So… Yes, I did see the Great White Sharks. And I’m telling you, it is an amazing experience. If you had told me, let’s say… a week ago, that I’d be out on the open sea, to do cage diving, I’d had thought you were losing your mind.
Gansbaai is a unique place – a 2 hours drive from Cape Town – a fishermen’s village that has become a worldwide attraction as far as sharks and whales are concerned; a quiet town where one can relax away from the sound and fury of the city.
Last Saturday, I got a warm welcome from Sarah and Jonathan at restaurant De la Mer. I am grateful to have met them, and other lovely people too. There was this French guy who had just arrived a few hours earlier from Cape Town. He didn’t speak a word of English and had dinner by himself. Sarah felt sorry for him and tried her best to make him feel comfortable. Jonathan and Sarah asked me to talk to him and invite him to our table to share a drink.
That’s how Sébastien and I met.
He came to Gansbaai to see the Great White Sharks. Taking pictures and videos almost every day. When he asked me: do you want to come? I hesitated. But not long.
At about 6 in the morning, I was at the shark company, feeling like a kid waiting for Santa Claus to come down the chimney. But instead of having Legos, I got an opportunity to meet sharks. (Thank you Jonathan for the wonderful, toothy present).
Once you’ve put on your life jacket, you embark on the boat and say your last prayers. The rising sun spreading its flames on a calm ocean was as unforgettable as was seeing the Great Whites. We were a dozen people who had come for the thrill of being face to face with wilderness for once in our lives.
As for Sébastien, it was not once but nine times. And each time was sheer excitement, so he told me. On a trip like this, one only needs a swimsuit and one’s eyes wide open. One does not have to go into the cage as one can see the sharks from the deck, but one can’t go back home with regrets, so you might as well get into the cage. After slipping into the wetsuit and diving gear they’re handing out, you get into the water, hold on to the red bars, look carefully at the yellow thingee at the end of the rope and wait. It’s like fishing. You must be patient.
So… what do two French guys talk about in a cage while waiting for the Great Whites to come and show their huge mouths? When I helped this woman who was freezing and had water in her mask, Sébastien had this “don’t take advantage of the situation” little laugh. I said: what do you want me to do with a woman? A seagull filled the silence with its cries. Oh, he answered, is that why you got away? Oh no, everyone knows. It’s just that I felt it wasn’t my life I was living. Then the man on the boat shouted: Down! Down! Down! Here comes a big one.
It was approximately 3 meters long. It swam so close to the cage that one could not miss it. I felt absolutely mesmerized. You’ve only seen them on television and now you are in the same waters, just inches away from this fearful predator. It came right at us, showing us its serrated bladelike teeth, took the bait it was not supposed to take, and left.
Yes, I think I’ll give it another go before I go back to Cape Town.
(the shark got stuck in the rope, but don’t worry, it managed to free itself, it deserved the lunch)
thank you Sébastien for the video