Ganbaai is a coastal town 2 hours away from Cape Town. There are many vineyards on the way. They boast about their closeness to the ocean and its positive effect on their wine, which is the other way around with Stellenbosch. Again on the way there is Hermanus, a cute little village. With its many observation decks, it welcomes tourists coming to watch whales pass. Hermanus became one of my favourite places in South Africa. It is that kind of a place when you say “Let’s settle here when we retire”…
You may not believe but the reason why I visited Gansbaai is not about trying a food or tasting a drink! I went there, where the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean meets, to dive with sharks! Me, who doesn’t even untie the seatbelt on a 13 hour flight, who treads on eggshells, who is a stranger to risk… I still can’t comprehend how I set out for this.
I think what encouraged me was the knowledge that I would be diving in a cage. In the moments when I was afraid the most, my innervoice always said “you are gonna dive in steel cage, nothing to worry about.” And what was more, I had searched many diving agencies and chose the one with the safest boat and the most experienced crew.
We arrived Gansbaai at the estimated time. A young, cheerful girl greeted us. She was as comfortable as someone who have been doing this for a long time but the fact that she was constantly making jokes about us feeding the sharks was frustrating. I forced a smile and listened my innervoice: “you are diving in a steel cage, nothing to worry about” Essentials about what we should and shouldn’t do were explained to us and they handed each of us a paper to read and sign. To summarize the paper said “I know sharks are dangerous animals, I am liable for myself, if I do something stupid like fall of the boat and feed the sharks, it is on me. Do not bother the agency.” Doomed to sign we proceeded to the boat… The boat wasn’t that big, 10 maybe 12 meters with dual 300 hp engines on the back. We’re coming for you great white, and flying that is!
After a 40 minutes ride we arrive at our meeting point with the great white and we stop. Crew immediately starts to throw fish off the boat. We wait. 4 people who I assume to be Dutch or German, cannot resist the waves shaking the boat anymore and throw up from the side. Waiting grows more boring for us who aren’t sea sick. Then the captain shouts: “3 great whites are on the left of the boat, first 5 to dive to the cage now!” Naturally no one wants to be first and the puking gang is totally hopeless. People from 10 different nations all think the same thing at that point “Let the other guys dive first, then we’ll check again”. Captain shouts again: “5 great whites are all around the boat hurry up!” Someone from the crew checks my diving suit, tightly pulls the zips and puts on my goggles. While I mutter “sorry maybe I should dive later” another crew member comes and holds me and in no time I’m in the ocean as the third person in the cage!
Two more are thrown in the cage with the same method and the steel gate closes. They start to throw more fish above us to attract the sharks.
I’m really cold and thinking stuff like “this suit isn’t working it’s too cold, they said it would be 10 degrees but I bet it is colder” when one of beasts jump out of the water and catches a fish mid-air. At that point the innervoice is gone and I’m deaf. Now I’m shivering out fear not the cold. Terrified that my leg or arm comes out of the cage.
The fear of the first minutes wears off. For about twenty minutes I swim with the badasses of the ocean, the great whites. With each dive I feel I’m living moments that I’ll remember all my life.