Cape Town  -  Great White Sharks

Cape Town's Great White Sharks

Surfers in the surf near Muizenberg corner

Of late sharks have been in the news quite regularly here in Cape Town. A number of incidents have brought them to the attention of the media and in certain instances have brought the wrath of the public down on persons who conduct tours to dive with sharks. Over the past few weeks we have had two attacks in False Bay. People feel that the attacks were carried out by the same Great White shark .

The first attack was on a surfer who was surfing near Muizenberg corner. The shark attacked him from below and bit off a part of his leg and broke his surf board in half. After medical treatment on the beach the doctor attending the boy declared him dead. He was taken to hospital and en route made a remarkable recovery and his life was saved.

One of the shark species found off the coast of South Africa

A few weeks after this attack some fishermen from Kalk Bay were fishing off Strandfontein on the False Bay coastline when at about 10.00 pm there was a sudden noise in the sea next to the boat and a 4 5 metre shark shot out of the water and launched itself at one of the fishermen sitting near the stern of the boat. Fortunately the man saw the shark flying towards him and he managed to dive for safety into a bait bin. The shark flew over where he was sitting and hit the boat with its tail as it landed back in the water on the other side. The fishermen were badly spooked and immediately pulled up their anchor and made for harbour. It's incidents such as the above that are causing grief for shark diving operators here in the Cape.

Seal Island is home to the seals in False Bay and as seals are the natural prey of the Great White sharks they attract sharks to the area. With the increase in tourism here in Cape Town diving has become an important tourist attraction. Many operators have purchased boats and special cages to give visitors the chance to dive with these predators of the deep.

The only problem however is that sharks do not stay where you last saw them and arriving with a boat full of tourists and not seeing sharks could be a major embarrasment to the tour operator. Shark operators need to attract the sharks and the only way to do this is to chum (throw bits and pieces of dead fish and blood into the water). It's this practice that is upsetting the locals as they say it i s the cause of the attacks. This attracts sharks in their droves and gives the tourist a view of these large predators of the sea.

To make the trip even more memorable the tour operators allow their visitors to dive with the sharks. They provide cages which are thrown over the side of the boats and then divers enter them and are lowered a couple of metres below the surface. From here they can watch the sharks in relative safety. Sometimes they have close calls when the the sharks make attempts to get into the cages. It must be really terrifying to see a Great White swimming towards you with its mouth full of razor sharp teeth. Fortunately there have not yet been any mishaps and people are normally returned to the beaches in safety.

There are a number of areas around the Cape where shark diving takes place. One of the most popular is Gansbaai where tourists are taken out to Dyer Island, the home of the largest concentration of Great Whites in South Africa. Gansbaai is a village on the south coast of South Africa.

Tours leave Cape Town early and when you arrive you are given breakfast at one of the local restaurants before being taken out to Dyer island for the shark viewing. The best time for viewing sharks near Dyer Island is from June till October when there is a success rate of about 95% of seeing sharks from the boats. On average on any given day you have a chance of spotting between 3 to 8 different shark species with most of them ranging between three to four and half metres in length.

As I have told my readers before I am not the bravest when it comes to large sharks, in fact a small fish seen through a diving mask is scary for me so you are not likely to find me out on the ocean wave chasing these large animals. For those who love a thrill, Cape Town is the place to visit.

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Great White Sharks