The ultimate in private yachting adventure
Aug. 30, 2005 01:00 PM
Offering Your Own Cage Diving
If you decide to offer Great White shark cage diving aboard your own private vessel, ensure you hire an expert and extra crew to join you on your trip. Here is a brief description of how cage diving works.
Unlike scuba diving, cage diving requires wearing only a scuba suit, mask, boots, gloves (optional), and weight belts. Cages are typically built from one-inch anodized aluminum pipe, welded at the seams, with horizontal bars across the sides, and flotation tanks attached a few feet below the top. Out of water, it resembles a large public phone booth. Submerged in the water, three-quarters of the cage rests below the surface and one quarter bobs about the surface. This free space gives divers a chance to clear their masks or communicate with the Dive Master on the boat. Depending on the size of the cage, four to six divers can comfortably fit during one full rotation. Air is supplied to divers by huge tanks which are located on the boat. Individual regulators are attached to the tanks using long hookah-style hoses. Lastly, the cage is always attached to the stern of the boat.
Divers first enter the cage from the open stern of their boat, through a hatch at the top. After each diver is settled into the cage and ensures the regulators are working properly, the hatch is closed and the fun begins. Divers can also wear an underwater 2-way radio communications system to remain in constant contact with the boat. The amount of time spent in the cage depends on water conditions, weather, and quality of shark activity. For the most part, divers can stay submerged in the cage for up to one hour without getting too cold.
When and Where to Shark Dive
Before planning your cage diving trip, take into account the best seasons and locations for shark diving. In the U.S. from September through November, Great White sharks congregate in the waters around the Farallon Islands, a protected national marine sanctuary located 26 miles outside of San Francisco Bay. In the early 1980s, researchers discovered that these islands attracted huge populations of adult Great Whites that returned year after year to feed on the resident California sea lions and elephant seal populations. Off the coast, water temperatures average about 50°F and visibility only extends 20 feet, which makes it the least desirable place for larger yachts to cage dive.
In the late 1990s, shark aficionados tracked the Great White shark population migration from September through November to a small barren island situated 200 miles off Mexico’s coast called Isla de Guadalupe. Here, the warmer 65° to 80°F water temperatures and 100 foot visibility make Isla de Guadalupe an ideal spot for cage diving with Great White sharks for both U.S. and Mexican visitors.
Internationally, a few coastal towns in South Africa including Protea Banks, Gansbaai, and Cape Town offer cage diving from April through September. In these waters temperatures range from 55° to 65°F and visibility extends to 50 feet. The best known spot in South Africa is Dyer Channel (otherwise known as “shark alley”), a 20 feet deep body of water that lies between Dyer and Geyser islands. At this location, Great Whites come to dine on the resident population of 30,000 to 45,000 Cape Fur seals.
Lastly Southern Australia and popular spots, such as “Scuba Zoo” on Flinders Reef in the Coral Sea and the Neptune Islands off Adelaide, boast large populations of Great White sharks. In this region, diving with Great White sharks best occurs from April to September when water temperatures are their coolest. Because of the 60° to 70°F temperatures and clearer visibility, shark photographers prefer shooting footage here more than any other place in the world.
While there are hundreds of eco-adventures available in the world today, shark diving gives people a rare and thrilling opportunity to see predatory creatures in their natural habitat, as long as they remain on this planet. If you cage dive with Great White sharks aboard a luxury chartered vessel or your own private yacht, you will enjoy a safe and unique way of witnessing the rare grace and beauty of these species with the luxury of Four Seasons accommodations. It’s an experience that 99 percent of the world will only watch on TV.
“It’s really the cutting edge of adventure,” says Douglas with a smile. “No pun intended.”
Risks and precautions
Did you know that more people are struck by lightening each year than attacked by sharks? The truth is that cage diving with Great Whites can be safe, provided that divers take the following precautions:
- Only cage dive in cages made from 100% steel or anodized aluminum pipe that feature an escape hatch through the top, should a shark breach the cage
- Ensure all divers are certified, and have basic training on breathing and clearing their mask
- Keep hands and arms inside the cage at all times; do not prod the sharks with poles, spears or other devices
- Stay inside the cage or stay on the boat – but don’t stand on the swim platform or on top of the cage. Sharks can swim blindingly fast in pursuit of what they think could be a seal, when it’s only you in a wetsuit
About Great White Sharks
- The scientific name for Great White Sharks, Carcharodon carcharias, comes from the Greek words carcharos meaning “ragged” and odon for “tooth”
- Great Whites grow to an average length of 10-24 feet and weigh between 2500-5000 lbs.
- The Great White Shark is the only Apex Predator to not be tamed or kept in captivity long term; it has few ocean predators
- Seals and sea lions, collectively known as pinnipeds, are their preferred food
- However, the Great White’s biggest threat is man. Around 100 million sharks are killed every year for their fins because shark fin soup is an oriental delicacy
- Sources: www.greatwhite.org and www.bite-back.com