It’s the moment the crew long for – the arrival of the first Great White to the boat; to be able to share with the guests a face to face encounter with the most iconic shark of all. But precisely when, or even if, that moment will arise… well, who knows. There are no guarantees with nature, but every chance is on our side being ‘shark season’, when the number of White Sharks in False Bay swells. This is due to the juvenile seal pups now making their first forays to hunt fish for themselves, and after being fattened-up on their mother’s milk for the past six months, their bodies will provide a food source packed with energy-rich blubber.
White Pointer Two will have been positioned, her anchor set, the shark cage deployed and positioned on the leeward side, the bait lines cast and the chum slowly drizzled onto the greenie-blue ocean surface of False Bay in South Africa. We know the sharks are out there, patrolling. Perhaps we have seen predation activity earlier that morning, as the sun rises and illuminates the water enough to silhouette the groups of seals returning to Seal Island.
The anticipation on board is electric. Many guests have travelled thousands of miles to shark cage dive; the first four of which are now dressed in their Apex branded wetsuits, ready to enter the cage. And then it happens, ‘Shark at the boat!’ calls out a crew member. The shark cage lid is opened and the divers enter the cage, peering all around to catch a glimpse.
AND THEN IT HAPPENS, ‘SHARK AT THE BOAT!’ CALLS OUT A CREW MEMBER. THE SHARK CAGE LID IS OPENED AND THE DIVERS ENTER THE CAGE, PEERING ALL AROUND TO CATCH A GLIMPSE.
The chum continues to give off an oily scent. And then a crew member, positioned on the upper deck, calls out ‘shark approaching from the bow.’ The remaining crew hone-in, and as the shark nears the surface, her dark, swaying outline is viewed by everyone. ‘Divers – down!’ says the dive master. The shark cage divers do precisely that, their eyes widening in awe as the 4.3 metre female swims past – majestic, powerful, and graceful – to gently approach the bait line. She continues on past, now swimming beyond the engines and going deep. Back in the shark cage and on the boat, the air is still resonating with cries of joy and cheer. The dream has been realised – a Great White Shark has been seen. Yet the call is to refocus quickly, because she’s coming again, adopting a figure-of-eight circuit around the boat that she maintains for perhaps five minutes, as the allure of the bait line proves irresistible. And with each pass the views become more incredible, as the divers take-in her huge dimensions, her girth, her contrasting dark top and brilliant-white belly, her torpedo-like body and her pointed snout. And then, seemingly without a flick of her tail, she disappears into the green. Gone.
The guests are ecstatic, as are we – the crew. And for us, it is the return of a regular, for we last saw her only two days ago. She has been a frequent visitor to the boat for perhaps a fortnight now, and we hope she will stay in these waters for a long time to come. She was with us last year too, when she was christened ‘Scarlet’. She’s a beauty, and most easily recognisable for the missing ‘tip’ to her left pectoral fin. This may have occurred during mating. We will almost certainly never know, yet the swelling around the area is thought to indicate the healing process is well under way.
Just as we bid her farewell, a 2.5 metre male arrives on the scene, full of the gusto and vigour so often seen in the juveniles. We’ve never seen him before and he is quick to captivate us with his feisty approaches from differing angles. Perhaps he was waiting for Scarlet to vacate the area before announcing his presence. There is certainly a hierarchy within Great White Shark social circles. He looks as if he has swum-in from a glossy book; such is his blemish-free skin and contours. We shall have to give him a name, for sure.