Shark Cage Diving – Stepping Outside the Comfort Zone


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During the first week of our South African adventure, we were touring the beautiful coastal sites of the Western and Eastern Cape.  There is so much to see and do and I give full credit to our tour operators, Scott of Africa, for their expertise in choosing the perfect mix of experiences for our group and one such experience was the opportunity to go out shark cage diving where the great white sharks gather due to a large seal colony island at Gansbaai.

I knew of this outing prior to leaving on the trip and it was one that I was not sure that I would do.  I was comfortable knowing that I would make up my mind when I was actually there. I am sure it has something to do with seeing the classic movie “Jaws” as a young girl but I had to feel comfortable that being up close and personal with a great white would not hinder my courage to swim in the ocean after the experience.

Well –due to the weather, we actually moved this outing up by 2 days on the itinerary, so decision time was fast approaching.  It was a beautiful coastal drive from Cape Town to Gansbaai – about 2.5 hours and there was excitement among our whole group. When we arrived, there was a briefing by the guides explaining exactly what would take place. We would all board the boat and head out to the location where they anchor and lower a cage along the side of the boat.  We would adorn wetsuits and masks and go in groups of five or less into the cage.  Our heads would stay above water and there was an inner bar to hold onto.  The bait would be cast out in the water to attract the sharks and when they approached to get it, the captain would holler “down” and the divers would take a big breathe and push themselves under the water for as long as they could hold their breathe and see the shark up close and personal.  Okay – I knew I could handle that, and besides, I came all the way out to South Africa to expose myself to new adventures and I was not about to leave with regrets.

The earlier tour group arrived in, shared their enthusiasm of the trip and one gal mentioned the swells were quite large so I located one of my group members who carried gravol and prepared to board. (I definitely get motion sickness) Away we went, past the boats harvesting kelp out to where the cage was left from the previous group.  My husband and I quickly offered to be on the first group to go while we were still feeling strong and not sea sick.  Just as we were coached on shore, the wetsuits, masks and booties were put on and in a flash we were stepping down into the cage.

It took some minutes to get orientated on the proper bar to hold onto and to place your feet on – an important detail to not being holding onto the outer bar that was exposed to connecting with the shark.  I hadn’t quite placed my feet when the captain yelled “down” so what the heck – I just took a breath and pushed down to see the great white swim 5 feet in front of the cage looking for the bait.

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It was a strange type of feeling – one of knowing essentially that I was safe and yet feeling like I was in the sharks domain. If that cage was not there, the outcome was obvious to me. Then I was elated, realizing that it was due to the real nature of it that it was so exciting.  I was not looking through an aquarium viewing window – we were in the cold Atlantic Ocean in the shark’s home ground!  I felt so courageous until we ended our time and climbed back on board to hear someone call out: Look – there’s a seal off the bow of our boat!”  And sure enough, it was a young seal that had ventured away from the safety of the island and realized that it was absolutely in shark territory.  Oophs!

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The captain said it was safe as long as it stayed near the hull of the boat as the shark could not swing in and get it so close.  It continued to position itself with head down in the water and tail sticking up as it watched out for the location of the sharks.  We snapped pictures of this daredevil seal and the sharks approaching the cage.  No one noticed when it actually decided to make a run for it back to the safety of the island and we’ll never really know if it indeed made it.

I was now fully nauseous as we swayed in the swells of the ocean, but it was totally worth it.  I don’t regret a minute of that thrilling experience…we created lasting memories that day. (of course the video they sold us will keep it very vivid for years to come)

Great life experiences happen just outside the comfort zone!

Please share your experiences of stepping out of your comfort zone. I love getting feedback. And here on my blog, you’ll get commentluv. This is an opportunity to leave a link back to your own blog when you leave a comment.

Until next time,


2 replies
  1. Jenn says:

    Oh wow Karen … how exhilarating!
    Thank you for sharing this, and you are so right living oustside your comfort zone to experience everything life has to offer. My husband and I went to hawaii last year and I swore I would not miss out on once in a life time activities. I went snorkeling for the first time and met a HUGE turtle 8ft away, then went snorkeling at night with Manta Ray’s can not even describe the rush of thes animals being an inch from your body doing barrel rolls to eat the plankton, then snorkeling and swimming with wild spinner dolphins. I really don’t think I have come down from this high.

    South Africa with Great Whites … wow
    the thoughts on the seal did he make it back or not only mother nature knows

    • Karen says:

      Hey Jen – great stories from Hawaii…it is amazing to actually be in these beautiful creatures home territory knowing we are definitely out of place and yet – they accept us if we cause no harm. I wish we could be more like them sometimes. So glad you enjoyed my post – I hope you keep checking in,
      Keep living full out!


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