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Summer Shark Cage Diving, Gansbaai

written by Monique Fallows

A Great White shark in Gansbaai.

Posted on Thursday, 13 October 2011

Chris & I have just returned from a fantastic wildlife trip to The Pantanal located in Brazil. Now that we are home we are really missing seeing the Great White Sharks. Their departure from Seal Island to the Summer inshore area has inspired me to write a short blog about their summer movements and especially their behaviour in the Gansbaai area.

The water conditions in False Bay normally start to change around mid September. The dreaded South Easter wind starts to blow signalling the arrival of spring that brings warm water currents into False Bay.  With this warm water are a variety of migratory fish species and other species of sharks. Most importantly the smooth hound, spotted gulley, bronze whaler and soup fin shark species make up a large percentage of the Great white sharks summer diet. As most of these species feed on bait fish normally found close to shore and behind the surf zone the Great whites move close to shore in search of these prey items.

Our Great White Shark diving permit only allows us to operate in an area around Seal Island so once the sharks depart Seal Island we refer our clients to our sister operator in Gansbaai  for shark cage diving with whom we have been working for several seasons and know to be highly ethical in terms of how they work with the sharks. 

The Great Whites display the same movement patterns in Gansbaai as in False Bay. During the winter months in Gansbaai the Great whites congregate around Dyer Island and traverse through the famous Shark Alley channel. Once the seasons change here the sharks also move to the inshore environment.

Gansbaai operators are allowed to work inshore and so over the summer months this provides a great opportunity for viewing Great white sharks from the boat and also a high success rate for shark cage diving.

In fact over the summer months Gansbaai’s inshore area is home to the largest aggregation of Great white sharks worldwide.


Naturalists and Scientists have started to learn a lot more about the movements of Great white sharks in South Africa and I have particularly enjoyed chatting with shark biologist Alison Towner, from The Dyer Island Conservation Trust , who is doing her masters project on this subject in Gansbaai. She also happens to be fellow Shark Lover so we have lots in common!She is making some great observations and I can’t wait to see the results of her project.

Over The summer months Gansbaai's area is home to the largest aggregation of Great White Sharks worldwide

From September it has been observed that the larger females start to frequent the shallows. These sharks are in the 3.5 to 4 meter range I find this all very interesting as we see very little sexual segregation at Seal Island even though we pay close attention to it.

Although not concrete, evidence suggests that they are feeding on a variety of endemic shark species (like in False Bay soupfin and smooth hound sharks) found on the broken reef systems and may also be using these areas for “resting” after feeding.

There is often what fishermen call good “Kob” water found close to shore under certain conditions and these fish as well as others such as geelbek could be another food source.

From December onwards there is a shift in the size class and it switches to mainly juvenile sharks being sighted. These sharks are in the 2-2.5m meter range. I actually get really excited every time we see a small shark, they are like perfect little fighting machines and at Seal Island the size class is usually much larger and smaller ones are absent.

Chris & I are hoping to spend more time in Gansbaai this summer and I really hope that for those of you who are visiting Cape Town in our summer months you take this opportunity to come shark diving in Gansbaai. To further inspire you I hear that sightings are excellent at the moment with between 10 and 15 sharks per trip! So, don’t miss out on this fantastic shark experience.


For more information on a shark cage diving experience in Gansbaai click here: http://www.apexpredators.com/shark-cage-diving/great-white-gansbaai and please feel free to ask us any questions you may have.


Great White Shark

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