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More on shark diving
Shark diving or cage diving allows divers, shark enthusiasts and film crews an exciting way to observe the extraordinary world of Great White Sharks safely. The cages create a discernible barrier that the sharks quickly recognize allowing us to safely observe and experience these incredible animals up close and personal. Cage diving is unique in the fact that the rewards often far exceed the effort both physically and mentally. Not to say that cage diving is not challenging, getting in the water with a Great White Shark or two or four is very challenging and very exciting to say the least! Cage diving requires less equipment to bring along then on regular dive trips, for instance most operators use surface supplied air, thus no tank is required to be worn in the cage or while climbing in and out of the water leaving more room in the cage and you much more comfortable while diving (less work for you). Also, no fins or buoyancy control devices are necessary while diving in a cage.
Chumming to attract sharks.
For years line fishermen have been chumming the water with their old bait, to attract fish to their boats. This method not only attracted fish but also sharks and it is a known fact that White sharks come to, and circle, fishing boats. Chumming is the use of minced fish mixed with sea water which is then run out into the ocean in a constant stream. The mixture is taken away by the current and a White shark will follow the chum line, upcurrent, to the source. The shark will be attracted from an area of lower smell intensity to an area of higher smell intensity (the source) and activity around the boat will increase after some period of chumming. Dyer island is a natural chumming machine, due to the 40 000 Cape Fur seals on Geyser island adjacent to it, and the chum slick running out into the ocean and can be picked up by White sharks several tens of kilometers away. This is probably why it is the most important area in the world to find the White shark.
The boat will anchor in a suitable spot in order to attract the White shark to the boat. Since the boat will be anchored abeam, the shark will approach the boat from the side, halfway between the bow and the stern, and it is possible for everyone to get a good view as the shark swim up to the bait. The bait is pulled away from the shark while it follows and comes close to the boat. By pulling the bait away and not allowing the shark to take it the shark becomes more interested and stays around for a longer time. The cage is then prepared while the first two divers kit up and are briefed by the divemaster. The divers enter the cage and the cage which floats on the surface and is attached to the boat with two safety ropes will be pushed away from the boat. The shark now being attracted to the bait will swim passed the cage following the bait while the divers in the cage can get a good view of the shark.
Whale watching in Gansbaai area
Photo Holler - Hermanus
The Western Cape boasts the most spectacular land based whale watching in the world and you might not want to miss out on this spectacle while you are in the area. The many coastal drives around the Peninsula provide excellent opportunities for sighting whales from June to November. But its better to get on a boat. Most operators depart from Hermanus, a fishing town not far from Gaansbaai.
Three different whale species frequent the coastline: the Southern Right whale, the Humpback whale
and the Humphrey's whale. Many others, including Killer Whales
, are seen periodically. South Africa has an extremely diverse cetacean population, with 37 species having been recorded to date.
Southern Right Whale (Eubalaena Australis)
The Southern Right Whale
entertains thousands of spectators each year, as they come close to shore to calve their babies and also to mate. Sightings peak during September. The elevated roads and accessible parking areas along the False Bay and Atlantic coastlines provide excellent viewing sites. These slow moving gentle giants are easily identifiable by the presence of wart-like growths, known as callosities, around their heads and their characteristic V-shaped blowhole. Females measure about 13.9m and males are generally slightly smaller, average weight estimated 41 tonnes. Calves at birth can be over 7m in length. They have a life expectancy of about 50 years. They arrive from June onwards. After November they spend up to four months feeding in the Southern Ocean, building up reserves of blubber, which sustains them during their breeding season. Their favorite food is small animals called copepods (a planktonic crustacean) of which they consume up to 600kgs per day. Whalers used the name right whale because this species is slow moving, floats when killed, yields good oil and has useful long baleen plates. Since 1929 they have been protected by international legislation.
These whales do not calve or mate in South African waters, and are therefore less frequently encountered on the coastlines whilst on their way up the coast to calve. The exceptionally long, white flippers and large patterned tail flukes are diagnostic, as are the wart- like knobs on the head and the triangular shaped dorsal fin.
The smallest of the three whales described is present here all year round. Also feeding mainly on shoaling fish and often seen swimming among seabirds and dolphins. This whale has three distinct ridges running from its snout to the top of its head and a triangular dorsal fin set well back. They are mainly a sub-tropical species but there is a resident population along our Atlantic coast. They feed on mackerel, herring, squid and krill and are often seen in big groups from 10 up to a 100.
For more information. Please visit http://www.xploratours.co.za
Diver's Tales aims to bring you the extraordinary in dive spots around the world. Experience the special, the mystical off-the-beaten-path places not yet known to everyone. Enjoy!
Our Diver's Tale this month...Dyer island,
South Africa is not only a great destination for spotting the so called "big five" like lions, leopards and elephants, it is also THE place to encounter the Great White. Join us on our journey to Dyer Island, home of this majestic animal...
Great White Shark; Carcharodon carcharias
Gansbaai is situated 170 km south east of Cape Town, about a two hour drive from Cape Town.
Dyer island is about five nautical miles off the coast of Gansbaai, a small fishing village, and is reached by a 20 minute boat ride from False Bay.
There are quite a few shark dive operators in Gansbaai and looking at their websites it is hard to make a choice. We decided to go with with Marine Dynamics, a well known outfitter who have assisted a number of documentary film makers in the past, amongst them Peter Scoones and the National Geographic team. They were also featured in the special on Sharks in Time magazine. It seemed safe enough to us...
Their offices are located in a regular house right on the ocean on False Bay. The day started by meeting the Marine Dynamics crew and the rest of the group during a huge and delicious breakfast. "To fatten you up for the sharks" was the general joke at the table!
After a short preparation talk its on to the boat, an 8 by 3m catamaran, for a short but thrilling 20 minute ride to Dyer Island. Best time for shark sighting is during the South African winter, when choppy waters can be expected. Make sure you are not prone to sea-sickness or take a pill before you head out. The boat is smaller than I hoped, but, it turns out, very equipped to deal with the waves.
Dyer island is a protected area for the Cape Fur seals on little Geyser island right next to it. The noise and smell of the animals tanning in the sun and playing in the water is slightly overwhelming at first. But nothing like the thought of joining them, and the sharks, in the water soon...
I expected a chunk of meat to be thrown overboard and off we go but there is more to it than I thought. The quest for the Great White starts starts with doing a scent trial by a procedure called "chumming" (see the side bar). When the sharks are attracted and stay around the boat, the cage is put down in the water and the adventure begins!
Nothing prepared me for the thrill and adrenaline rush you experience when you are face to face with this huge predator. Everybody (some opted out and decided to watch from the boat) gets several opportunities to enter the cage. The day lasts until about 3:30-4pm and sandwiches and drinks were served all day.
Although better maybe, you do not have to be a qualified diver to go into the cage. Air is supplied from long hoses that are attached to a tank on the boat.
Find more information on the Marine Dynamics