The next day I woke up at the crack of dawn to embark on a one hour drive to Kleinsbaai. At Kleinsbaai I had a small breakfast and prepared to embark on a half day adventure. Climbing into a small boat with 24 strangers, I left Kleinsbaai harbor for Dyer Island or Shark Alley.
The place of legends, Dyer Island is a mecca for Great White Sharks. Two small islands filled with seals and penquins, Dyer Island is a paradise for hungry sharks. We set up anchor in the middle of the ocean and began chumming the water. The captain threw out a bait line and we waited patiently for our first visitor to arrive. We didn’t wait long, within 15 minutes, out of the depths, a Great White Shark emerged to chomp on the yellowtail head. We all scrambled to put on wet suits and the cage was lowered into the water. I was chomping at the bit myself, so I was the 3rd person in the cage. I was ready to look a Great White Shark in the eye. Upon entering the water, I instantly forgot everything I have ever known. I have never felt water so cold. Quickly, I came back to my senses and discovered all 5 of my senses were heightened by adrenaline.
Is there anything more exciting than sitting in the water, waiting for one of the greatest predators on the planet to come and attack? I think not. There was no time to be scared, there was only time to enjoy every second of my encounter with the beast. With a wet suit and face mask on, I listened to the captains orders as he directed us when to submerge into the cage. We would only be under water long enough to stare at the shark, we wouldn’t wait under the water for him to come to us.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere the bait line disappears and a 3.5m shark jumps out of water to eat the fish head. He was maybe 10ft from me to my right. A Great White, jumping out of the water, mere feet from me. I thought I was going to pass out from excitement. He came back for more and this time he came to the cage. He passed right in front of the cage. I went under the water and watched as a Great White quietly snuck by me, inches from my hands. His tail was notched and he had obviously seen some action. He then passed under our feet and disappeared into the shadows. As I surfaced for air, I felt it. I felt a wave of something overcome me. It wasn’t nerves or nausea. It was completeness. With those few seconds, underwater, with the scariest animal out there, I felt complete. It was like putting in the final puzzle piece, I felt whole. Something just clicked and I felt like “this is it, my life is complete.” I never noticed it before, but now I can tell something inside me isn’t pining for the next big thing. It feels like I have reached my apex and everything from now forward is pure bonus. Maslow might just call it self-actualization.
After that brief moment of pure and total bliss, I got to witness the shark taunt us some more. Finally, cold and shivering I left the cage to bask in the sunlight and watch the shark from the boat. The boat was getting a bit crowded so I made my way to the bow, where I joined the captain in shark hunting. We quietly chatted about the ocean, sharks, and his experiences. Suddenly a new shark decided to join the fray. He snuck out of nowhere ready to attack. A smaller shark, but giant still, he was much more aggressive and playful. Within minutes he was attacking the cage and thrashing against it. He then disappeared back into the depths for a short while.
When he resurfaced, it was the captain and I who spotted him first. We were both gazing at the water directly beneath the bow when the shark emerged from the shadowy depths. The captain and I were silent, just observing the graceful shark. Then the shark did something that haunts me daily. As he slowly swam by the bow, he turned onto his side, so that his eyes could see the surface of the water. Just a foot underwater, the shark stared at the captain and myself. He stared us straight in the eye. A silent exchange. It was one of the creepiest things I have ever witnessed. Lasting just a few seconds, the shark let us know that he knows we are there. He knows who is king. And like a ghost, he vanished back into the ocean. I see that shark staring at me every day when I close my eyes.
The sharks continued to surface every few minutes. The larger one breached out of the water again, just to prove that he could do it twice. After 3 hours at sea, we headed back to Kleinsbaai for some lunch.
Seeing great white sharks in the wild, in South Africa, was beyond a treat. It was truly life changing. I am not nearly as scared of sharks as I once was. Having experienced what many people dream of, I can honestly say it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.