My daddy really loves the movie JAWS. He thinks besides the nervewrecking suspense, great characters, that classic dum-dum-dum music and thrilling action, part of the film's universal appeal is Amity, the endearing little town where the film is situated. Visiting Gansbaai in South Africa during our trip through Southern Africa in the Summer of 2016 is the closest thing one will ever experience to stepping INSIDE the movie JAWS (except for all the blood and killing - not that I would know; I'm still hooked on Dora The Explorer and Coldplay videoclips these days). So let me tell you all about it and point out 5 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE ENTERING A SHARKCAGE!
1. GANSBAAI IS MORE THAN JUST SHARKCAGE DIVING. We arrived in Gansbaai after having visited the beautiful Mossel Bay. The whole town is devoted to sharks and shark-tourism (sharkcage diving in particular) and Gansbaai is unofficially dubbed as 'Shark Capital Of The World' on many thrillseekers' bucket-lists. The town breathes sharks. Bars, restaurants, hotels and even malls are named after the fearsome predators, the Great White in particular. The houses and architecture are reminiscent of a typical US harbor town which infuses the almost surreal link to the setting of JAWS. So even if you don't have the guts or the desire to enter a sharkcage, Gansbaai is quite a wonderful place to visit. If you do plan to go cage diving, we advise people to stay at least two nights. Most operators offer a second free dive the next day when no sharks are spotted on your cage experience and it would be a shame to miss out on that.
2. CHOOSE THE RIGHT SHARKCAGE OPERATOR. My mommy and daddy knew they really wanted to experience a sharkcage dive. They had two demands while planning: the contact with Great White sharks had to be as non-intrusive as possible and I would be allowed to go on board, not in the cage (no worries), but simply along for the ride. Sharkcage diving has a bad reputation for a lot of good reasons, but there are actually many operators out there trying to giving you a great sharkcage experience, while at the same time respecting sharks, nature and ethics. Finding an operator for a 'decent' sharkcage dive therefore wasn't that hard. Finding a company willing to bring me aboard, now that's another story. Basically, no one wants to deal with babies and small children aboard a sharkcage boat. The reasons range from: 'It's not safe' to: 'We deal with sharks, not kids. Kids scare us more than sharks.' After spending hours on the internet, sending out inquires about the possibilities to bring me aboard, mommy and daddy finally found an operator that was open to it. In fact; they didn't make a problem out of it at all. 'Great! Our boat is big enough and the crew loves babies!' Yeah; that's what I need. Marine Dynamics Shark Tours (www.sharkwatchsa.com) was going to make it all happen for us, but not after a good night sleep of mental preparation.
We stayed in Great White Shark Self Catering Apartments, a huge place, perfect for me. I think mommy and daddy got lost a couple of times looking for each other. Yes, it was THAT big with an abudance of space and rooms.
Ok, any place with a pooltable is deserving of the word AWESOME, right? An hour or so after having settled in, we went out and explored the local harbor from which our sharkcage boat, heroically called Slashfin, would depart the next morning.
On the docks were over a dozen sharkcage boats gracing the Gansbaai harbor, all ready for more shark watching the next day. To our surprise Slashfin, the boat used by Marine Dynamics was nowhere to be found. Mommy and daddy were wondering whether they were at the right harbor, but then a boat approached as the sun was about to set: it was Slashfin!
3. PREPARE FOR DISAPPOINTMENT. The last 'sharkspotters' of the day returned and this was a perfect opportunity for mommy and daddy to ask how many sharks the group had seen. They approached a family from Canada and the response was: 'Sadly we didn't see any sharks. Two hours on the boat, some fishes, but no sharks.' Ok. That was new. Mommy and daddy thought shark sightings were close to guaranteed, but this group missed out and they were actual people who had been inside that shark cage, not the sales talk from a website. Mommy talked to an employee of Marine Dynamics who had been on the boat's last ride of the day. 'It happens', he said. 'They're wild animals.' Although mommy and daddy were aware of this of course, it did dampen their spirits. They were also a bit worried about how I would do on the boat. We went to sleep, stressed by the evening's encounter with Slashfin, and hoped for the best for our own sharkcage experience the next day.
The next morning mommy and daddy took me to the meeting point of Marine Dynamics and after a lengthy preptalk -during which the crew of Slashfin warned all the daredevils about to board (that included me) that the weather conditions of the day would bring about waves over 4 meters high!- we were off for our big adventure! Hoisted on mommy's back in our Osprey child carrier, I was already having a great time, even before we got on the boat!
4. DON'T UNDERESTIMATE SEA SICKNESS AND WEATHER CONDITIONS. As we entered Slashfin the crew emphasized again: the waves on our ride were going to be murdering. They handed out puke bags to everyone and begged us not to 'do our thing' overboard. 'Use the bag!'. And as we were heading towards our destination (that means 'shark territory') the first people starting throwing up the eggs and bacon they had for breakfast already. It was pretty bad. The boat rocked constantly and the waves felt more like 14 meters high instead of 4. And then... The shark cage was placed in the water and the first people -nauseated and all- went in, hopefully to catch a glimpse of The Great White. Would we see one? Or would we suffer the same fate as the Canadian family we spoke to the evening before?
Yup, that's me and they were right: the crew of Slashfin really likes kids on board! Lucky me.
The cold water actually helped mommy in battling sea-sickness.
5. ...AND FINALLY: DON'T FORGET TO ENJOY THE SHOW! Let's get straight to it: there were sharks! Thankfully. There was at least one Great White moving around the boat for the whole two hours we spend on the ocean and mommy and daddy got some underwater GoPro-shots of the beautiful creature. There we over 40 people on board and all of them had to use the puke bag at one point. Well, all of them... excpet one. Guess who didn't? Little me. I was enjoying the rocking of the waves very much, even got a good 45 mintes of sleep on board! It made mommy and daddy -and the crew of Marine Dynamics- very proud. They said I was born for the ocean which kind off sounds right considering I love to swim so much and spend time at the beach. It was all in all a great experience and now let's get to some shark pictures from the day.