Continuing the theme from yesterday’s post, here are a few photos from Shark Alley, the channel between Geyser Rock and Dyer Island just off the coast of Gansbaai. The photos are from a cage diving expedition in June 2017.
Shark Alley has been featured in many Discovery Channel Shark Week episodes. For great white sharks, this spot is a veritable fast-food, swim-through dining establishment and their favorite food, cape fur seals, is always the plat du jour.
The Shark Team is one of several outfits that bring tourists out for up-close-and-personal encounters with man’s most feared ocean predator. (Great whites terrorize people but a pod of killer whales can make short work of even the largest great white. The whales are fond of the shark’s liver and have the ability to remove it leaving the carcass intact.)
The Shark Team attracts great whites with fish heads on hooks. It does not chum. When a shark approaches, a mate hauls the bait out of the water near the cage. To avoid associating people and feeding, sharks are not allowed to eat the bait.
According to the marine biologist on board, mature sharks know they won’t get fed; so most of the great whites who were interested in the bait were younger sharks measuring three to four meters in length.
Tourists suited up and took turns in the cage three or four at a time. South African waters are cold in June. Even wearing a wet suit, 30 minutes at a time was the limit for most people.
The sharks didn’t like being teased and seemed to get pissed when they didn’t get the bait.
One shark appeared to be practicing for an “Air Jaws” breaching attack.
The great whites were so close we could reach through the cage and touch them. I tried touching one behind the pectoral fin as it thrashed past but missed. The guy next to me was able to touch one. Doing that can get one kicked out of the cage not to mention the possibility of losing a hand or arm.
Being an arm’s length away from those magnificent predators was exciting. The protection of a cage and the watchful eyes of a trained crew made the experience feel completely safe – a lot safer than swimming off some of the beautiful beaches of North Carolina, Florida or Hawaii.