The Coastline of Southern Africa is well known as the IT place for great white sharks. With hot spots all over Cape Town, it comes as no surprise that a couple miles south from there; Mossel Bai would also have them. But, just because these parts are teaming with the fishy predators, doesn’t mean that I planned on meeting them up close and personal. Don’t get me wrong, I love wildlife and all things natural, but I have no intention of winning the Darwin Survival Award of the year. But, as most field sites go if you either don’t do something a little dumb and crazy or something crazy and dumb doesn’t happen to you it’s not a proper field site. So after a couple beers, an instructional video and 1750 Rand later, my teammates and I are ready to swim with some great whites.
Sitting on the boat and contemplating my life choices, we jump through choppy waves and head out to seal rock, where the Cape fur seals hang out. Now contrary to Hollywood belief, great whites are very timid and exceptionally picky eaters (i.e. they only like seals, mainly cape fur seals). However, when you bait them in with the smell of sweet, sweet fish guts near their favorite fast food joint (Seal Rock), they arrive with gusto. And, since we plan on joining them a few precautionary measures need to be in place. what say the experts on precautionary measures? A cage, about 8ft long and 10ft deep with an open top and an “oh shit!” handrail on the inside of the cage. Once in the cage, you hold on to the handrail and doggy paddle until the guide yells “dive!”. At that point, everyone dives underwater and attempts to see the sharks. Now, that seems easy to do, right? Wrong! The water around Mossel Bai is extremely murky and green. None of that Bali crystal clear water here folks! As a result, you don’t see a shark until you are nose to nose with the thing. And, these guys are big, up to 13ft long! Also, to top the experience, Jenny a juvenile great white has earned herself a name by being predictably curious. Often gnawing, chopping and jumping on the cage.
For the next 2 hours, my teammates and I took turns screaming, diving and snapping pics of Jenny and her friends. It. Was. Exhilarating. I am no adrenaline junky, but boy was that an experience. Sharks, especially great white sharks, are one of the top apex predators on our planet making it understandable as to why we fear them. But, they are more than just predators. Just like we humans, they are rulers of their own domain. They live, breed, eat, and die in their waters and are just as complex as ourselves. Yes, they can kill you, and yes, they do look like soulless water tanks, but viewing them only as that is wrong. Instead, we should view them as the beautiful, mysterious and powerful animals they are. Except for Jenny, Jenny sucks.