South Africa is a hotbed of shark activity, best known for cage diving with Great White sharks around Cape Town. In this article I will tell you all about different shark diving expeditions, cage diving, scuba diving and pelagic shark diving adventures in the Cape. The country has an astonishing diversity of sharks that can be seen from the warmer waters of Kwa-zulu Natal to the cool water of the Cape.
To scuba dive with the biggest variety of large sharks in South Africa descend at Protea Banks in KwaZulu Natal. Here you can swim with Tigersharks, Zambezis, Black Tips and sometimes massive shoals of hammerheads.
Other than cage diving with Great white sharks, diving with sharks in the Cape is a relatively young activity. Populations of these awesome animals accessible to scuba diving have only been discovered by divers in recent years.
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Shark Diving Cape Town
There are 3 completely different shark diving expeditions that can be done as day trips from Cape Town. These experiences differ regarding the kind of sharks seen, the type of diving and the environment explored on these dives.
Scuba Diving with Sharks in Simonstown
Diving with the seven gill cow sharks at shark alley near Simonstown is an awesome experience. These sharks become big, with animals over 3m sometimes seen. They are often found hunting in packs of up to about 15 sharks, from there the name ‘wolves of the sea’. Cow sharks have seven gill slits instead of 5 like most sharks. I have dived with hundreds of these sharks over the years, they are very inquisitive sometimes coming right up to you, this makes for great photos. They are not aggressive, but they have real teeth and have been known to eat seals, so they can bite! So don’t touch them, treat them with respect and you should be fine. Falsebay is the only place in the world where high concentrations of cow sharks are found in shallow water close to the shore. They are often seen in the shallow channel between Pyramid rock and the shore called shark alley. This is an easy shore dive swimming from the slipway towards pyramid rock. Diving in the kelp forest is an fantastic experience and other than sharks a huge variety of fish and nudibranches (colorful sea slugs) can be seen on this dive. Other than the cow sharks, maller spotted gulley sharks and several species of cat sharks are found in this area.
Conditions: Visibility 3 to 15m, Temp 14 to 20C, Max depth 12m
This can easily be done as a shore dive. It is a shallow dive so it is suitable for all levels, if you are not experienced in local conditions I would recommend you dive with a local dive leader. The advantage of doing it as a boat dive with a local company is that the skippers have intimate knowledge of the area and will drop you on the sharks. The sharks often disappear for long periods, so check with Pisces Divers if they are present to book a dive with these awesome creatures!
Pelagic Shark Dive
This adventurous pelagic shark dive with Pisces Divers is something unique for even most experienced divers. Floating in the crystal clear, warm water of the Agulhas current hoping for predators to come and investigate is an exhilarating experience. Blue sharks is the most common species seen on this dive, mako sharks often show up, but out here in the deep blue anything is possible and anything from whales to yellow fin tunas can come and surprise you!
Diving with Blue sharks and Mako sharks
Our day with the Pisces Divers team started early, we launced their big But Cat at 7am. Sea conditions were fantastic and we had a very comfortable ride out of about 90 minutes. On the way we saw many cormorants, cape gannets and were lucky to have an albatross flying around the boat! Skipper, Neil, really knows his birds and I definitely learnt a couple of things from him during the day. It was not only birds during the ride out, we also so a whale, a sunfish and several seals kilometers off shore! The experienced team keeps an eye on water conditions, like temperature and color and stopped about 30 kilometers from Cape Point when they thought conditions had some sharky potential! Mike and the crew started creating a chum line behind the boat to lure sharks by cutting up pilchards. When the first sharks began to arrive a very exited crew started to kit up! We dived around a bait bin for about 75 minutes. What luck we had with 5 blue sharks and 2 mako sharks on our dive.
The graceful blue sharks were very calm and inquisitive, swimming around us and getting very close sometimes for the whole duration of the dive. Their big eyes help them to see better in deep water while hunting. These sharks feed mostly on squid and a variety of fish. Blue sharks can grow up to 3.5 meters, the specimens on our dive were all between 1 and 2 meters in length. These pelagic sharks are actually the most common sharks in the ocean.
Short Fin Mako Sharks
Many divers travel here with the hopes of seeing this incredible shark. It is a stocky shark that can grow up to 3 meters, but most specimens seen are about 2m long. It has a mouth full of teeth that are very visible and is the fastest shark in the ocean, reaching speeds up to 74km/h! Swimming at such speeds it has been seen to jump up to 9m high out of the water. It was incredible to have 2 of these sharks on our dive, they were around for 2 or 3 minutes and quite uncharacteristically were swimming around us and the bait bin slowly and appeared relaxed.
Visibility was an incredible 30m, water temperature 20C, we spent the whole dive between 5 and 10m deep, there was no max dive time, after 75 min our whole group surfaced.
Cage Diving Cape Town
Viewing Great White Sharks from a cage is the most famous dive related activity in South Africa with thousands of tourists ticking this off their bucket list every year. It is not really a dive, with participants standing in a cage suspended from the side of a boat. The sharks are lured to the boat with bait and the massive Great Whites can often be seen from up close.
Cage diving can be done around seal island in False Bay from Simonstown, but is seasonal with sharks only being in the area from February to September. Great White sharks can be seen from Gansbaai, about a 2 hour drive from Cape Town all year round.
Marine Dynamics Cage Dive excursion from Gansbaai/Kleinbaai focus a lot on conservation. This company is highly rated and you have a good chance of seeing these amazing animals from up-close with this experienced outfit. They have a marine biologist onboard to make sure you have an opportunity to learn about the sharks and their behavior and have great facilities onboard and at the Great White House in Kleinbaai. If you choose Marine Dynamics will pick you up in Cape Town.
- Backpacker Budget – Stoked Backpackers
- Mid Range – The Hotel Glencairn is a very convenient stay for diving in False Bay less than 100m walk from Pisces Divers.
- Treat Yourself – Watercolors House, set opposite the ocean, amazing views, large solar heated pool.
Transport around Cape Town
It is possible to get by train to Simonstown or move around by taxi or Uber, but renting a car is definitely the best way to move around in Cape Town. Rentacar Cape Town compares prices of all the most reputable car rental agencies. You can rent a car starting at about $20 per day for a medium car or as low as $10 per day for a small budget vehicle if you rent for a week! Pick up your vehicle in town or at the airport.
Going on a dive trip? – Dive Trip Packing List+Tips
Thinking of things that can go wrong too much can put a damper on your trip, but there are obvious risks. Many dive locations are remote with minimal medical facilities. Accidents do happen, be prepared. World Nomads travel insurance covers travelers from most countries around the world and cover can even be organised while you are traveling. They specialize in covering adventure activities like diving. Make sure you take out the appropriate cover. Get a online quote in seconds. Have your trip, your health and your gear covered, read the small print. World Nomads Diving Insurance
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The strong half of Stingy Nomads, a nomadic aquaman that would be happy to spend all his life in the water diving, surfing and spearfishing but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our marine adventures and following them with write-ups. He loves traveling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wetsuit.