Sunday morning I was psyched to go white shark cage diving with White Shark Africa. I especially was happy to be going with WSA because they truly care about the animals and want to raise awareness for their beauty and majesty instead of people being afraid of them.
Unfortunately, the visibility was not very good, so while in the cage, you could only see about 1.5 meters in front of the cage. I was in the second group of divers in the cage, so during the first round, I got to see the sharks from the boat deck. Because of the visibility, the view from the deck was actually better than that in the cage sometimes.
From in the cage, I was able to see the gracefulness of the sharks gliding by. The cage was designed with two sets of bars, as our guide described: one for the sharks and one for the divers. The inside bars were for the divers to hold onto without having their hands and/or feet exposed to the outside.
One of the common misconceptions, especially if you look at cage diving videos online, is that anytime a sharks runs into or mouths the bars of the cage, they are trying to eat the divers inside. This is very false. Especially in low visibility, the sharks may misjudge the distance to the cage or be focused on the bait rather than where the cage is. This could result in the sharks bumping into the cage, but that does not mean they are after those inside. Also, when sharks put their jaws on the bars, most people panic and picture scenes from Jaws; however, when a shark does that, they are not trying to get inside the cage, they are simply investigating the cage to see what it is and what it is made of. They don’t have hands like us to feel things, so they have to use their mouths, which is commonly called mouthing.While chumming, sharks will do the same with other items in the water such as the engines. If you just tap the top of the engine, they let go easily. Sharks are incredibly curious creatures.
There is also a pecking order with sharks when there is food where they allow the largest sharks to feed first, rather than having a feeding frenzy. It was amazing to watch two sharks go for the same bait and seeing the smaller of the two sharks dive down to allow the larger to eat first. Our guide explained to us that the smaller sharks usually see the cage as a larger shark. They do not look at the cage and see individual people in a cage, they see a single creature in the water that could be larger than they are. Because of this, the smaller sharks would sometimes come up to the bait and cage and hold off on pursuing the bait because they think that the cage has the right to the bait first. It was amazing to see and realize how complex and polite these animals are.
This was definitely a wonderful experience, and I am so ecstatic that I was able to cage dive with these amazing animals. I am actually hoping to do another cage dive later in the month, if there is better visibility. Fingers crossed!