Shark Cage Diving in Cape Town: Is It Worth It?

Last Updated on March 13, 2024 by Hannah Stephenson

Cape Town is famous for its shark-infested waters, so shark-cage diving is at the top of many travellers’ bucket lists when they come here. Cape Town’s Great Whites have actually been massacred by orcas over the past few years, so you’d be very lucky to see one of those these days. However, you can still go shark cage diving and see copper sharks (aka bronze whalers), which look like smaller versions of the fearsome Great Whites. 

I was very nervous about shark cage diving, but I ended up going on a trip with friends. I’m happy to report that it wasn’t as scary as I thought, but to be honest, it wasn’t quite as great as I expected, either.

So is shark cage diving in Cape Town actually worth it? Or should you strike it from your itinerary? Keep on reading for all of the details so that you can make a decision.

What is shark cage diving?

At one time, I thought shark cage diving involved wearing an oxygen tank and spending ages underwater. As it turns out, that’s not quite the case. 

When you go shark cage diving, you head out onto a boat, which has a cage securely attached. You climb over the side of the boat into the cage, and the crew throw chum into the sea to attract the sharks. This allows you to get up close to them, but the cage is there to protect you. 

A wetsuit will be provided for you when you go shark cage diving around the Western Cape, because the water here is famously cold. However, you don’t need to wear an oxygen tank because you just hold your breath and dip under water for short periods of time. There’s a bar inside the cage and your guide will tell you when to grab it and go under, so that you don’t get too exhausted. 

Where do you go shark cage diving in Cape Town?

You don’t actually go shark cage diving in the city itself. The tours take you out to Gansbaai – and no, I don’t know how to pronounce it, either! Anyway, it’s a small seaside town that’s 162.5 kilometres (101 miles) away from Cape Town. There’s about 2.5 hours of travel time each way, including rest stops. 

It’s pretty far, so if you’ve got the time I would actually recommend spending a few nights in Hermanus and going shark cage diving from there. More on that to come, though!

My experience shark cage diving 

I was up bright and early, as pickup was scheduled for around 7 am. We were in a big shuttle van with plenty of space, which was ideal for snoozing on the way to Gansbaai. The only problem was that there was a miscommunication that caused our driver to miss one of the hotel pickups, so we had to double back to collect the guy, which delayed us quite a bit. 

Once that was all sorted, the journey to Gansbaai was pretty smooth, and we stopped at two rest stops along the way to use the toilet and grab snacks. When we arrived, lunch was waiting for us. It was pretty basic – just a sandwich, apple, and yoghurt – but it was definitely appreciated! 

After we ate lunch, we had a quick safety briefing and the staff also told us how the Great White population had been all but wiped out by the orcas. We went shark cage diving in February, and the last time the staff had seen a Great White was mid-December! 

Then, we walked down to the dock and piled onto the boat. To be honest, it was quite crowded on board. We had to put on our wetsuits after setting sail which was a bit chaotic, especially because the sea was quite choppy. 

Only four people can get into the cage at a time, and everyone on the boat got a 20-minute session. We ended up going last, so we headed up to the top of the boat to watch the others. This was actually my favourite part of the experience, because we could see sharks jumping out of the water and swimming around, which was very exciting. 

When it was our turn, we climbed into the cage and I was a bit disappointed to discover that the visibility wasn’t actually that great. I should have expected this, and this is just how the water around the Western Cape tends to be. We could only see one or two sharks at a time, even though we knew from sitting on the top deck that there were lots more around us. 

Still, it was thrilling when the sharks swam close to us, and at the very last moment of our dive, one of them even chomped on the cage! The guide was bang on with his timing in terms of telling us when to duck under water, so I felt like we saw as much as we possibly could. 

Then, we went back to HQ for a warming bowl of soup, which was very much needed at this point. We watched the video that one of the guides had taken, and there was the option to purchase it, and then we climbed back into the van and headed back to Cape Town. We arrived back at around 4.15 pm, but we also got stuck in traffic for about an hour due to a fire along the highway. 

How much does shark cage diving from Cape Town cost?

It depends which tour you go for! We went with Shark Lady Adventures because they had the most competitive prices. We paid R2,400 (£100 or $129 USD) each for our trip, which included food and return transport from Cape Town. So price wise, it’s hard to beat but looking back, I wish we had spent a little more and done this tour instead. 

This shark cage diving tour is run by a different tour company, Marine Dynamics. It costs R3,655 (£152 or $195 USD), so it is a bit more expensive than the tour I talked about, but I really think the extra money would be worth it if you’re keen to go shark cage diving. After all, this isn’t something you do every day! 

The tour has lots of 5-star reviews, and you get a marine biologist on board with you to teach you about shark behaviour, which is something I would have really appreciated. You also get twice as long out on the water, and there are drinks and snacks on board. Plus, you’ll have breakfast and lunch at the Great White House restaurant, which is a nice touch.

What should you bring shark cage diving?

I would recommend seasickness tablets (to pop beforehand), shoes that you can slip on and off easily, sunglasses, and a GoPro if you have one! You don’t need to bring a towel, though, as they are provided for you.

Are there any alternatives?

If you’re coming from Cape Town, I would recommend booking this tour from Cape Town, which I talked about above. However, I think that there’s an even better way to do it if you’re short on time, which would be to spend a few nights in Hermanus. From there, it’s only a 35-minute drive to Gansbaai, so you wouldn’t have to spend 5+ hours travelling from the city for an experience that only lasts a few hours! 

If you’re coming from Hermanus, you can book shark cage diving without transport via Marine Dynamics’ website for R3,050 (£127 or $162 USD). For me, all the travel time made what should have been a fun, exciting day into a long, tiring day, so I think that this would be a much better way to do it. 

Can you get seasick while shark cage diving?

Yes! Lots of people on our boat got sick and some even missed their cage dives because they were so ill. My friend, Ana, and I took seasickness tablets on the way to Gansbaai so we were okay. I would recommend that you do the same! 

Would I do it again?

To be honest, shark cage diving is the kind of thing you only do once. Am I glad I did it? Yes! But it was also a really long day with a lot of time in the shuttle van. If I were to do it again, I would go and stay in Hermanus, then drive to Gansbaai to do the tour. 

Is shark cage diving worth it?

Honestly, it wasn’t as great as I thought it would be. Saying that, it had been on my bucket list for a long time, so I can’t say that I regret going, either. If you’ve never done anything like this before and are really keen for an adventurous experience, then I would say go for it, just make sure to book a quality tour from Cape Town, or go from Hermanus instead. 

I hope this post was helpful! If so, I’ve got plenty more honest reviews of quintessential Cape Town experiences for you…

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