Shark Encounters – of the friendly kind

Winona Griggs

Shark Encounters: Making Friends with These Fascinating Creatures

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to swim with sharks? Today, I want to talk about a thrilling experience that may surprise you – having a friendly encounter with these magnificent creatures.

I was amazed to discover that sharks are not the fearsome monsters the media often portrays them to be. In fact, they are intelligent and fascinating creatures that deserve our respect and protection.

If you’re considering going on a shark encounter, it’s essential to understand the importance of choosing the right tour operator and being aware of the guidelines in place to ensure the safety and well-being of both humans and sharks.

One key factor to consider is the tour operator’s approach to shark encounters. Responsible operators focus on education and conservation, ensuring that these magnificent creatures are treated with care and respect. By following their guidance, we can have a safe and enjoyable experience while still appreciating the true marvels of the ocean.

It’s also crucial to remember that sharks play a vital role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems. As apex predators, they help regulate populations of other species, ensuring the delicate balance of underwater life.

When someone mentions a “friendly shark encounter,” it might sound contradictory. After all, how can a predator like a shark be friendly? Well, it turns out that sharks can show a surprising level of curiosity and even interact with humans in peaceful and awe-inspiring ways.

If you’re lucky enough to have a close encounter with a shark, it’s essential to remember some guidelines. First, when in the water, move calmly and avoid sudden movements that could startle the shark. Keep a respectful distance and never attempt to touch or ride the sharks – after all, this isn’t a theme park!

Furthermore, it’s crucial to remember that sharks are wild animals and, as such, should be treated with the utmost respect. It’s their home we are entering, and we must act accordingly to ensure their well-being, as well as our own.

Interpreting signals and keeping a watchful eye on the shark’s behavior is also crucial. If you notice signs of stress or aggression, it’s essential to give the shark space and slowly and calmly move away.

With these reminders in mind, shark encounters can be a truly extraordinary experience. Imagine swimming alongside these majestic creatures, observing their grace and power firsthand. It’s an opportunity to deepen our understanding and appreciation of the ocean and the incredible diversity of life within it.

I hope this glimpse into the world of friendly shark encounters has sparked your interest and curiosity. If you’re ready for an unforgettable adventure, consider embarking on a tour that prioritizes education, conservation, and – most importantly – respect for these incredible animals. You won’t be disappointed!

Shark Encounters - of the friendly kind

Sharks evoke two powerful emotions in us: fear and fascination. I’ve been an underwater photographer for 25 years, and during that time, I’ve had countless encounters with these magnificent creatures in different parts of Southern Africa. Today, I want to share with you some of my favorite places where you can get up close and personal with these incredible predators.

Let me introduce myself, I’m Fiona Ayerst, and I’m here to take you on an adventure like no other.

Shark Encounters - of the friendly kind

I had a mind-blowing experience recently when I came face-to-face with a whale shark while free-diving. This enormous creature was completely engrossed in feeding on krill, paying no attention to me or anything else around it. I must say, it was quite an incredible sight!

Aliwal Shoal, KwaZulu-Natal: Home to Tigers, Raggies, and More

When I mention swimming with sharks to my friends, they think I’m crazy. But let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of interacting with these magnificent predators, and in my opinion, the most captivating of them all is the tiger shark. Picture this – they’re like giant, playful puppies, wandering into any situation with either fearlessness or utter nonchalance. It’s not uncommon to see them getting a little too close for comfort, even taking off with someone’s camera!

Have you ever seen a tiger shark up close? They are magnificent creatures with beautiful stripes that make them stand out in the ocean. When they swim by, their wide grins and dark eyes can hypnotize you. However, don’t underestimate their appetite for food. Tiger sharks are known for their scavenging nature and their role in maintaining the cleanliness of the ocean.

Tiger sharks have a peculiar diet that includes scraps and carrion, which is essentially dead animals or decaying matter. If you ever find yourself diving with tiger sharks, you need to be cautious. They may mistake you for carrion if you play dead, and that would not be pleasant!

It is fascinating how tiger sharks have this dual role of being both predators and ocean cleaners. They have a unique way of contributing to the balance of the underwater ecosystem. So, next time you come across a tiger shark, take a moment to appreciate its beauty but also remember to stay safe and keep your distance!

Shark Encounters - of the friendly kind

When it comes to snorkeling, swimming alongside black tip sharks has become a popular and rewarding experience that both tourists and sharks enjoy. It’s a unique opportunity to observe these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.

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For scuba divers, a ragged-tooth shark dive is an absolute must. These sharks, also known as “tadpoles-with-teeth,” are known for their calm and relaxed demeanor. And recently, they have been spending more time on Aliwal Shoal, making it an ideal destination for shark enthusiasts.

Aliwal Shoal offers two popular diving spots for encountering ragged-tooth sharks. The first is called Raggie Cave, where you can find these magnificent creatures in significant numbers. The second is the deeper Cathedral, which is recommended for more experienced divers. In the Cathedral, you might witness over 40 sharks patiently awaiting their next meal. It’s certainly an exciting sight to behold!

However, divers should keep in mind that it’s crucial to wrap up the dive by 5pm. This is not only for your safety but also to give the sharks the space and freedom to hunt as they naturally would.

So, if you’re a nature lover and seeking an unforgettable underwater adventure, snorkeling with black tip sharks or diving with ragged-tooth sharks should definitely be on your list. These experiences provide a unique opportunity to engage with these incredible creatures and gain a deeper appreciation for the wonders of the ocean.

Join me on an exciting underwater adventure! When it comes to exploring the ocean, there’s nothing quite like encountering magnificent tigers up close. These awe-inspiring creatures are known for their surface-dwelling behavior, making it easy for us to observe and snorkel alongside them. From March to May, the tiger interaction at Aliwal Shoal is at its peak, offering an unforgettable experience.

Even if we don’t come across any tigers during our excursion, we’ll still have the pleasure of diving with black tips or raggies, ensuring that every moment underwater is filled with wonder. Snorkelling is a fantastic option at a price of only R1 100 per person, which includes all the necessary gear. For those who prefer scuba diving, the cost is R450 per person, but you’ll need to bring your own equipment. Contact me at 071 705 8518 or visit bluewilderness.co.za to book your thrilling underwater adventure today!

A Journey with Black Tips

Experience the thrill with Catherine Hofmeyr

I’ve spent a lot of time at sea trying to avoid sharks, and I’ve been pretty successful so far. But Dr. Jess Escobar, a marine biologist from Colombia, has been diving with sharks every day for her PhD research. When she invited me to join her team for a snorkel, I wasn’t sure at first, but after some careful thought, I decided to give it a try.

The next morning, I arrived at the Blue Wilderness base in Scottburgh just after sunrise. After gathering our gear, Jess briefed me and another newbie. She told us that we would mostly be encountering “friendly” black-tip sharks. However, if we happened to spot a tiger shark, she would call us together to stay close to the pole.

Shark Encounters - of the friendly kind

Imagine dropping a rubber duck into a wild world where sharks are feeding on the Aliwal Shoal.

We sailed five kilometers offshore, anchoring a safety pole between two buoys. It was our lifeline as we got used to the surroundings. “Slide in quietly, don’t startle them,” Jesse advised me as I prepared my mask and fins. I was hesitant, unsure if it was the sharks or me who was scared. But as I submerged into a sea filled with black-tip sharks, I reminded myself that they only eat small prey. Gradually, I relaxed and enjoyed this once-in-a-lifetime experience – an hour of snorkeling with Jesse’s beloved “girls”: Lady Grey, Smiley, Stacy, and other gentle black-tip sharks.

Taking the Plunge
You don’t need any diving experience for this thrilling three-hour adventure with Blue Wilderness.

Protea Banks, Kwazulu-Natal

Get ready for an adrenaline rush – welcome to the Protea Banks.

This place is not for the faint-hearted. Just off Margate on the KZN South Coast, the Protea Banks is a wild and thrilling adventure. It starts with a heart-stopping launch through a narrow channel, battling the whipping waves. Then, you embark on a long boat ride that takes you deep into the ocean, diving 27 to 40 meters below the surface. And let me tell you, the water is often an eerie shade of pea-green, with a strong current pulsing around you.

But trust me, the risks are worth it. Protea Banks rewards the brave with breathtaking encounters. Picture this: schools of a thousand hammerhead sharks swimming by, their sleek bodies an awe-inspiring sight. Or the massive submarine bull sharks, with their small yellow piggy-eyes, lurking in the depths. And if that’s not enough, you might even witness the majestic tiger sharks playfully jostling with each other.

Shark Encounters - of the friendly kind

Tiger sharks are fearless scavengers. They fearlessly clean up the oceans, acting as nature’s vacuum cleaners. They are known to be attracted to sea-mount banks, where they find plenty of pelagic fish to hunt. As an avid diver, I’ve had the opportunity to dive here more than 50 times, and I can honestly say that every dive has been an exhilarating experience. This dive site is truly one-of-a-kind, but it’s important to note that it’s only suitable for advanced divers.

Ready to take the plunge?

If you’re looking for an unforgettable diving experience, African Dive Adventures is the way to go. They offer dives starting from R650 per person if you bring your own equipment. For a baited dive, the cost is R1,850 per person. Additionally, they provide accommodation if needed. Contact them at 082 456 7885 or visit afridive.com.

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Explore False Bay in the Western Cape

Welcome to the realm of blues and makos!

If you’re up for an adventure and ready to venture 30 kilometers offshore, then don’t miss the opportunity to snorkel or dive with blue and mako sharks at the tip of Cape Town. It’s an excursion that promises a full day of thrilling encounters.

When I joined Shark Explorers, I was in for an adventure. I grumbled about the early wake-up call at 5 am, but everything changed as we sailed around Cape Point and witnessed the breathtaking sunrise. My spirits soared as the fiery sun emerged from the horizon. The team wasted no time and dropped a drum filled with fish heads into the water to attract the sharks.

I couldn’t help but hope that the first shark to appear would be a blue. These creatures are known for their playful and fearless nature around humans. They enjoy bumping into you with their pointy snouts, making every encounter exciting. It’s like they want to test you. Starting with the blues is a great way to ease into the experience before encountering their edgier cousin, the mako.

Shark Encounters - of the friendly kind

The mako shark is a fierce swimmer with a mouthful of sharp teeth and an aggressive demeanor.

Out in the distance, a mysterious shape moved swiftly, circling and observing us. It was a large female mako shark, swimming in rapid circles around our group. The mako sharks seemed on edge, resembling torpedo-like creatures adorned with countless teeth – they were like silver bullets of shark-flesh, darting around us in an unsettling manner.

Dive Right In
You can join a full-day trip for snorkeling, priced at R2 400 per person, or opt for scuba diving at starting from R3 000 per person. This adventure is available annually from October to July. To learn more or make a booking, call 082 564 1904 or visit sharkexplorers.com.

In Pursuit of Baby Sharks

By Jaques marais

If you’re snorkeling above a cold-water kelp forest for the first time, it’s likely you’ll find yourself hyperventilating.

When you dive into the cold waters of False Bay, there’s an immediate thrill that courses through your body. It’s a natural reaction that never really goes away, no matter how many times you venture into the ocean. And if you’re lucky enough to follow Mike Barron from Cape Radd, you might just come face to face with some sharks.

Now, don’t worry, these sharks aren’t the fearsome kind that you see in the movies. In fact, if you were to encounter the adorable pyjama-shark, shy-shark, or cat-shark, they would be more afraid of you than you are of them.

This is where Cape Radd’s Citizen Science sessions come in. These sessions are perfect for beginners who want to learn more about marine life. So, I decided to bring my kids, Robert and Grace, along for this amazing adventure. We met Mike at Windmill Beach, our very own outdoor classroom.

Shark Encounters - of the friendly kind

Let me tell you about my incredible snorkeling experience in Simonstown. The crystal-clear water and the friendly sharks made it a perfect adventure. But before I dived in, I received a quick 30-minute lesson on how to recognize and identify different species.

As I plunged into the crescent bay, I was amazed by the beautiful kelp forests that surrounded me. The diverse marine life was truly mesmerizing. My first encounter was not with a shark, but with an octopus hidden in a hidden crevice. It blended so perfectly with its surroundings that it was almost impossible to spot.

The ocean floor was teeming with life. I was surrounded by sea urchins, periwinkles, soft corals, and kelp fronds that added pops of color to the underwater wonderland. As the sunlight filtered through the swaying fronds of the giant kelp, I could see schools of different fish darting around.

I had quite a journey finding the striped pyjama cat-sharks. Three of them were gracefully gliding along the ocean floor, appearing harmless and ancient. These amazing creatures can reach up to one meter in length and mainly feast on small reef fish and octopus.

If you’re extra lucky, you might spot puff adder shy-sharks, cat-sharks, or the magnificent spotted seven-gill cow-shark. The latter can grow up to three meters long and weigh as much as 180 kilograms. That alone is reason enough to join a Cape Radd adventure.

Are you ready to dive in? This experience is open to anyone over the age of 12 with basic snorkeling skills. By participating in the Citizen Science snorkel, you’ll also be contributing to a good cause. Snorkeling is available starting at R600 per person for a 2-3 hour session, and all the equipment you need is provided. If you prefer scuba diving, that costs R1,400 per person. Visit caperadd.com to learn more.

Now, let’s talk about The Pinnacles in Ponta Do Ouro, Southern Mozambique.

Let me tell you, my friend, about the amazing toothy creatures lurking beneath the waves.

This dive is truly epic, one of the best shark encounters you can have in this big, beautiful world of ours. And guess what? It’s right here, in our own backyard! Can you believe that?

These beasts, known as the Pinnacles, are a marvel to behold. Rising to a height of about 30 meters, they plunge dramatically into the ocean depths. It’s a dive reserved for the brave, because you’ve got to go deep, really deep. Only the scuba divers can explore these mysterious waters.

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And what a sight it is! The visibility down there is absolutely incredible, my friend. Picture this – you can see up to 30-40 meters ahead, and the waters are this mesmerizing cobalt blue. It’s like a dream come true! And let me tell you, that’s not something you’ll find in every shark dive. Oh no, many of them can disappoint you with their lousy conditions. But not here, my friend. Not at the Pinnacles.

Shark Encounters - of the friendly kind

When I look at media portrayals of sharks, I can’t help but notice how much they have changed over time. Instead of being depicted as terrifying creatures with sharp teeth that inspire fear, we now get to see fascinating scenes of what it’s actually like to swim with them. Take, for example, this incredible footage of a diver swimming with a bull shark at Pinnacles.

At Pinnacles, there have been sightings of up to 14 different species of sharks. These magnificent creatures are drawn here in search of pelagic fish. On some dives, I have witnessed groups of up to seven bull sharks swimming together. Tiger sharks are also abundant in this area, and it’s common to come across white-tip sharks and schools of hammerheads.

What makes Pinnacles truly special is the fact that lucky divers have had the chance to encounter great white sharks here more frequently than at any other dive site nearby. If you’re lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of schooling kingfish and a vibrant community of barracuda.

Shark Encounters - of the friendly kind

Check out Fiona at work with her favorite shark, the one and only tiger (photo by Parvin Dabas).

Get Ready to Dive
Experience the Pinnacles dive for only R600 per person. Or choose the five-dive package, which includes gear, for R2,150 per person. If you prefer ocean safaris with snorkeling, it’s just R480 per person. For more information and bookings, contact us at +258 844 516 110 or [email protected]

Time to Relax, Dude

You know what’s interesting? The way sharks and humans engage with each other in the ocean. It’s actually quite remarkable how we both act as apex predators. When we come face to face, there’s this whole dance of positioning and eye contact that happens. But here’s the key: if you want to have a smooth encounter with a shark, just ignore it. That’s right, give it the cold shoulder. When you swim towards a shark, it sees that as a potential threat. And guess what? It wants nothing to do with you and will swim away. Why? Well, sharks have these vital sensory organs around their faces that they can’t afford to damage. They instinctively know that if anything happens to their faces, they won’t be able to eat and survive. So, when you play it cool and act nonchalant, the shark takes the hint and goes on its merry way. Cool, huh?

Shark Encounters - of the friendly kind

Imagine this: after exploring the mesmerizing underwater world of Mozambique, you embark on your journey back and there’s still a chance to encounter dolphins or even the majestic whale sharks.

Welcome to Tofo & Guinjata, Mozambique

Where whale sharks are abundant

The stunning stretch of coastline between Tofo and Guinjata is like a paradise for those seeking a glimpse of the graceful whale sharks. These incredible creatures are drawn to this area because of the plankton blooms that happen between October and March. And guess what? The manta rays also join the party! From June to October, you might also be lucky enough to spot humpback whales.

Whale sharks have always fascinated people, perhaps because they don’t have teeth! The best way to witness their beauty is by joining a snorkeling trip. Picture yourself jumping into the water, right next to a 10-meter-long shark – it’s an experience that feels like a dream.

When you see a whale shark, it’s hard not to be amazed by its extraordinary beauty. These majestic creatures are known to swim with a group of vibrant yellow pilot fish and remoras, which adds an even more magical touch to the experience. Sometimes, you might even come across cobia fish, which are often mistaken for baby whale sharks because of their impressive size.

Imagine witnessing a whale shark gliding through the water, much like an enormous airplane surrounded by a fleet of smaller aircraft. It’s a sight that leaves you in awe and wonder.

Shark Encounters - of the friendly kind

When whale sharks are feeding, it’s the perfect opportunity to observe them. They are known for being gentle and shy creatures, so it’s important to remember not to touch them.

In places like Tofo and Tofino, you can sometimes find aggregations of up to 40 whale sharks. However, most of the time, you’ll come across three to four single sharks on each outing.

Time for a Dive
Ready to take the plunge? This snorkeling experience is both easy and enjoyable, with knowledgeable guides who can teach you about shark conservation. Ethical skippers will position you about 50 meters ahead of the approaching shark. If the shark is calm and feeding on plankton, it might stick around. Keep an eye out because you might spot five or more whale sharks feeding together. At Peri-Peri, a diving center in Tofo, you can join an ocean safari for R935 per person, including equipment. They also offer scuba dives starting from R600 per person. Call +258 847 694 166 or visit peri-peridivers.com for more information.

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