Alicia’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 24 Aug 2010

Location: Hermanus, South Africa

MapFirst thing in the morning we booked our Shark Cage Diving expedition which we learned would leave at 12:30, so that meant we had all morning to wander around the city. A lofty view of the bay was only a few steps out the door of our hotel, so we wandered over to one of the many lookout platforms that stretched into Walker Bay. Almost immediately we saw whales just off the coast. They are easy to spot because of their spray shooting into the air out of the water. As we continued watching them we saw their flippers as they spun around in the water and even caught a glimpse of a tail or two. We climbed out on the rocks for a better view and stumbled upon some beaver (body of a beaver with no tail) looking things that were living in the rocks. They approached us as if they expected we would have food. From a distance they were cute, but up close we noticed they actually looked pretty pissed off. One guy was feeding them apple and it looked like the little guy was about to nip the guy's finger right off.

After the whales went further out into the bay we walked around and checked out all the little shops and craft stands in downtown Hermanus. It's a pretty small town so it didn't take us too long, but we did find a beautiful giraffe carving that we bartered for. We also stumbled upon an Italian gelato shop so that made me pretty happy.

We arrived at the dive shop and took care of the necessary paperwork (basically payment and signing something that says if you get eaten by sharks it's not their fault). There were close to 20 folks who would be going out on the boat. They gave us a quick run through of safety information and before we knew it we were heading out from shore. After about 15 minutes we slowed down and a guy at the back of the boat was dumping water infused with fish guts over the side of the boat. Finally we anchored and they slid the huge cage into the water and pulled it up along side the boat. While we waited for sharks to surround us we got into our wet suits and got prepared to enter the cage. There were 3 groups of 5 that would be entering the cage. Mike and I hung back so Mike could take pictures and so we could see what the whole experience was like from the boat. When the first group went into the cage there was only one smaller shark swimming around the boat. I figured if we waited we might get lucky and have more sharks and larger sharks come for us. There was a giant fish head attached to a buoy that the boat guys were using as a lure. We watched from the boat as the guys lured the shark up to the surface and we stared wide-eyed as the shark popped out the water with his huge jaws snapping at the fish head. A couple of times the shark would get a hold of it and pull it off, but most of the time the guys would pull the fish head away just as the shark was jumping up for it. Finally, we went into the cage with the 3rd group just as a larger shark approached. Once inside the cage they will yell "down, down, down!" when a shark is coming and you hold your breath and plunge under the surface to view the shark. We watched underwater as the shark passed back and forth in front of the cage and then the fish head moved in a way that had the shark swimming straight for the cage and the shark hit the cage right in front of me. I screamed underwater, more from being startled than actually afraid of getting eaten, it was so exciting! We learned at he aquarium in Cape Town that more people die every year from defective toasters than they do from sharks. The cage diving experience was exhilarating, definitely something I would do again and recommend to others. On our way back to shore we spotted some whales and were able to get amazingly close to them to snap a few good pictures.