Shark Bait. Shark Cage Diving
LIVEOUTLOUD – Lifestyle. Martin Newlands went floating in an icy green ocean with three and a half metres of apex predator great white shark for company. He managed to avoid soiling his wetsuit and told us this story.
As it swims towards me, I could swear it’s looking straight at me, before it turns suddenly and makes a lunge for the fishhead bait, opening its jaws and flashing rows of razor sharp teeth. And I don’t think the shark’s mood is improving, as the bait is hauled out of reach every time it gets too close.
Okay, admittedly I was in a cage attached to a sizable boat, but when you get up close and personal with a fish this big and toothy, you start to question just how strong the bars really are. What if this shark’s dad arrives – possibly twice his size? What if a seven-metre monster shows up? How safe is this flimsy cage going to be then? Perhaps I’ve been in for long enough – I’ll give someone else a turn now.
I was the guest of Cape Xtreme and their partners Ecoventures on their boat the Megalodon II. (We were warned not to ask what had happened to Megalodon I!). Robert Cope, our tour leader and shark guru for the day, was extremely helpful and a fount of knowledge about these fantastic beasts. The beast in question? Carcharodon carcharias, commonly know as the Great White, or if you’re trying to play down the terror aspect, just the White shark.
We’d been warned that it was possible we’d see nothing but seagulls and seals, so we prepared ourselves for at best a long wait for the sharks to arrive. No sooner had we dropped anchor though, than a huge shark was already circling the boat, probably wondering how to have us for lunch. Immediately there was a race to see who could get into a wetsuit first and into the cage. It was actually remarkable the complacency with which everyone approached the presence of this massive predator. I couldn’t help but think that the edge of the boat was dangerously close to the water. This fact was no deterrent, however, to the row of hungover backpackers who lined the side of the boat, doing their own chumming into the sea!
There is something surreal about hovering beneath the water in the cage, viewing these awesome creatures passing by in menacing silence. Knowing you are safe but at the same time realising that you are in the shark’s territory, on his turf. There’s an undeniable and visceral fear. According to Rob Cope, the sharks that frequent the cage diving operations are not in hunting mode, which explains their relatively calm demeanour. The smell that has attracted them is that of dead fish and they are scavenging for ocean carrion. But, as any Airjaws fan will tell you, these creatures like to kill in style!
We were fortunate enough to be visited by three sharks on this trip, all with their own specific characters and markings. I commented on a particularly scarred shark and Rob said that the wounds could have been the work of seals. Amazingly, especially when the water is clear, a group of seals will harry the much bigger shark, not unlike smaller birds will harry a larger bird of prey. It is a fantastic thrill and a great privilege to see these majestic fish in their natural environment. Hunted almost to extinction at one point, but now a protected species, the Great White shark rules supreme in its kingdom. Long may it continue to do so.
Interested in a shark cage diving experience? Here’s who to call:
CapeXtreme Adventure Tours Tel: 02…