Thursday, September 17, 2015

South Africa 2015 - September, 16 - Cape Town Shark Diving

South Africa 2015 - September, 16 - Cape Town Shark Diving

Yeah, we did it!  One of the most anticipated things that Kathy wanted to do while in Cape Town was to go shark diving.  A little apprehensive at first, I went along with the plan not knowing if I really wanted to do it or not.  Not that I would feel unsafe, since I believe they companies were in business due to safety (i.e. if someone dies as a result of a defective cage, that business would be defunct pretty quick, me thinks).

The day started out at a very early 0330 SAST, when Kathy’s alarm woke us up in order to get ready for our 0400 arranged pickup time.  Yeah, 4 AM in the freakin morning to drive 2+ hours to introduce yourself to Jaws!  What in the hell were we thinking?  We were the first pickup of around 4 stops in Cape town.  Once everyone was picked up, we migrated to Supreme Sharks in Gansbaai South Africa.  Most of us slept on the bus while traversing the hillsides and roads to the way to our demise, er, I mean experience.

Once we arrived at Supreme Sharks, we were greeted by picking out our wetsuits and boots before we went upstairs to get breakfast and coffee/tea, etc.  I opted to go with an empty stomach, just in case.  A little later, we were briefed about what to expect, a safety overview, what to do vs not to do (like what happens if you #1 or #2 your wetsuit), and where to puke if we were to get sea sick (not where the cage goes, but back by the chum bucket - blech).

Once all the formalities were in order, including signing a waiver not holding their business accountable if we were to lose appendages, camera’s, clothing, or our life.  Standard business, I guess.  Either way, we both signed and gave them our hard earned money to risk our lives by great white sharks.  Not really (see statement about safety above).

We set out around 0830 SAST in to the Indian/Atlantic Ocean to go see these jaws-like creatures.  As we were touring out of the bay, swells of the ocean were taller than the boat, which made for a pretty squirrelly ride on our 20+ minute journey out to sea.  While traversing the waves, I noticed that we happened to pick the seats nearest the trash bucket, which I thought was a great idea at the time, since the chum was over on the other side of the 40ft vessel that carried 20 of us victims passengers and 5 crew members.  Turns out, that was the chum bucket, were fish parts were mixed with sea water to put out to entice the sharks to show their faces to us thrill seekers.  Some people think that chumming sharks is just plain not right.  The way I see it as someone that goes to a zoo to see caged animals are doing pretty much the same thing, so I didn't listen to them .

Anyway, back to the chum.  The best way I can describe chum is fish parts, like heads, filets, bones, skin, guts, eyeballs, eggs, and all the other things that make up a sea creature.  I guess sharks really like tuna too, so there is an aroma to thawed out tuna that didn't make the cut to go to market (which was likely days ago).  Once the chummer was done with the parts, he would mix in some full fish by breaking them up by hand (thats freakin gross, btw), and by foot by mashing them with his boot.  As I watched him do all of this, I was thinking how this position would be written for a job opportunity and who on the earth would interview for such a position.  Enough of that corporate thought, I was on vacation…

The chum was dealt out via a cut up 1-gallon container with the top missing.  The chummer would dip the container in the trash can with the guts and parts floating and toss it out next to the boat.  This was supposed to attract the sharks due to their keen sense of smell.  However, during the first say hour and a half, it only attracted sea gulls.  Hundreds and hundreds of starving and loud sea gulls.  The sea gulls would dive bomb the water and grab what parts they could for breakfast.  At times, there would be pretty significant portions that a sea gull would grab and then it was a fight to the finish.  Several would chase and pursue the flyer with the take and attack the chum until it was whittled down to bite sized pieces for all to share.  Fun times!

For the better part of the morning, we were just watching the sea gulls and each other.  At one point, the first puker made his way over to the official and allowable puke area, which happened to be right in front of Kathy and I, as well as the chum master and his trash bucket full of liquid and down right ickiness.  Well played, Rob. You chose the best spot to catch all the nasty action!

About 2 hours in to the festivities, there was finally a shark sighting.  Then, another…  That was the signal to lower the cage down in to the water.  The cage was just that. Probably 7ft tall, 3ft from front to back, and around 20ft long.  It fit 8 of us, shoulder to shoulder, quite nicely.  The first group were preparing to go in the water, while the master diver dude baited the shark with a big rope with 4 fish heads tied to it (and bolted together for some strange reason).  The second group, which included Kathy and yours truly, were in line ready for the first group to come aboard.  As the first group did just that, they handed their weight belts and goggles to us.  We had the choice to dip the goggles in to the fresh water bucket next to the line or not.  Kathy and I did, for sure, since we didn't know which one of the black suited divers puked in the water or not.

As we received our goods and headed for the water, which was around 55* f, we were hurried in due to the presence of the sharks.  If you don't know how cold that water is, pour yourself a cold water bath sometime and just get in.  It pretty much takes your breathe away, even with a wetsuit.  Kathy and I, with the GoPro in hand, were next to each other and good to go.  It wasn't long before we saw a couple of different sharks.  Then a couple of more.  What a site seeing a great white shark up close and personal.  It was one thing to snap some photos and video while on the boat, but going in the water was crazy awesome.  Out of the 20+ divers, only around 14 or so took the option to dive a second time.  Of course, the Smiths were in line for the second dive as well, which turned to be one of the better dives due to the biggest shark, which measured over 3.5 meters (approx 12 ft) approached the cage and bumped into it with his snout and his body (his-hers-whatever-I didn't check anatomy).  What a thrill!

Once we got back aboard, we changed back into our street clothing and headed back to the shop.  The guy that was sick near us was still getting sick, even though he had some water and a lollipop (I guess lollipops help with sea sickness, so they said).  We posed for a group photo and headed up the hill to the shop where we had lunch and made final purchases (Kathy got a cool shirt).  They took photos and video the entire time, so once back, they edited the assets on the fly and presented us the video, which was also for purchase, which we did, which almost everyone did, which was very nicely marketed, which was not to shabby on price ($15US).

After we got some lunch and such, we got in the van to head back to Cape Town, which was another trek of 2+ hours, but this time in the daylight.  The sites were pretty cool throughout the journey back home, especially near Gordons Bay.  We were dropped off at the condo around 3ish, and took it all in.  What a special opportunity to do something like that, especially since we are from a landlocked state in the US.

Of course, we had to do the three S’s and get ready to go to Brian's Pub and share our experiences to our new friends.  Once down at the pub, most everyone was there as expected.  They had to hear about the crazy US kids that were going shark diving, which everyone there said they wouldn't do, due to being nuts or being like going to a zoo (see above).  The beer went down exceptionally good on this happy hour time.  Though being very tired from being up as early as we were, we toughed it out long enough and then headed home to get some leftovers from our fridge.  What a great day, though very exhausting.

Map from Cape Town to Gansbaai

Video courtesy of Supreme Sharks, Ganspaai South Africa

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