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Excursion Review: Great White Shark Cage Diving!

If you've been following along with this blog, you'll know that cage diving with the great whites is something that's been high on my bucket list for a long time. I finally had the opportunity to go diving with SharkWatch SA-also known as Marine Dynamics out of Gansbaai, South Africa. We booked the tour directly through Gate 1 Travel, but you can book privately if you prefer. They offer door-to-door pick-up service.
Fair warning-it's a long, early day. We were picked up from our hotel in Cape Town at 3:30am on what was only the beginning of our third full day in South Africa. We were still jet lagged and exhausted. It's a good two and a half hour ride to Gansbaai. On the way there, we were too excited to nap-because holy hell, we were going cage diving!

One we got to Marine Dynamics, we checked in and were given our wet suit sizing tokens and our boarding tokens. They have a light breakfast waiting for you upstairs. NOTE: NOW IS THE TIME TO TAKE YOUR DRAMAMINE! I can't tell you how many people missed out and didn't even get in the cage because they spent the entire time throwing up. Some into bags, some over the side of the boat. There were so many people throwing up that we started getting the sympathy heaves, and had to move to the other end of the boat. Even if you aren't prone to getting seasick, take the damn Dramamine. Don't waste $175 because you're being stubborn.

While you're eating your breakfast, there's a safety video, and then it's time to get the party started. You head outside, where you're given a bag with your gear, and neon orange waterproof raincoats to keep you warm and dry for the boat ride out to the dive location.

From there, it's a short walk down the road to the docks. We arrived right on time for one of the most spectacular sunrises of the entire trip.

There are two locations that this company dives at, depending on conditions and the time of the year. It was about a 10-15 minute boat ride out to where we were going, and those neon orange jackets kept us nice and warm.

Once we got on location, there were volunteers on board to help us suit up into our wet suits. I don't know which was harder-getting into them, or getting out of them. These were extra thick, and included a head covering and booties because of the cold water temperatures.

We were in the first group to go into the cage! This ended up being MUCH harder than I thought it would be. You're floating in a cage-which is attached to a bobbing boat. Even with the weight belt, it's tough to stay under when you need to be. When the people on the boat spot a shark, they scream "Down, LEFT" or "Down, RIGHT", etc-which is your cue to get underwater and try and spot a shark. And you're doing this while trying to stay in one place, not kick the person next to you, and aim a GoPro camera while fighting the waves. Like I said, much harder than you think it is. 

Basically, you're just hanging out waiting for some sharks to come by. The boat operators try and attract them with a combination of a fake seal decoy and a chummy mixture. Within a few minutes, we had our first sighting! We spent about 20 minutes down in the cage, and we were lucky enough to have several different sharks, and a couple of really close passes. Not every group is as lucky as we are-sometimes, you don't get any sharks for the day. Our group was fortunate to have eight unique sharks visit us.

Marine Dynamics employs marine biologists, and while you're cage diving, they're doing research. They're actually able to know which specific shark was just sighted based on tags, markings, etc. They're available to answer any questions that you have, which was amazing. They're also heavily involved in conservation efforts. You can "adopt" a shark even for the right price, which allows you to name one (we thought about it). I guess that's why some of the sharks that we encountered that day had funny names.....LOL.

Afterwards, it's a short walk back to Marine Dynamics. They go over everything with you about the sharks that you saw, and let you watch a video of the highlights and photos that they took of the day. There's also a light lunch for you while they're talking. You have the chance to purchase a copy of their video for 150 Rand, and there's a small gift shop downstairs for your souvenirs (because duh).

Despite eating a bit of lunch, the second we got into the van to head back, I crashed from a combination of lack of sleep and the Dramamine (which make you drowsy) and my regular meds. Apparently our driver stopped somewhere to show the group some whale watching-I slept through it, so I wouldn't know. There was also a rest area stop that had a grocery store, which I woke up for since I really needed something in my stomach to get rid of the Dramamine and my meds. 

It's a long day, but it was another item knocked off of the bucket list! I wasn't sure what kind of footage I got on my GoPro until I got back to the states, and I ended up getting some really good stuff. Check out the video below that was put together by Janine from Janine On The Run (since I can't put together a GoPro video to save my life). Enjoy!

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