And boy, did we get close . . .
Shark cage diving - a basic overview of the process.
1.) A short boat ride out to sea. This seems like the most relaxing part of the trip, right? Unfortunately, this was a struggle . . . over half of our group got seasick. I thought the boat was going to tip over there were so many huge waves! Luckily, everyone rallied, put their sickness behind them, and made it into the water.
2.) You're loaded into a relatively small metal cage with about 6 other people. The bars are spaced about a foot apart - a large enough gap to stick out an arm or a leg. So, be careful! (I found my fingers floating outside of the cage a few times). About a third of the cage remains above the water, and the remainder of the cage is underwater. Great Whites are primarily found near the surface of the water, so there is no need for the cage to be fully underwater. In other words, you do not need any dive certifications to go shark diving!
2.) The crew attracts the sharks by throwing "chum" (rotting fish) into the water. The chum is attached to a a rope so that the crew can pull the sharks in and play with them a bit. Chum smells terrible. The whole boat wreaks of rotting fish - definitely not a trip highlight. Someone knocked my backpack into a pile of chum water. In other words, time to get a new backpack.
3.) The sharks come! After the chum has been placed in the water, you begin to see sharks in no time. You stay in the cage for about 15min. It's so exciting! In the short time that my group was in the cage, we saw two different sharks. At one point, a shark came so close to the cage that I was actually able to reach out and touch it. (As a general precaution, I don't recommend following my lead on reaching out and touching the shark. I just could't resist!)
5.) "Thank god I'm alive". The moment I got back onto the boat I could not believe what I had just done. The feeling was so surreal. It was unbelievable to be so close to such a massive predator, but also such an ancient and beautiful animal. I would most definitely recommend shark diving to anyone traveling to South Africa. It's a must-do experience. Go cross it off of the bucket list!