Shark cage diving in Mossel Bay

Shark cage diving in Mossel Bay

It saddens me – that the outrageous, sick practice of shark finning has decreased global shark populations by 90 % in the last 20 years. The multi-billion dollar shark fin industry has decimated shark populations, killing 100 million sharks every year; and while Asians feast on shark fin soup, which has absolutely no nutritional or medicinal value, the removal of the oceans’ apex predators is having a devastating effect on thousands of interlinked ecosystems. There are currently more than 14 species of shark that are endangered, one of which is the Great White Shark.

South Africa is well known for its Great White Sharks that make appearances all year round near Gansbaai, due to the teeming populations of seals on Dyer Island and surrounding areas. These beautiful creatures are literally at my back door, so I decided to stop my armchair activism and actually get off my backside and try to do something about making people aware of the state of the ocean and the declining shark populations. The first step was to get up close and personal with a Great White, and that’s where shark cage diving comes in.

The commercial shark cage diving hub is in Gansbaai, but I opted for something a little more personal and decided to try one of the most nerve-wracking activities in South Africa, in Mossel Bay while staying at the Garden Court Mossel Bay. There is only one cage dive operator in Mossel Bay, which meant that there wouldn’t be any other boats clunking around and stealing the sharks’ attention.

Wetsuited-up (and very grateful that I’d remembered to take my motion sickness tablets two hours before this experience), I descended into the cage with one other person while the boat crew used a baited buoy to attract the 3.5 m-long Great White Shark they’d spotted. The water was quite clear, which is the great thing about Mossel Bay, and as soon as she swam into view, tears welled up in my eyes. How could anyone want to slice the fins off such a magnificent creature? She approached quite slowly and circled the bait from below, then dashed past the cage in an aerodynamic display of 400 million years of evolutionary genius, snapping at the bait and driving my adrenaline into my throat.

Fear turned to awe, and awe to anger; anger that sharks are being taken for granted, killed in the most inhumane manner and that entire ecosystems are being threatened because of some false idea that shark fin soup is beneficial, when eating it as actually just a disgusting show of wealth. It’s pointless. Later in the afternoon, all sharked out, I chatted to the boat crew on the way back to shore, about my concerns regarding the threatened state of sharks. They commiserated, assuring me that they contribute a fair amount of time, money and effort to shark conservation.

Shark cage diving was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in the ocean, and it’s driven me to action and to try to do something about this impressive species.