Airjaws – About Great White Shark Breaching
With another shark movie hitting the theatres and bringing these magnificent creatures back to the minds of audiences everywhere, now is the perfect time to talk about shark breaching.
Seeing The Meg launch itself from ancient depths, striking terror into the minds of even the hardest action hero’s made for great watching, but there was probably more than one member of the audience thinking it was far-fetched. And it totally was, except for the fact that sharks, the Great White, in particular, can launch themselves from their watery homes to catch seals and even birds (not humans on boats, you really aren’t that tasty).
South Africa as a shark diving destination is undeniably the best place in the world to see certain sharks such as the Zambezi, the Hammerhead, and the Tiger shark. But it is the Great White that is really the show stopper. He is too dangerous to swim in open waters with, it’s not worth the risk even if he is unlikely to attack. Instead, this beast is best observed from the safety of a reinforced shark cage. Shark cage diving is native to South Africa and Australia, two pioneering shark nations with a great appreciation and respect for the great white.
But while the view from the cage is truly invigorating and is guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping, Great White shark breaching is an experience all on its own. Dubbed “Airjaws”, the sharks literally fly through the air. In pursuit of prey, the Great White can launch itself at speeds of 40km, snapping its jaws, giving any observer a look at its sharp pearly whites. Breaching is a very unique hunting technique and it is the best way for the shark to catch its prey unaware. They can fly up to 3 meters into the air, generally from great depths. With prey gliding along the surface, and the shark approaching quickly, the prey is unlikely to get the slightest idea that a predator has set its sights on it.
One of the best places to see shark breaching is off the coast of Seal Island, which is about 30km away from Cape Town, close to False Bay. Seen from Shark Alley, a channel between Geyser Rock and Dyer Island, the best time of year to plan your trip is between May and September. During this time of the year, the seal pups are abundant and the waters are slightly warmer than usual. This event is not for divers, but for everyone with a curiosity and an appreciation for the ocean and its life. Divers and other visitors head off on a boat and stay a safe distance from the areas best known for this activity.
The name Seal Island is a dead giveaway for the type of prey you can expect to see hunted here. The island can be home to up to 50 000 seal pups during birthing season. The structure of the area makes for the perfect hunting ground.
By their very nature, Great Whites are unpredictable predators and because of the amount of energy it takes to launch themselves, shark breaching is actually quite a rare occurrence. There is absolutely no guarantee that you are going to see this event even if you plan your trip perfectly. Some companies attempt a form of bating which includes towing a decoy in the hope that a nearby shark will breach the water. These decoys will do no harm to the sharks.
The ocean is full of unexpected, unbelievable creatures and events. When you are shark diving in South Africa, and especially if you are opting for Great White Shark cage diving, a trip to Seal Island should be included.