Cage Diving with Great White Sharks can be done at various dive locations across the world and is becoming a very popular tourist activity. The main places you can cage dive are Guadalupe Island off Baja California, Mexico and the coasts of South Africa and Australia.
These dives are usually undertaken in a cage which is attached to the back of the boat, you are submerged in the cage and either breathe using a snorkel until a shark appears which is when you duck dive down and hold your breathe, or by air supplied by a hookah system. Obviously the hookah system supplying you air via regulators from the surface gives you a better and longer experience as with the snorkel and breathe holding you can only stay down as long as your ability to breathe hold and have to keep returning to the surface, meaning you may miss precious moments with the sharks. The surface supply system also means you aren’t restricted by the amount of air left in your tank like when scuba diving and potentially you can stay and watch for hours.
Another type of cage which is used in trips out to Guadalupe Island is a submersible cage. These cages are lowered down to 10m or so and you are inside on traditional scuba gear. These cages give a 360 degree view of the sharks.
It is good to remember that most cage diving operators chum the water to attract the sharks. Some also use bait on hooks to draw the sharks to the cage and past the divers. This is now illegal in Guadalupe as there are concerns that they are creating a connection for the sharks between food and divers, cages and people. This is thought to be a risk to future attacks if sharks associate food with people.
Although this is a concern, cage diving and shark tourism is a major step and factor in conserving these animals for the future. Where the sharks used to be hunted for there jaws and other parts, especially in South Africa, people have quickly worked out they can make more money by not killing the sharks and using them for tourism. This has helped in protecting the animals in many locations and lots of the operators will donate a percentage of the cost to a shark conservation or research organisation.
The Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is one of the most feared sharks around the world, this is mostly because of the blockbuster film “Jaws”. They are ferocious, skilled hunters and feed on marine mammals, fish and birds, its favourite food being seals. A great white is the largest predatory shark and can grow up to 6m and weigh an incredible 2268kg. They reach maturity at 15years and can life to 30 years old.
The Great Whites live in all oceans where the water temperature is between 12C and 24C with the largest populations around California, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, Chile and even some places in the Mediterranean. Although they spend most of their time in coastal waters where there are a large amount of seals, other sharks and bony fish they have also been tracked to the open ocean and to depths as great as 1220m! These sharks also migrate great distances with some being tracked travelling from South Africa to the south and west coasts of Australia and back within a year. The reason for these huge journeys is as yet unknown but some theories include seasonal feeding or mating.
Great Whites are one of the sharks that breach, this is usually in relation to hunting behaviour especially when hunting seals. They swim up from below reaching speeds of up to 40mph and can launch over 10ft out of the water. Very occasionally these events can lead to a shark landing on a boat by accident.
Although a lot of humans greatly fear this shark, there really is no need, they are not the man eaters portrayed in “Jaws”. They are actually very picky eaters and do not just eat anything with one study finding they do not touch sheep carcasses. They also do not purposefully target humans and most attacks are a case of mistaken identity with people, especially surfers, looking like seals from below. And most often in bad visibility when the sharks senses are impaired. When the shark realises this after a trial bite, which tells them whether they should bother attacking, they rarely will continue as they don’t tend to like the taste of humans. But unfortunately by that point and with their many razor sharp teeth the damage has usually been done. Even so the fatality rate is still very low as most humans are rescued and rushed to hospital. The speed and distance to the nearest medical facility tends to be the main factor in survival as most fatalities are caused by blood loss rather than the bite.
The great white really is an example of a creature that is perfectly tuned and created for its environment and life. The earliest fossils of this shark where found to be 16 million years old and it is amazing to think that they have been around for that amount of time and also sad that we are endangering this magnificent animals existence. They are now listed as vulnerable but have now been protected in many countries. With cage diving shark tourism now a very popular activity lots of countries, especially in south Africa have realised you can make more money from tourism than fishing the shark and selling its jaw, teeth and meat.
Great Whites do not do well in captivity, there are issues with getting them to eat and they repetitively bump into walls. Until 1981 the max time in captivity was only 11 days. Since then a few juveniles have been in captivity for longer, but they are creatures that cant seem to survive being captive.
More detailed information about Great White Sharks can be found here.
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