A close encounter with a great white shark is a bucket list adventure not to be missed for adrenaline junkies considering a trip to South Africa. Several spots in the Western Cape offer guided cage diving tours that let you get up close and personal with the ocean's most feared apex predator while remaining safe. In this post, we'll tell you how to cage dive with great white sharks in a way that's safe for both you and the sharks.
Shark cages have been around since the 1950s when they were first proposed by Jacques Cousteau and further improved by famed shark attack victim Rodney Fox. They're composed of galvanized steel tubing and float on the water's surface, with the cage's top above the water's surface. This allows you to enter directly from the boat. Shark cages are attached to the boat at all times, and typically have a "window" or gap big enough to allow a clear view through the bars while still keeping inquisitive sharks from getting too close.
At the diving spot, there are responsible cage diving operators that attract sharks by scenting the water with fish blood and chum. Some may use tuna heads attached to a rope to lure sharks closer to the cage so that you get a clearer view. Once the sharks are present, you will be allowed to enter the cage in small groups, where you will either use a snorkel or a scuba regulator to stay underwater long enough to observe the sharks as they pass close to the bars.
Your cage dive adventure will begin with a thorough safety briefing, which will include information on the biology of sharks as well as how to keep safe on the boat and in the cage. It will take between 10 and 30 minutes to go to the chumming site, depending on which location you choose. The relatively low cost, accessibility of shark watching places, and nearly certain sightings are all fantastic reasons to visit South Africa rather than other hotspots such as Guadalupe Island in Mexico or the Farallon Islands in California to see great whites. You can watch from the safety of the boat if you're not sure about getting in the water with the great whites. The adventure is unquestionably worthwhile, but be sure you have the courage.