in its huge gob, you have probably all seen this on the BBCs Planet Earth.

We had 1/2 a day to kill once we got to Hermanus so we went out to a very posh seafood and sushi restaurant by the harbor, Ellie being the glamour puss she is fitted in no problem but I wondered in to the place wearing flip flops, my green Hustler t-shirt and a pair of combat shorts. I must say, I did get some funny looks from the staff. As we are in SA everything is so flipping cheap compared to the U.K. A three course meal at this restaurant came to £24 and as we’re in wine country, a bottle cost under £3. Quids in.

The next day we headed down to the harbor for a spot of great white shark diving. The weather had turned a bit nasty coursing rather large swell to form out near where the sharks were. We met the twelve other tourists who we were going out with us, Why is there always some annoying tourist in a group? This time it was a loud mouthed tubby French guy who I thought would be great to use as bait for the sharks. Our dive master was a bit of a mad bastard, he’s famous for his diving with the Great White without a cage, he also likes to kiss them on the nose, like I said, a mad bastard.

We set sail for seal Island which is about 3 miles from the mainland. It doesn’t take long for us to get there in our converted fishing boat with twin 200hp engine bolted on the back of it. Bouncing over the massive waves was great fun for Ellie and I but you could see some people were starting to go green and were hanging on for dear life.  Wet suits on and it’s at this point I spy the French dudes choice of swimming costume, a dazzling blue and pink Speedo! very fetching indeed.

Once the crew sorted out the cage, they started to chum (bait) with old pieces of rotting tuna and other fish guts. It’s only minutes until the sharks started circling the boat, the first time you see these big fish you realize they’re nothing like how the press and media portray them, and that they are very graceful creatures, saying that, you wouldn’t get me swimming with them without a cage.

Once you get in the cage the dive master watches out for the sharks from the boat and tells you when to hold your breath and go underwater. The first shark I saw underwater swam straight passed the cage, it was jaw dropping seeing this massive killer only a few feet away from me and then just disappear in to the murky depths of the Atlantic. I think at this point I dropped a log in my wet suit!

We must have seen a few different sharks the biggest one being about 3.5 meters long (It looks way bigger underwater, I can tell you). A bit later one of shark took the bait and started to wrestle with it sending its tail thrashing in to the cage.

After our time in the cage we headed back to the mainland, I mustn’t laugh, but Ellie and I had a bit of a giggle when the whole group started getting seasick. I will never get the picture out of my head of all those people bending over the side of the boat chucking up their sandwiches, chumming the ocean again. I wonder if the sharks enjoyed the taste of mashed up carrots and peanuts.

AWARDS OF THE DAY

TWAT OF THE DAY

Has to go to Speedo French guy for sticking his arm out of the cage to take a photo of the shark ever time one got close. Those sharks can move lightning fast and could have easily bitten his arm clean off.

I’VE GOT BIG BALLS
Goes to the blind American who dived with us. If it wasn’t scary enough seeing the shark crash in to the cage just imagine what it must feel like to not knowing what the hell is going on and just feeling it. big respect! though I was tempted to shout out ‘The cage has a massive hole in it’ and see what he would have done. Oh I’m going to hell now!

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Cape Agulhas

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Comedy Cocking Cape Agulhas

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Hermanus

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Scared of the Sharks

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Cage Diving

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Lighthouse at Cape Agulhas

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Art Deco – Cape Agulhas

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Hermanus

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A Great White Shark

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Scared of Sharks? Me? Never.

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