One of the first books I remember from my childhood was about Sharks, I think I was around 5 or 6 years old when my parents gave it to me, and from that very moment on, I have been obsessed with sharks. My obsession grew when I was 13; my Aunt and Uncle took me to the Bahamas with my sister and my uncle, who was an avid diver, was going to dive with sharks. He gladly allowed me to tag along with him on the dive boat. As I watched all the divers getting ready, I was dying to get in the water with them, so when my uncle slipped into the water he looked back up at me. I looked at him and said “Do you think I could snorkel at the top and watch you?” He looked back, said matter of faculty, “yes, just try not to splash around” then disappeared under the water. I of course wasn’t left completely alone, the captain of the boat said he would supervise me and even get in the water with me. I threw on my snorkel gear and jumped in. For the next hour I swam looking down at an old ship wreck and watching sharks circle below.
When Marcin and I decided to take a year sabbatical from work and travel, the first thing I said to him was that we were going to South Africa to go Cage Diving with Great White Sharks! My initial dream was of course to see a Great White breach off the coast of South Africa – the only place in the world where they do. This is why South Africa was my first choice to see the Great White Shark – I wanted to see them fly. Unfortunately, we missed the breaching season by only a month, but nonetheless we knew cage diving was still excellent in October. When I started looking into exactly where we should go in South Africa, I naturally turned to the only other person who shares the same passion for sharks as I do, my friend Curtis. I think Curtis and I might be the only two adults over 30 who can sit and have a conversation about sharks – Great Whites in particular – for over an hour and never get bored. His 3 year old son D has become just as obsessed as his dad with sharks so we now have a party of 3 to discuss sharks for hours and who mark The Discovery Channels Shark Week on the calendar every year. So naturally the moment I knew SA was on the travel docket, I turned to Curtis to pick the best location to dive from – it took all of about 30 seconds to receive a text back – it just said Gansbaai. So, to the net I went and in the end chose White Shark Diving Co. It was the first thing for the whole trip we booked after the plane tickets.
So the day arrived – I was like a kid on Christmas eve – I had hardly slept I was so excited and Marcin was in giddy mode, we were about to meet Great White Sharks. We set off to the doc, the sky was grey and I have to say – the sea was angry that day my friends. Marcin had made me take a motion sickness pills, but as we looked out at the swells, we knew I was in trouble. But to the boat we went, the thought of a little sea sickness was not going to keep us from doing something I have dreamed about since I was 6. The ride to the dive site was – harry – we shot up over swells, seeing sky, only to crest over and see nothing but water. Finally we arrived at the site, they through the cage in and suddenly the captain yelled out shark – I looked over the side and there she was – a big beautiful White – everything in me wanted to yell out “I think we need a bigger boat” – but alas I held it in. The guy yelled out if anyone was ready and turned to see me standing there fully geared and good to go – he laughed as no one else was ready yet – I was to excited – I was the first in.
Within seconds the crew was yelling “down, down, down” – I held my breath, dove under and out of the hazy blue came a Big White gliding silently towards me, she passed right beside me and I got to look into one of those big black eyes! I almost lost it – I came up out of the water and was so excited trying to tell Marcin that I swallowed a nice gulp of sea water. The next 15 minutes were amazing. It was time to get out of the cage and let the next group go – I climbed out, walked to the other side of the boat and promptly vomited. I had been tossed about in the water so much in the cage I had begun to get so sick. I spent the next 20 minutes, providing my own form of chum over the side of the boat, green as could be with poor Marcin trying to manage me, take pictures and go in the cage. On a plus side, my chum managed to attract 4 sharks so I had my own personal viewing. Despite my sickness, the minute he asked if anyone wanted to go a second time, I walked over and jumped in the cage again. After another 15 minutes, I got out and once again promptly walked over and vomited over the side of the boat. I was so ill Marcin had to rip me out of my wetsuit and dress me. Despite that we still had an amazing time, I was a little upset that I was so sick and Marcin was very upset because our GoPro battery died and we couldn’t get any underwater pics. But it was what it was and it was amazing, so we heading off along the Garden Route.
On the way back to Cape Town I was insistent that we stop in Gansbaai to get shark diving souvenirs – I really wanted a T-Shirt and I promised a little guy I would get him something – , despite it being an hour out of our way we went. As I was parsing souvenirs, Marcin came running back in declaring that the next dive trip was leaving in 12 minutes and there were 2 spots! So off we went again. This time, the sun was shinning, the water was relatively calm and Marcin had an oversized GoPro battery charged and ready to go and he drugged me twice as much as the first time. This time was even more amazing than the first – I was second in the water this time – some guy with his own wetsuit beat me – blast. We both had an amazing experience, Marcin had some close encounters and a shark ran head first into the cage and thrashed around shaking both him and the cage – he came up screaming woooooooooooooooooooooo and giving the thumbs up. I had a smiler close encounter and almost got wackier by the tail as it thrashed back against the cage where my hands were. I also came up screaming woooooooooooooooooooooo. The bonus was that I wasn’t sick this time and the battery was charged on the camera and we got some amazing footage. Hope you enjoy the video!