Tuesday was a big day: our first chance to see the great white sharks in Gansbaai. We headed off to the shark diving centre at around 9am and had a bit of breakfast there, and then started out on the trip.
It was still quite windy and grey but it wasn’t raining. However, the storm from the few days before meant that there was a really big swell – I was terrified. There were only 4 guests on the boat, including us (not typical I think but they were willing to take out such a small group) and 5 crew. I have never seen such enormous waves let alone been out in a boat on them. Unsurprisingly we didn’t get many pictures (two in total!) but they did make a DVD which they will send us.
As you may have gathered this was a real challenge for me. I wasn’t frightened of the sharks but was terrified of the waves. As we drove out we were meant to sit facing inwards in the cabin area but I really needed to see out so I stood at the front. The boat would soar skywards and then plummet into a trough.
The other thing that was a bit of a problem for me is that I am an emetophobe. This means I have an irrational fear of vomit – doing it myself, or others doing it. I am very embarrassed by this as when people are ill I ought to be very sympathetic and caring. Obviously no-one likes vomit but I get clammy, heart pumping etc etc. I think the biggest issue for me is the mess. So I was very uncomfortable in this situation. And one of the other guests vomited copiousy all over himself. Ben was also sick but I didn’t know (he is extremely good at keeping away from me if he is sick and understanding my apparent lack of sympathy: sorry).
Anyway, we managed to get our cage dive. They put chum in the water to attract the sharks and make them more aggressive, but it also meant we didn’t have to wait very long for them to come. There were 5 sharks while we were in the cage – a long cage attached to the boat so all 4 in at once. This was fortunate in this situation as it meant we didn’t have to wait around for everyone to have a turn!
The sharks were breath-taking. They came really close to the cage and I was really glad we had managed to see some. I did find over the next few days that in a quieter and more relaxed atmosphere you have a much better opportunity to watch the sharks and discover their individual characters (more later). I think the sea was so rough that the crew on the dive boat had to be really rushed to get us in, out and home again but also it’s quite commerical. I suppose their main clientelle are those seeking an adrenaline rush so they want the sharks to seem aggressive, but that really wasn’t what we were after. I also think that doesn’t do the sharks any favours because there is much much more to sharks than that – it’s such a small part of what sharks are like.
I think the other problem for me on this trip was the feeling of having absolutely no control or way of escape. Again perhaps because they were so busy when I said I was frightened there was no response at all from any of the crew.
Anyway, the highlight of the trip (a three day long highlight!) was still to come, but we had achieved my dream of diving with sharks, even if it was at quite a high personal cost!
That afternoon we were driven to Simon’s Town where we stayed for two days. I think this was our favourite place as it was a pretty harbour town with a nice atmosphere.
In the evening we ate in the poshest restaurent we had been to and it was really cheap! About £20 (I think!) for a fancy dinner including pre-dinner sherry, wine, coffee and dessert! Ben tried Swordfish – he said it was ok but quite meaty for a fish. I wasn’t quite up to eating fish after the day’s activities!
End of day 4.