South Africa is one of the few White Shark hot spots in the world, offering the best opportunities to observe these Sharks in their natural environment. Near Gansbaai however, the year can be divided into two main seasons: from April through to August/September, White Sharks are observed mainly around Dyer Island and Geyser Rock. During the remaining months of September to March, the Sharks use an area located three kilometres to the north in the shallow bay known as Shark Bay.
Your chances of observing White Sharks from the surface are higher than 90% from April through December. However, due to the topography of the region, the underwater visibility is generally higher around Dyer Island than within Shark Bay, hence diving conditions will be best from May to August. However, this period also corresponds to the austral winter, and the Western Cape is known for its heavy storms. Therefore, to avoid disappointment, we recommend that you schedule a few days for your White Shark experience, if possible, as the cage-diving boats will not be able to launch during stormy weather.
Diving is often limited during the months of September through March as the underwater visibility in Shark Bay is often significantly reduced. Sighting of White Sharks during the months of January through March is always difficult to predict, but our success rate in observing these elusive Sharks still remains higher than 90% - even during the low Shark season. See Shark Cage Diving in South Africa.
Gansbaai is located in the middle of the meeting place of two very different current systems: the warm Agulhas current from the Indian Ocean and the cold Benguela current from the Antarctic Ocean. The predominant winds in the region vary during our austral winters (mainly north-westerly) and summers (mainly south-easterly), hence pushing the colder / warmer waters closer to shore or further offshore. As a result, the water around Dyer Island is generally warmer during our austral winters (generally 15-20 degrees Celsius or 59-68 degrees Fahrenheit) than during our austral summers (generally 10-15 degrees Celsius or 50-59 degrees Fahrenheit).
No. This is one of the great advantages with White Sharks in that they are very active at the surface, and can be observed from the boat without having to go into the shark cage. Actually, surface viewing from the boat is always better than from the cage, as the underwater visibility is often limited (3-6 metres on average, on very rare days during the austral winter, we get 10+ metres visibility, but during the austral summer months, visibility is often less than 2 metres), plus you do not get cold and wet! You will always be able to see more from the boat than from the cage. Surface viewing is great and provides you with the best opportunities to capture these amazing and beautiful animals on camera!
We wish we could answer that question . . . we have no idea how long it will take for the first White Shark to appear around the boat. Patience is one of the most important prerequisites to see wildlife, but this is especially true with marine wildlife. There are no resident White Sharks around Dyer Island. Sharks are transient, visiting the area for a few days to a few weeks only, hence we observe new Sharks on a regular basis while the ones we observed yesterday may have moved on already. Unfortunately, we cannot offer any kind of answer to this question . . . sometimes we wait a few minutes, while at other times, we wait several hours after anchoring, and on the rare occasion do not see any White Sharks. Nature and wildlife are unpredictable, and large top predators like the Great White Sharks are elusive and cautious creatures. Despite our expertise, once we start chumming (a mixture of tuna and fish mince, fish oil and/or mashed sardines) and the fish lure (tuna head or steak attached to a float) and seal decoy are deployed, it is all a matter of patience and luck.
Again, unfortunately, we can not give any definite answer to that question. We believe that White Sharks present different personalities, probably the result of previous experience. One shark might come up to the lure, have one quick look and not feel confident about the situation, and leave after only a few seconds, while the next Shark might be much more relaxed, and remain around the boat for hours. Remember that White Sharks are curious animals, but their caution is a much stronger instinct! Sharks appeared between 400 - 500 million years ago, and they have survived through the ages, not because they are mindless predators, but because of their inherent caution which has taught them to avoid potential danger. Since White Sharks are not resident in the area, however good the smell might be in the water, they are not used to these large boats and cages. Generally, the time any particular White Shark will remain around the boat is between 5 and 10 minutes on average, but this is completely unpredictable and we cannot guarantee the length of any viewing period. This is wildlife watching at its best, and we are always very happy to see at least one White Shark for a few seconds.
This is the subject of a heavily discussed controversy which started in 1998 when 13 Shark bites occurred in South Africa alone. In our society, we need to be able to put the blame on something or someone, and in this case, the cage diving industry was targeted. What the media forgot to mention is that Shark bite statistics during that year were higher on a worldwide scale, not just in South Africa. Unfortunately in their basic statement, the media have used the usual tropical Shark diving experience and transposed it onto the White Shark cage diving industry. There are some very important differences between Shark diving in the Bahamas and cage-diving with White Sharks at Dyer Island:
a) White Sharks are not resident around Dyer Island and only remain in the area for a couple of weeks on average, whereas in tropical waters, many species of Sharks are sometimes resident to a reef system for periods of several years. This allows them to learn to associate boat engine noises with food, for example.
b) In South Africa, the cage-diving industry is not allowed by law to feed the Sharks. Marine Dynamics is also committed to avoiding feeding the Sharks for ethical and general conservation reasons. In the Shark dives in the Bahamas, pieces of fish are thrown constantly over the side of the boat, feeding the reef Sharks and hence programming their feeding habits. In South Africa, the pieces of fish are attached to a float and a rope and pulled away from the White Sharks. This bait is used solely as a lure, but, White Sharks will sometimes take the bait. It is important to remember that in order to train animals, consistent positive reinforcement is needed.
c) We do not believe that chumming and baiting activities, provided they are conducted responsibly and reasonably, are in any way linked to any Shark incidents. Marine Dynamics is however, dedicated to ensuring that any potential reinforcement is kept to an absolute minimum, by ensuring whenever possible that Sharks are not fed.
Yes. The South African cage-diving industry is regulated by a Code of Conduct and regulations from Marine and Coastal Management (DEAT - Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism). Apart from incidents due to the boat or cage itself, and seasickness and dehydration, no shark-related injuries or accidents to guests have been recorded in over ten years.
Gansbaai is located about 175 kilometres or 120 miles southeast from Cape Town towards Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of the African continent. From Cape Town, take the N2 highway in the direction of Somerset West, continue over Sir Lowry's Pass onto the mountains past Grabouw until the N2 drops down to Botrivier, where you turn off the N2 onto the R44 towards Hermanus. In Hermanus, just follow the Gansbaai signs, but basically just drive straight through Hermanus and you will reach Stanford and then Gansbaai.
The Great White House is located in Kleinbaai, a small suburb of Gansbaai. It is within walking distance of the slipway from where our boats Slashfin (Marine Dynamics) and Whale Whisperer (Dyer Island Cruises) will launch to Dyer Island and Shark Bay. Once you arrive in Gansbaai, continue past the three 4-way stops in the main road, leave the town behind driving past the industrial area on the left, until you reach a fifth 4-way stop, where you turn right towards Kleinbaai and the ocean. Follow this road until you see the large sign for the Great White House, turn right again until you reach a stop sign where you turn left. The Great White House is located just after the petrol station - 5 Geelbek Street. (Include a hyperlink to Google maps/give GPS coordinates/ 5 Geelbek Street Kleinbaai)
Yes, if it is done properly, with respect towards the Sharks, the other wildlife in the area and the general ecosystem according to the regulations in place. Marine Dynamics endeavours to respect the guidelines and regulations in place for your safety and that of the Sharks. Our ethical commitment toward the Sharks and their conservation determine our every decision, and we will not in anyway jeopardise the wildlife and ecosystem. Though chumming and attracting wild animals with food is not the best option and remains controversial, scientists have been unable to show any form of habituation around Dyer Island. Our mission through our educational excursions is to change people's mindset and attitudes towards Great White Sharks and to educate them about all our marine species. This change in the public's perception is vital to establish an appreciation of, and thus conservation of this wonderful species.