Diving with the sharks

By Timmy Hancox

Pic by Geoff Spilby

Dawn is one part of the day that I’m unfamiliar with, but a chance to see the great hunters of the sea up close had me bright-eyed and bushy-tailed before the sun even began to appear over False Bay. Rob Lawrence of African Shark Eco-Charters greeted us and we made a hasty trip towards Seal Island. Sharks do most of their hunting first thing in the morning, and we were fortunate to witness three or four natural hunts. None of us saw them clearly, but a breach and a splash usually mean only one thing around the island that some 64 000 seals call home. The boat trailed a carpet decoy to encourage the sharks to breach.

After a few circles around the island, we dropped anchor and it was time for the main event. Interestingly, Rob did not chum the water for sharks, but used a single tuna head as bait to lure them to the surface. We waited for some time for a shark to appear; they are not drawn to boats as many sceptics would have you believe. Then unexpectedly… there it was! The beautiful creature glided in almost lethargically from the gloom of the ocean depths. Rob shook his head and said, “It’s Cruella De Vil, this shark is crazy!” Rob went on to explain that they saw this shark often and had nicknamed her after the infamous 101 Dalmatians character. He pointed out Cruella’s old injury from when she had once rammed his boat by accident. Her massive size flabbergasted me, not only in terms of length, but also how broad she was. Cruella was in the 4 to 5 metre range and simply enormous.

We donned our wetsuits and entered the small two-man cage floating in the chilly Cape waters. Underwater I breathed deeply and was astonished by the silent movement of the sharks as they simply appeared out of nowhere, disappearing just as fast. I felt totally unthreatened as the sharks ignored us in the cage. As one attempted to bite off the bait, it bumped into the cage right next to me – momentarily sending my heart-rate soaring.

The great white certainly is a majestic creature and an incredible predator; they are not the devious man-killers that Hollywood would have you believe them to be. What a day – and definitely one I won’t forget anytime soon.


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