We tried to resist the tempation of the Capetown tourist trap of diving with great white sharks, but how could we say no to danger, fear, questionable animal tourism practices or freezing ocean waters?
Capetown is perhaps the most reliable location in the world for seeing great white sharks. There’s a large cape fur seal colony 40,000 strong sitting in shallow water just off the coast and the unique combination of their presence and the underwater topography creates an irresistible chum line known as Shark Alley. It is estimated that about 1,000 white sharks a year pass through the area, each staying for just a few days.
But all that really matters is that we decided to brave 54F waters, claustrophobia and fear of animals that eat people to jump into a little cage and get closer to some sharkies.
The cage is a little small and you have to stick your toes and fingers outside to hang on. After a while you realize that the water is really murky partly thanks to the chum you’re swimming in.
The boat chums the water and throws big fishheads in to give the sharks something to focus on, but tries not to let the sharks eat any of the bait so they don’t learn to associate the boats with feeding. So for a while we just watched the sharks swim up to the bait and then turn away as it was pulled from them.
But these guys are pretty quick and a couple were a bit fiesty and did manage to get teeth into the bait – and that made for some good times as the skipper and the shark fought over the bait.
We had two exciting close encounters while in the cage. The first one was a smaller shark that caught the bait and held on. He was right next to us thrashing around for a minute or so before he finally ran off with the fishhead:
The next fun one was a real excited shark lunging at the bait right next to us and gave the cage a hard enough whack with his tail to knock us down. The video is great – it shows nothing but the camera bouncing around in a sea of bubbles and foam.
At the end of the day, we saw around 6 different sharks ranging from little 8′ juveniles to a couple 12′ers and one 13′ male (all sizes according to our skipper). Swimming around us, they looked pretty big, but these were all still small compared to the 18 feet they can grow to.
And we still have all our fingers and toes.
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Yes, yes, we don’t condone this. Don’t do this at home. Kiddies look away. Leave it to the professionals…and all that. Now read on.
Our first stop in South Africa was Stellenbosch, their answer to wine country. Armed in a rental car we weaved through the scenic hills covered with rolling vineyards, grand estates, and looming rock mastifs. Imagine Napa valley with the Rocky mountains as the backdrop. Really a gorgeous drive on a sunny day. The wines were largely uninteresting and for my uber sensitive taste buds hardly drinkable. With descriptions like ‘asparagus’ and ‘mint’ we didn’t get our hopes up. But essence of ‘Karoo bush shrub’, reminiscence of ‘a cigar box’ and a taste of ‘lead pencil’ was over our threshold and we did all we could to not gag too noticeably. We did find some lovely stuff, specifically a Spice Route flagship syrah and a Simonsig white wine infused with lychee. We stopped at a brandy distillery and tasted one of their 15yr old bottles. I think they tried to poison us with Drano. Seriously, people actual like this stuff?!?
Yes, that would be Steve in a right hand drive car on the left side of the road with a sloshing glass of white wine in his hand (Gewurztraminer in case you’re curious). Talk about bad things coming in 3s. Oh wait, making a u-turn onto the curb on the wrong side of the road in front of a police car with said drink in hand would make 4.
*editors note to mom and dad, kids and law enforcement types: notice that we are in the parking lot of a winery. This is a staged and posed photo. The keys probably aren’t even in the ignition.
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It’s been a crazy last few weeks as you can see from the posts below. It seems like we rushed through Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. We’re now just a day away from Capetown and the end of our African adventure. We’ll get a week to relax in Capetown on our own and then we’re off to the Seychelles for a couple week vacation before moving on to Asia.
There’s way too many photos from all the animal encounters and death defying feats. Hopefully I’ll get some time and a good net connection in Capetown to post them.
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