THE GREAT WHITE SHARK

Carcharodon carcharias

Where you can see them:
Gansbaai | 
Simon’s Town

GREAT WHITE SHARK CAGE DIVING SOUTH AFRICA

A bit of history on Great White cage diving out of Gansbaai, the Great White Shark Capital of the World.

Way back in 1996, when Dive The Big 5 was established, there were only two Great White Shark cage diving “operators” operating out of Gansbaai. Theo and Craig Ferreira’s White Shark Research Institute, the other, the “legendary” Andre Hartman, and his partner JP, or was it the other way round?

In 1996 there was only one “inbound tour operator,” based in South Africa, selling South Africa as a dive / safari destination, with the emphasis on Great White Shark cage diving, which they married to tropical coral reef diving in the Sodwana Bay area and with a wildlife safari in either the Hluhluwe / iMfolozi Reserves – Dive The Big 5.

Back in those days Dive The Big 5 used to regularly attend, exhibit, and give “Power-point Presentations” at DEMA, The London Dive Show “LIDS,” The Birmingham Dive Show and at Dusseldorf’s “Boot Show.”

We invited dive journalists, the likes of the late Gavin Anderson, Christoph Gerick, Gavin Bucknell, Chuck Ballinger, and Larry xxxxx to South Africa, to experience the uniqueness of what South Africa had to offer the international diving fraternity. The two main drawcards were Great White Shark Cage Diving and a wildlife safari. No other dive destination in the world could and still can’t offer what South Africa can.

Now there are 8 “licenced” Great White Shark cage diving operators operating out of Gansbaai! There would be double that amount if the authorities didn’t only “issue” 8 licences! There are 2 Great White Shark cage diving “operators operating out of Simon’s Town, and I’m not sure how many Great White Shark cage diving operators operate out of Mossel Bay?

Dive The Big 5 is the oldest established inbound tour operator, based in South Africa, selling Great White Shark cage diving out of Gansbaai. We pioneered it, back in 1996 with the White Shark Research Institute and with Marine Dynamics. Lots of water has flowed under the bridge since then, but a few, including Dive The Big 5 have survived!

Dive The Big 5 has used, at some stage or another, most of the 8 Great White Shark cage diving operators operating out of Gansbaai. The Great White Shark cage diving companies names have stayed the same, but the owners, who founded the companies, have come and gone. Dive The Big 5 is one of the only “independent” tour operators selling Great White cage diving out of Gansbaai. Our independence is our success and depends 100% on client satisfaction, otherwise, we would not have been around for in excess of 20 years! We know who is good, who is bad. We know who practice what they preach. We know whose crews and management are dedicated to the future of the Great White Shark or those who are in the industry for a “quick buck.” If a Great White Shark cage diving operator fails to live up to Dive The Big 5’s expectations we “bomb’ them, and move to another who does! There must be hundreds, if not thousands of “tour operators” selling one-day Great White Shark Diving trips. I suspect less than 10% of those “tour operators” have stepped foot onto a Great White Shark dive boat! With only 8 “operators” operating out of Gansbaai, the competition is fierce, like a White Shark feeding frenzy!!

The White Shark Cage Diving Operators need to offer “agents” huge incentives to “sell’ their Product. The “agents” are really not interested in the product they sell, they are interested only in the profit!

Next time you want to go Great White Shark cage diving, remember the inbound tour operator, based here in South Africa, who has 20 years’ experience, who pioneered Great White Shark cage diving, Sand Tiger Shark diving, Tiger Shark diving, Dusky Shark diving, Scalloped Hammerhead Shark diving, Oceanic Blacktip Shark dived and The Sardine Run.

Great white shark diving in South Africa

A powerful, torpedo-shaped body; conical snout; large triangular and heavily serrated teeth; deep gill slits. Prominent keels on caudal peduncle and a lunate tail. Usual tooth count 13-13 / 12-12

Distribution

This wide ranging shark is usually found in coastal and offshore regions of the continental shelf. It occurs along the entire South African coast, but favours cooler waters.

Reproduction

Very little is known. Males and females mature around 299 cm (8 years) and 350 cm (12-13 years), respectively. Presumably aplacental viviparous development. No pregnant females have been reported from South African waters. The size of the young are 100-135 cm when born. The smallest free swimming specimen was 108 cm long. Maximum size may exceed 700 cm. Maximum age up to 53 years.

Feeding

The powerful jaws and large cutting teeth enable it to tackle large prey items such as marine mammals, sharks and rays. A variety of fish are eaten. In the Cape, seals form a large proportion of the diet.

Behaviour

This species is considered to be the most dangerous shark of all and has been implicated in more attacks on men and boats than any other species. It usually occurs singly or in pairs. This species does not survive in captivity. In the past it was known by anglers as a blue pointer.

The likelihood of encountering a Great White Shark when on a diving safari to South Africa?

Great White Sharks are found in great numbers off Gansbaai, “The Great White Shark Capital of the World, ” and to a lesser degree off Seal Island in False Bay near Simon’s Town. As with all Sharks in South Africa, Great Whites are seasonal, and are found mainly from March through October. Refer to Dive The Big 5’s Shark Timetable https://www.divethebig5.co.za/shark-timetable.html Please note that the Sharks have not read this timetable so they have no idea where they are supposed to be, and when. This Timetable is purely a guide!

Remember, our daily average winter month temperature is higher that the UK average summer month temperature.

Family:

Lamnidae (Mackerel Sharks)
Five species belong to this family:  Shortfin mako, Longfin mako, Salmon shark, Porbeagle shark, White shark.

All of them have a conical snout, lateral keels (one or two) on the peduncle and homocercal tails  (the tail’s upper and lower lobe are of equal length).

Length at birth 100 – 200 cm
Maximum size About 700 cm
Size at sexual maturity (female) 400 – 470 cm
Size at sexual maturity (male) 350 – 600 cm

 

External Markings:

Black or dark grey on their top surfaces and white on their underside. The pectoral fins have black tips on the underside and a distinctive black axiliary spot where they join the body.

Distribution:

White sharks are found in most oceans between 50o and 60o latitude in both hemispheres.  They prefer cooler waters, close to shore but can also be found in greater depths exceeding 1000 m.

Nursery Areas:

It is assumed that areas with higher densities indicate nursery areas (places where sharks are born), however, no birth has ever been observed.

Sexual maturity, pregnancy:

It takes females between 12 and 14 years to reach sexual maturity, males need 9 to 10 years.  The fact that pregnant females are rarely found could indicate that they leave the others before giving birth.  White sharks are aplacental viviparous, meaning they bear live young without connection to the mother (aplacental) during the pregnancy.  To get enough nutrition while inside the mother, embryos feed on other eggs (oophagism).  It is still not know how long an average pregnancy is but it may range between 12 and 14 months. The number of embryos carried during an average pregnancy can vary between 2 to 14.

Migration:

Not much is known about their migration patterns.  Some experiments with satellite tags indicate that the males migrate and the femailes prefer to stay close to one place.  Some sharks can stay in the same area year after year.

Social behaviour:

Although white sharks have often been portrayed as “lonely hunters”, they are social animals and can swim in groups of 10 or more animals.

Body temperature:

A few species of shark, including white sharks, are semi-warm-blooded with their blood  tempertures stayng about 10 to 15 degrees Celsius above the surrounding water temperature.  The prevention of heat loss is due to special arrangements of blood vessels (also known as wonder nets, or rete mirabile) found along their flanks, the eyes, brain and intestines.  This higher body temperature allows the muscles to contract faster, hence increasing agility in colder water.  So despite their size and weight, white sharks can accelerate quickly and reach high speeds.  However, since they are semi-warm-blooded, they lack endurance compared to true warm-blooded marine animals.

Please be advised that Great White “breaching” and Great White shark cage diving in South Africa or surface viewing is to a large extent “seasonal”, although the sharks are there all year round.

Dive Time Table

We say seasonal for two reasons.

Firstly the weather.
The part of the world where Great White cage diving takes place, Gansbaai, and Simon’s Town, is known as the “Cape of Storms” for very obvious reasons. The winters are normally wet and miserable whilst the summers, although sunny and hot, are known for the “Cape Doctor” or south Easter, which blows virtually all day, every day. Our statistics are that you are able to get out to “Shark Alley” the narrow strip of water between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock, 12 days out of 30 in the winter months (April through October) and 20 days out of 30 during summer (November through March). The more time you are able to spend in the company of the Great whites, the better your chances are of seeing these magnificent creatures.

Secondly, the seasons.
There are definitely times of the year when the White Sharks are more active and these times are May through October. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the water temperatures. Contrary to what you would normally expect, the temperature of the water is actually warmer during the winter months (approx 16° C) than it is during the summer months (approx 9° C). Sharks prefer the warmer waters and are therefore far more active during the winter than during the summer, and unfortunately, that coincides with the time of year when the weather is at its worst. Also, November is the time of year when the Cape Fur Seal pup. The Cape Fur Seal, being the Great Whites main source of food, congregate in their thousands on Geyser Rock, off Gansbaai and on Seal Island in False Bay / Simon’s Town, where up to 60 000 seals can be found on each of the two islands during the pupping and mating season, November/December. With this great abundance of food around, it is extremely difficult to attract the sharks to the dive boat, and if you do, they are just not interested in the bait you have put out to attract their attention, which normally, at other times of the year, is long enough for the divers to get into the cage and view the Great Whites in their natural surroundings.

You should also remember that Gansbaai, this is where we launch the boat for “Shark Alley”, and that Simon’s Town where we launch the boat for Seal Island in False Bay, is a two hour, and one hour, road transfer from Cape Town, respectively. We normally launch the boat at between 06h30 and 08h30 depending on the time of year. This means a 04h30 / 07h30 departure from Cape Town depending on where you are doing your Great White Encounter. http://www.divethebig5.com/shark-diving/shark-diving/great-white-shark-facts/gansbaai-simonstown.html Whilst the weather in Cape Town could be fine, both Gansbaai and Simon’s Town which are situated on opposite ends of Cape Town could be blowing a gale, thereby making it impossible, due to safety reasons, to launch the boat.

During the four months of October, November, December and January, we do not run any Great White Encounters out of Simon’s Town.

We, however, do run Great White Encounters out of Gansbaai, but we do not recommend them, nor do we guarantee “sightings”. We value our reputation.

Our Great White Encounter cancellation policy is:-

Full refund in the event of the dive being cancelled due to bad weather.

Should the weather forecast be favourable and on arrival at the dive site the dive is cancelled by the skipper of the dive boat due to weather conditions, a full refund on the dive but no refund on the transfer fees, if applicable.

Should we launch the dive boat for the dive, and during the course of the dive the skipper decides to return to shore due to unfavourable sea and weather conditions, there will be no refund.

The skipper’s decision is final and is based purely on diver safety and comfort.”

A typical day shark cage diving in Gansbaai:

Gansbaai vs Simons Town

After a leisurely breakfast we all assemble at  the slip at Kleinbaai Harbour which is a small fishing harbour just outside the small fishing town of Gansbaai. Before our arrival the skipper and crew of the  “White Shark”  have already put her in the water and she is tied up at the quay waiting for us to board. The “White Shark” is a luxurious and powerful 30ft (10m) Dive Cat deep-sea cabin cruiser with two 200 hp Mariner outboard motors.  The result is an enjoyable and fast ride out to the islands.  The boat can carry twenty passengers.  To enhance the overall experience for guests, only ten passengers per trip are accepted, thus reservations are absolutely essential.

The latest navigation aids and systems are installed in the spacious bridge.  There is a fully equipped head (toilet) and for passengers who succumb to sea-sickness, there are beds upon which to rest and recover from the rigours of sea-travel.  After stowing our camera equipment and dive gear on board the deck hand casts off and the skipper slowly negotiates the diveboat through the shallow harbour entrance to the open sea. After a 20 minute ride (could take longer depending on the sea and wind conditions) the skipper rounds  Dyer Island and approaches “Shark Alley” from the seaward side so as  to avoid the large breakers that often protect “Shark Alley” from the landward entrance. “Shark Alley” is the narrow  channel of water that separates Dyer Island from Geyser Rock. It’s about  350 meters/1150 feet long, 250 meters/820 feet wide and about 6 to 10 meters/ 18 feet to 30 feet deep.

Dyer Island is approximately 5.2 nautical miles  off the coast. It originally got its name from Samson Dyer, an American Negro who is reputed to have come to the Cape in 1806 and collected guano from the  island. In 1809 the government decided to take over the off shore islands for  their guano deposits and offered Dyer 4 morgen of ground for his guano rights on  the Island. The island measures 200 meters/656 feet in width and 1 kilometre/0.62 miles in length.

It falls under the protection of the Dept. of Nature Conservation and its only  “human” resident is Tony, the island keeper. Tony is custodian to the  large population of sea birds that nest on the island and part of his duties is  to keep the Cape Fur Seals off the island as these mammals destroy the nests and sometimes kill the chicks. Dyer Island has been declared a Nature Reserve as  well as a 500 meter/1650 feet radius surrounding the island. Boats may only access this  area with a permit issued by Nature Conservation with the number of boats being  limited at any one time so as to prevent overcrowding in the channel. The Dept.  of Nature Conservation is shortly going to open the island to birdwatchers to  enable them to observe the birds at close quarters as there are a number of  endangered species such as the African Black Oystercatcher and the African  Penguin breeding on the island along side the other residents such as the Swift  Tern, and the 4 species of Cormorant namely the White Breasted, Crowned, Cape and Reed Cormorants.

Geyser Rock, so called because the action of the  waves breaking on the rock sends water high into the sky, much like a natural  geyser would, is much smaller than Dyer Island and is home to between 30 000 and  60 000 Cape Fur Seals. The natural chum coming off this island attracts many  Great Whites into “Shark Alley” to predate on the seals.

On arrival in Shark Alley, the skipper lets the  boat drift for a while, whilst he assesses the wind and currents before dropping  anchor. As soon as the anchor is dropped and the skipper  is satisfied that the anchor is secure and is holding the “White Shark”into the current the deck hand begins “chumming”. Chum can be likened  to a “cocktail” of mashed sardines and fish oil and is used to attract  the Great Whites to the boat. The Great Whites senses are so acute that they can  detect one particle of blood in a million particles of water. Not long after the  chumming has begun the skipper attaches the chunk of “bait” to a buoy  which keeps the bait floating on the surface of the water, and this is, in turn,  attached to a natural fibre rope, about 5 meters/16 feet in length, and this is secured  to the boat and is left to float in the chum slick.

Once the chum-slick has been started and the bait is out the divemaster, assisted by the deckhand  then, gently lower the cage into the water and the waiting game begins.  Sometimes, due to the sea and swell, it is not safe to drop the cage into the  water as any diver in the cage would be battered to pieces against the sides of  the cage due to the heavy motion of the chop and swell. In such conditions the  divers must unfortunately be content to watch the proceedings from the deck  without getting into the cage. The decision of whether it is safe to lower the  cage or not rests purely with the skipper and divemaster. As soon as the first  shark is spotted the skipper gives the order for the first two divers to kit-up  and depending on the behaviour of the shark, the divers drop into the cage. The  skipper has learned to “read” shark behaviour and sometimes the shark  is only investigating the bait and is not going to hang around for any length of  time. In such instances it is not advisable to get the divers into the cage as  they will only get cold and see nothing. Only when the skipper is sure that the  shark is interested in the bait and is going to hang around for a while is the  order given for the divers to enter the cage. After a while the shark eventually  homes in to the bait and the skipper with the rope in hand pulls the bait  towards the cage giving the divers in the cage the adrenaline rush of a life  time. In the mean time another two divers on board the boat are busy kitting up  and waiting their chance to enter the cage.

A shark can hang around the boat  anything from 2 minutes , up to 10 minutes – depending on the shark, how  interested he is in the bait and how hungry he is. The behaviour of the divers also influences the length of time a shark can hang around the cage. The action of divers entering and exiting the cage, the opening and closing of the lid on top of the cage, the flashing of underwater strobes all have an effect on the  behaviour of the shark and could frighten them off. Whilst the divers are in the  cage the people “topside” are constantly looking towards the bait  floating in the chum-slick  for signs of shark, or are watching the  antiques of the hundreds of seals playing in the surf off Geyser Rock or are  trying their luck at a bit of fishing. The crew are always keen to assist the  novice by putting the bait onto the hook and if you are lucky taking the fish  off the hook once you’ve landed him. As soon as  a shark is spotted  all activity ceases and the cameras are pointed at the bait waiting for that one  in a million shot of the shark, open mouthed, taking the bait. The skipper tries to bring the shark past the cage, with the divers inside, up to the side of the boat by pulling the rope to which the bait is attached right up to the side of  the boat. The activity topside is sometimes as exciting to watch as the activity  from within the cage. A light lunch is supplied on board and there is a constant  supply of hot coffee, fresh water and cooldrinks during the entire day. The  amount of time a diver spends in the cage depends on the shark activity, the  divers resistance to hypothermia and the impatience of his fellow divers, all of  whom want to get into the cage. Depending on the shark activity the dive boat  stays in the channel, or could move to a location outside the channel off the  island, until about 15:30 when it returns to Kleinbaai  harbour.

Please note: The shark activity takes place on or just below sea level. Full scuba gear is not required for shark cage diving, as the cage is attached to the side of the boat and no diving certification or experience is necessary. Your head and shoulders are above sea level until the dive master gives the call to let you know that a Great White is approaching. You then submerge your head and shoulders below sea level for the close sightings of the Great White, as it swims towards and past the cage. Snorkel equipment and breath holding are the most popular options selected as the noise of the exhaust bubbles from the scuba gear’s regulator has been found to be distracting to the extremely sound sensitive Great Whites. When you are not in the 5-6 man cage, refreshments are enjoyed while viewing the Great Whites and other sea life from the viewing deck.

Gansbaai: The Facts

Gansbaai is a little fishing village situated on the western side of Cape Agulhas (the southernmost tip of Africa) on the coast between Cape Town and the Garden Route

Gansbaai was named after Mountain Geese that made their home in the area. (The Afrikaans name for Goose is Gans – hence the name).

The harbour at Gansbaai is in a sheltered bay with Gansbaai itself nestling at the foot of Duyenefontein Mountains.  Gansbaai boasts a beautiful coastline with magnificent “Fynbos” vegetation of which there are 164 species.

Divers stay at the nearby Grootbos Nature Reserve.

In spring and winter, Southern Right Whales come into Walker Bay to calve and can be seen from the shore in Gansbaai.

Dyer Island lies approximately 5.2 nautical miles off the coast.

There is a narrow channel in the sea between Geyser Rock and Dyer Island which is home to up to 60 000 Cape Fur Seals. This is also the natural feeding ground to the Great White Shark.

Since the area around Dyer Island has been declared a nature reserve, boats may only enter this area with a permit given by the Department of Nature Conservation.

A warder, stationed on Dyer Island, protects the birds breeding there. A number of these are endemic species, such as  the Oyster Catcher and  the Swift Tern.

A typical Great White encounter out of Gansbaai

The Great White:

Great White Sharks are enigmatic and powerful, perfect specimens of evolutionary success.

The mere image of them summons up the most primal and intense emotions.

In South Africa, we are blessed to have Great White Sharks close to our shores,  which allows us to safely introduce them to our clients. Shark Cage Diving remains a niche and unique product, one which more and more people have at the very top of their Bucket Lists.

When diving with Dive The Big 5, you will see, hear and feel our passion for and our dedication to the ocean and its magnificent Great White Sharks.

Dive The Big 5 offers diving and viewing day trips, overnight packages, team-building activities, incentives, VIP trips and group bookings.

Exceptional, professional and personalised service coupled with extensive industry knowledge make Dive The Big 5  (Established in May 1996) the sustainable choice for a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will captivate your imagination!

The Shark Team – The dive Boat:

Our vessel, SHARK TEAM, is a 36-foot custom-built Catamaran, she can take 36 passengers, but we limit ourselves to 20 clients and 5 crew members, preferring to give our clients more comfort and space as well as a more intimate experience. From the harbour to our diving location, is about a 15-minute boat ride. Once we arrive, we will drop anchor, scent the water with fish chum and wait for the sharks to arrive.

As these nomadic creatures are wild and free, and every trip is unique, we never know what to expect until we arrive. Whilst we await the sharks’ arrival, clients receive detailed instructions on how to cage dive. All diving equipment is supplied, including 7mm thick wetsuits. We have 3 complete sets of wetsuits, which ensures that each client receives a clean and dry wetsuit. As the first dorsal fin breaks the surface, the first group of divers will enter the cage.

The cage is always attached to the boat and does not get submerged below the water, therefore, no diving experience is necessary as we use a simple breath-hold system.

6 Divers are in the cage at a time and spend approximately 20 – 30 minutes in the cage. Some clients prefer to stay on deck, which is not a problem as they will still enjoy spectacular sightings of the sharks, without having to get wet. Great White Sharks are curious creatures, some even spy-hop like whales do and you can see them perfectly from the comfort of the boat. Even though our clients have come to see the majestic Great White Shark, along the way we may encounter some of the other members of the Marine Big 5 – dolphins, seals, whales, penguins – and we have other visitors to the boat too, such as inquisitive Stingrays!

The excursion usually lasts between 3 – 4 hours, all depending on the sharks and the weather/sea-conditions. As we are anchored on the energetic Atlantic Ocean for such an extended period of time, we strongly advise the use of anti-seasick tablets. We prefer our clients to thoroughly enjoy the experience, collecting vivid memories of the sharks, instead of lying on the deck feeling sick and wanting to go home.

Our experienced and able crew’s number one priority is the safety of our clients. They have all undergone intensive and continuous training to ensure the ultimate safety of all on board. Our Marine Biologist loves to chat and enjoys sharing his passion and extensive knowledge with our clients. Some of crew have over 15 years of experience in the industry, so our clients are in safe and knowledgeable hands.

On board, we have packed some picnic snacks to keep our clients sustained through all the excitement. These snacks include a variety of sandwiched, fruit, crisps, water, juice and soft drinks. Upon their arrival back at our lodge, clients will be welcomed with a light lunch. Hot showers are available to freshen up. Whilst enjoying their lunch, we will show clients the video of their dive, which was filmed by our on board videographer.

We have no doubt that after having spent 6 hours with us, clients will leave feeling inspired and invigorated, with a new sense of respect for sharks. Our aim is to turn every client into a shark ambassador and fin-protector. Sharks need all the help they can get, and our goal is to aid them, 1 client at a time.

 

WHEN TO COME AND WHAT TO BRING:

Here in Kleinbaai we are fortunate to be able to view Great White Sharks all year round.

So, weather permitting, our tours run every single day. But the prime viewing time is in our winter months, when the sharks have a particularly active feeding pattern.

The following guide is based on our observations over the past 15 years.

Allow for an overlap between seasons.

Peak season: April to October (99% success rate) HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

High season: November to December (90 – 99% success rate)

Intermediate season: January to March (80 – 90% success rate)

Water temperatures vary between 10 – 20˚C.

Please bring:

  • Swimsuit
  • Warm jacket and sensible shoes
  • Sun protection
  • Anti-Seasick tablets

 

ON THE DAY:

Dive The Big 5’s preferred Great White Shark operator is based in Kleinbaai, and is known as the Mecca of the Great White Shark.

Kleinbaai is a scenic, 2-hour drive from Cape Town, but as most of our clients are International tourists, we offer a shuttle service, transferring clients from their hotels in Cape Town and back again. Yes, it is a very early start to the day, but as soon as clients spot their first Great White, they know that it was all worth it.

Our launching times vary from day to day, as it is completely dependent on the tides, the weather and the sea-conditions. Therefore, we can only confirm the exact launching times by 16h00 the day before the scheduled tour.

Once clients arrive at the dive shop in Kleinbaai, we welcome them with a warm smile, a hot cup of coffee and a nutritious continental breakfast, which consists of a seasonal fruit salad, muffins, eggs, cereals, yoghurts and a selection of breads. Whilst clients enjoy their breakfast, we ensure that everybody is ready and do our best to answer all their questions to help settle some nerves.

Our skipper gives a detailed safety briefing, and explains what clients can expect when we get out to sea. From the lodge we take a gentle 100m walk down to the harbour where we board our vessel, SHARK TEAM.

Simonstown: The Facts

False Bay, named such because early navigators mistook Hangklip for Cape Point, is the largest true bay in South Africa and one of the great bays of the world. The bay stretches 33km across from Cape point to Hangklip.

The bay is home to some of the most spectacular long beaches in the Western Cape with a few small villages. Muizenberg is most popular under surfers and swimmers, while the small fishing village, Kalk Bay, is most famous for it’s vibrant day and night life.

Simonstown is an historical naval village located just 40km outside of Cape town city and en route to the Cape point nature reserve. The village is home to the South African navy and is filled with naval history. Also a very unique attraction to Simonstown would be the African penguins at Boulders beach or the wild baboons that inhabit the peninsula. In winter months Southern right whales frequent the bay and can be seen lying close to the coast.

Seal Island is a small land mass located 5.7 km off the northern beaches of False Bay, Cape town. The island is so named because of the great number of Cape fur Seals that occupy it (+-70000). There are a few sea birds as well. The island is long and narrow- 800 metres by 50 metres and lies 14km from Simonstown harbor. The Bay is protected by the infamous Cape point, the most South Western tip of Africa. Most days the ocean is as flat as a pancake.

A typical Great White Encounter out of Simon's Town

At a time to be advised the previous evening you will be collected from your hotel / B&B by a representative of Dive The Big 5 (at about 06h00) for the 45 minute scenic drive to Simon’s Town to arrive at the harbour by 07h00.

From the harbour to Seal Island is about a 20 minute boat ride in calm conditions. If the sea is rough you can double that time. The best time to witness the Great White’s interaction / predation with the seals is early in the morning, just after sunrise. If you are fortunate enough to witness a predation, it can result in the Great White exploding out of the water with intense sheer force in pursuit of its prey.  That the memory will live with you forever!

We then spend an hour, depending on the interest shown by the Great Whites, towing a fake cut-out, seal-shaped decoy in a attempt to get the Great White to breach.  If successful, this provides excellent photo opportunities.hen the predation activity has quietened down,  we try for a shor

We then do a lap of Seal Island giving you full information on the animal and bird life that is found on the island as well as the history of the island and the structures that are to be found on the island.

We then choose the best spot to drop anchor taking into account the direction of the wind and currents. We then lower the cage into the water. A bait line is put in the water as well as the seal decoy. Then we wait for the first Great White to appear.

Every precaution is taken not to injure the sharks at all. We also do not touch the sharks. We are not an adrenalin operator, but an educator and custodian of the Great White’s. No dive experience is required in order to get into the cage although we do use scuba gear. The average time spent in the cage depends on animal activity but could be as long as 20 minutes. On-board guides will interact with the guests during the course of the encounter and will be more than willing to answer any questions.

At about 12h00, depending on animal activity and weather conditions we will up anchor and head back to Simon’s Town Harbour. You should be back at your hotel / B&B by 14h00 when you will have the rest of the afternoon free.

Great White Shark viewing – Simonstown vs. Gansbaai:

  • Less travelling time from Cape Town central. 40 minutes vs. 2 hours, one way.
  • You are on the water earlier and that’s when the Great Whites are more active. In the early mornings.
  • Seal Island in False Bay is more protected that Dyer Island / Geyser Rock, so less chance of cancellations due to weather.
  • Smaller boat, only accommodates a maximum of 10 people vs. boats carrying up to 30 people out of Gansbaai.
  • More personal attention.
  • More cage time.
  • Simons Town offers a better chance of witnessing Great White “breaching” than off Gansbaai.
  • Simons Town offers a better opportunity to witness natural predations than Gansbaai, because there are no kelp forests for the seals to conceal themselves in off Seal Island in False Bay than off Dyer Island / Geyser Rock in Gansbaai.
  • You get more “sea time” at Simon’s Town, 4 / 5 hours at sea vs. 3 hours at Gansbaai.
  • Less operators operate out of Simons Town, only 3 vs. 8 operators operating out of Gansbaai. Far less crowded resulting that there are less boats trying to attract a given number of sharks.

However, Simonstown is more expensive than Gansbaai.