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One of the highlights of any trip to South Africa is diving with great white sharks! Most charters run out of Gansbaai, about a two hour drive from Cape Town, but a few operate out of Simons Town (45 mins from city centre). I went on one of these charters; they leave early in the morning, before day break, in the hopes of seeing the sharks predate. Great whites here are known to jump out of the water in pursuit of their prey – mostly Cape Fur Seals.  Sea sickness tablets are a must (I wouldn’t have lasted ten minutes without mine), especially by those who have yet to develop their sea legs. We were lucky and saw many sharks breaching the water preying on seals.

About an hour after sunrise the boat operators started to chum the water. This entails throwing fish guts and oils into the sea to create a slick which attracts the sharks (a similar slick would be created naturally by a tuna carcass for example). The operators then tow a decoy (fake seal) and wait for the sharks to take the bait. At this time, participants can get into the water (it’s between 17-20 degrees centigrade). Some operators allow the use a scuba regulators, others use mask and snorkel and breathe holding techniques. We put on thick wetsuits and boots and gloves and took turns getting into the cage, using surface supplied air delivered through regulators. Only the brave choose to get into the cage to be circled by hungry great whites. The views from the boat are spectacular and you can clearly see the sharks from this vantage point as they are surface feeders. But from below the surface the view is extraordinary! The sharks swim right past the cage- you could reach out and touch them, if you were that way inclined. This is truly a once in life time opportunity to view these animals up close and personal in the wild. They are majestic powerful creatures and a joy to watch.

Photos taken by Clare Lindique

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