Thursday, 26 February 2015

Up close & personal with the Great White

Today’s blog comes from Franzio Fortuin, our Earthstompers intern.  He recently had a chance to participate in Shark Cage Diving, one of the AMAZING optional activities we offer on Mondays of tour.  Thank you Marine Dynamics for giving him this opportunity!

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It’s common amongst us humans to have mixed feelings when it comes to “sharks”. I myself had my doubts about them, mainly because they look like they are constantly hungry and you are on the menu.

But I recently had a change of heart towards my friends from the ocean.  I was privileged enough to get an experience of a lifetime: I went Shark Cage Diving.

Outline of the day's activities
The day starts with an early pick up in Cape Town at your accommodation between 4 and 6 in the morning. We then had a 2-hour drive to Gansbaai; once we got there we enjoyed a lovely breakfast and a briefing about the dive.  We got into our diving gear, which consisted of a wetsuit, goggles, and boots (the company provides all the gear you need – you just wear your swimming costume). The water can be anywhere between 12º C and 20º C, so the wetsuit and boots help you keep warm.

After we were dressed we got on the boat, and soon we were off to see some Great Whites. We went to “shark hotspots”, where they typically see a lot of sharks, and we indeed saw many sharks (including quite a few large ones!). We spent some time at the shark hot spot to give everyone a proper chance to meet the Great Whites.

The cage is attached to the side of the boat, so 8 persons at a time can get in the cage and go below the water to see the sharks as they swim by.  Visibility is usually 6 - 8 meters underwater. Those not in the cage still have a great view from the boat deck of the passing sharks.

Snacks, drinks and hot chocolate were served on board to the guests, which is a nice addition. Once everyone had seen the sharks more than a couple of times, we headed back to the shore. Before we got on the bus again to head back home they served us with some nice hot soup and some bread to warm us back up.  All in all, we were out on the water for about 3 hours.


This experience was probably one of the most amazing things I have ever done in my life. Having a space of less than 2 meters between me and the largest predatory fish on earth was absolutely breathtaking. To me, these animals are amazing creatures that deserve more respect and conservation then what they are currently receiving, because in actual fact they are an endangered species.


But the sharks weren’t the only thing that stood out in this experience. What also caught my eye and stole my heart was the brilliant staff of the shark diving company Marine Dynamics.  Every single person who I came into contact with was informative, helpful, professional and just down right friendly. What really stole my heart was the sincere passion and commitment these people have towards their job and I could see that every person took pride in his/her position whatever it may be.

Not only does Marine Dynamics offer amazing service to their clients but they offer lifesaving service to the most important element of their company, the marine life. They save on average 100-130 birds per year, including the South African Penguins who are also an endangered species. They have now started to build a Rehabilitation Centre in Gansbaai called the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS) that is due to open this month. The aim of the centre is to get injured animals to a safe and secure facility in time to start its rehabilitation much faster and increasing its chance of survival and to restore the natural balance for the wildlife in Gansbaai. The APSS was founded by Gansbaai local, owner of Marine Dynamics and life-long birder, Wilfred Chivell. And this is not all, please read more about the many conservation efforts Marine Dynamics is involved with here.

These are two of the reasons why we at Earthstompers choose to work with Marine Dynamics: to give our clients the best service and quality experiences, and to support a company that looks after the environment and the marine life that calls it home.

I am Franzio Fortuin, up close and personal with the great white of the ocean.