Ocean News

University of Cape Town and University of Miami Students Go Cage Diving

16th July 2009

Cage diving in Gansbaai with white sharks

On Friday a group of post graduate students from UCT and the University of Miami led by expert marine biologists Prof. George Branch and Dr. Michael Gaines joined the Save Our Seas Shark Centre and Shark Diving Unlimited (SDU) on their first shark cage diving trip with white sharks.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather with Gansbaai seas’ uncharacteristically calm and clear. Michael Rutzen, owner of SDU, started the morning off with an interesting briefing on the area and the sharks, but was interrupted after about 5 minutes with the appearance of the first shark. The first shark sighting is always exciting and getting people’s attention back after this is difficult, but Michael was able to squeeze a bit more essential shark info in before he lost everyone’s concentration. The size of the shark, even relatively small ones, grabs everyone’s attention and is probably one of the most surprising things to try and comprehend. Soon we had at least four sharks around the boat and even a natural predation on a seal took place about 400 meters from the boat.

The students got some great views of the sharks from the deck, while building up the courage to get into the cold water. Luckily, the water was clear which enhances the cage experience and the sharks were confident and coming close to the boat and cage. In total we counted at least 14 different sharks.

This was the first cage dive trip for veteran biologists Michael and George. It was interesting to chat to them afterwards about their experience. Both acknowledged that seeing the sharks for themselves had changed their perceptions of sharks in a positive way as well as introduced them to the positive impact shark tourism can have in educating people about sharks when done in a responsible and respectful way.

We would like to thank Shark Diving Unlimited for hosting us and for an incredible day!

Prof. George Branch in the shark cage