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Shark bait – I was this close!

Dec 11 • 2072 views • 1 Comment on Shark bait – I was this close! Adventure, Africa, Cape Town, safari, South Africa, tourism experience, Travel, wildlife

Awaking to a nightmare at 4.45 a.m. was not the ideal start to a day that involved leaving the house before dawn, on my own, for a drive across country to dive into cold Atlantic water with man-eating sharks ….

[Main Photo courtesy of Michael Rutzen’s who I dived with]

The day at Gansbaai, two hours outside Cape Town, started quietly enough. Few of us said much as we ate breakfast and watched a video about “how cute and fluffy Great White Sharks really are.” Needless to say it wasn’t long before you could hear the screaming…
Normal people were still in bed when we piled onto the Barracuda and set out to sea. Within half an hour the party soon came to life as we saw our first Great White, a solid grey lump of muscle, slowly swim towards the boat a few feet beneath the surface. With two men ‘chumming’ – throwing buckets of fish blood and oil onto the surface of the water – we soon had a taker. A big ugly tuna head was tethered to a long piece of rope, chucked over the side of the boat and quickly reeled in towards some senseless individuals who had actually paid to go in the water (in a cage I hasten to add!) for this ridiculously scary experience.

Six of us fitted into the cage at a time, flatteringly attired in wet suits and facemasks. The cage looked sturdy enough but there were big gaps between the bars – big enough for a Great White to put his snout through! O yes. As the crewman reeled the bait towards us, one slammed right into the cage just a few inches from my right knee, I can still see it now, my knee / its snout in the same frame. In a spilt second I screamed inwardly “Get me out of here now!” willing there to be an ejector seat button under my finger.

The sharks – we were lucky enough to see two – slowly swam under or round the boat. And they weren’t small. The second measured a whopping 3.2 metres. I’ll say it again: 3.2 metres of killing machine.

But it was after the arrival of The Big One that I got back in the cage for the second time (how I’d forgotten about the ejector seat I don’t know!) The shark came steaming at us, his jaw opening and snapping shut, opening and snapping shut, chasing after the tuna head. I rammed myself to the back of the cage and in seconds he’d gone. That was scary. As we came up for air, me and the guy next to me screamed at each other “that was a bit f**king close!!”

Even when viewed from aboard the boat, I just can’t get over how big that Mother was.

The force of the animal is something else. It swims along quite serenely but when it flicks its tail, you know about it; the cage rocked from side to side violently, even the boat did. You have to respect the power of that beast.

Senseless, ridiculously scary, these are all just words that frankly don’t mean anything at all. I leaped up out of the cage at one point screaming “F**K MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” and even then it meant nothing. I quite simply ran out of swear words and Ladies and Gentlemen, you know I know a few!

The afternoon was bound to be an anticlimax after all that adrenalin yet there was more excitement on the way home as we passed a pod of dolphins. As the boat suddenly pitched to one side I threw myself onto the deck; there was no way I was risking being thrown into the sea – not now I knew what’s down there! I had to laugh at myself.

Being in the water with the Great Whites was an amazing experience. Naomi, H’s South African nanny, was so dumbfounded that I’d been in the water with the sharks that when I told her about the crew ‘chumming’ the water to attract the sharks, she pulled a face and asked “what – with human blood?”

I mean – there’s extremes and there’s extremes!

[PHOTO: the survivor pictured at Betty’s Bay, Western Cape]

A quick limb count (2 arms, 2 legs, full set of fingers and toes) before driving back to Arniston with a detour via the village of De Kelders and the most breathtaking panoramic view across the enormous bay, Cape Town in the far distance. Two little Afrikaaner boys came running upto me, pointing excitedly to the coastline where a mother and calf Southern Right Whale (so named because they were the ‘right ones’ to kill) were lazily floating by on the current.

Great White sharks, dolphins and whales – what a day.

Quick glimpse of a Great White – the DVD I bought of our trip is terrifyingly good!

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One Response to Shark bait – I was this close!

  1. lizziema says:

    Thank you for not telling until after the event darling daughter, you know I appreciate that! So pleased we wont have to do that in Lake Victoria. Only 21 days AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGHHHHHH and we'll be there! Let me know what you want us to bring. Excited and having final rabies jab tomorrow!

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