Shark Cage Diving is more than a little controversial, both within the diving industry and throughout the local communities around which it takes place. More than once we’ve sat and listened to surfers / locals berate cage operators, blaming them for the increase in shark attacks. It is considered by many as irresponsible and gung-ho, they believe it teaches sharks to associate humans with food. From; TV documentaries many people expect that the moment a diver is in a cage the white shark is drawn to it and given the chance would devour the ill-advised thrill seeker leaving behind nothing but a severed limb. Add to that the unsavory reputation of the operators as cowboys out to fleece the tourist and you’re left with a nagging feeling that you don’t want to take part in such ‘sport’. However, out of curiosity and a desire to dive with this awesome predator, we spent a deal of time asking other divers who’d done it and operators whose opinions we trusted which shark cage operator they would recommend.
Is there such a thing as an ‘eco-friendly’ operator?
There is the question of chumming affecting White Shark’s natural behavior. The Cage operators of course say ‘no’, while the surfers and conservationists continually campaign to stop the chumming for tourism. Both arguments seem to have solid foundations so the question remains unanswered. Good news is that the days of chumming and feeding the shark with meat and seal meat are hopefully past. In fact, what was used was a chum consisting of ground fish and oil. This was continuously piped into the water to be scattered by the current to the bottom dwelling white sharks which could be as far as 2 km away. When the shark was eventually enticed to the boat, we were surprised to see that it wasn’t fed. Instead a net bag full of pilchards was used to tease the shark closer to the boat so that the excited onlookers could snap away to their hearts’ content.
We learnt quickly that this is a patience game. We waited for several hours before our first sighting. When the shark finally approached the boat, he was not a hungry shark and not too interested to take a bite of the bag. We had arrived in low season when the sharks are full of game fish and just nose around the boats to do a bit of ‘window shopping’ as Jackie called it. The best time for shark activity is in Winter (April to September) where you can enjoy several shark sightings and there is more of a chance to view them from the cage. When we finally went into the cage, the visibility wasn’t so great and we were lucky to see an eerie silhouette of the 41/2 meter shark pass by.