In July 2012 I was arranging a business trip to South Africa, my very first to the African continent ever. While going through my plans to visit the IBM office in Cape Town, I thought, hey, South Africa's "Shark Alley" is where they keep all the really big sharks! Never one to pass up an opportunity to become something's breakfast, I shot off an e-mail to the White Shark Diving Co. and booked a reservation for the weekend following my last business meeting. The trip came toward the end of August, just days before my 50th birthday, and I couldn't think of a better thing to do to celebrate.
Contrary to popular presumption, I almost never mix diving with business trips because there's just too much stuff to carry. But I made an exception for this one, since I didn't expect to get back to South Africa any time soon. So I packed up my camera and underwater housing and headed off to Africa.
The folks at the White Shark Diving Co. were great. They picked me up at my hotel in Cape Town, along with all the other divers for the day, and shuttled us down to Gansbaai ("Goose Bay"), about a 2-hour drive southeast. They offered a simple continental breakfast on our arrival along with the briefing for what was awaiting us out in the bay. Everyone takes turns in the cage, but my head was underwater only for those times when I wanted a good view of the shark being lured in by the bait. So, no scuba tanks, regulators, or anything else except a nice thick wetsuit, hood, and booties, which they provide. The water temperature on the day we went out was a frigid 53°F/12°C, so if you want to bring your own scuba wear, as I did, make sure it's 7mm or thicker. And although the team will have a couple of big pots of hot soup waiting for you on your return, you'll want to make sure you have a nice warm fleece or something for the ride back.
Shark cage diving is heavily regulated by the South African government and the crew was crystal clear about the rules: just in case anyone wanted to reach out and touch some shark just for the thrill, it would be everyone out of the water and back to base, no further argument about it.
When we arrived at the site, we had 12-foot swells waiting for us, but the seas settled down after a while as the crew started chumming. A pair of great whites appeared very quickly and into the water we went. The cage is strapped to the side of the boat and bangs hard against it as the waves arrive, so I got knocked around pretty well. I remember thinking that I would be happy to get even a couple of minutes of good footage in the cage, but I was fairly surprised by how much of it came out. I hope you'll watch the video and enjoy it as much as I did.