Is Shark viewing and cage-diving a good thing?
Yes, if it is done properly, with respect towards the Sharks, the other wildlife in the area and the general ecosystem according to the regulations in place. Marine Dynamics endeavours to respect the guidelines and regulations in place for your safety and that of the Sharks. Our ethical commitment toward the Sharks and their conservation determine our every decision, and we will not in anyway jeopardise the wildlife and ecosystem. Though chumming and attracting wild animals with food is not the best option and remains controversial, scientists have been unable to show any form of habituation around Dyer Island. Our mission through our educational excursions is to change people's mindset and attitudes towards Great White Sharks and to educate them about all our marine species. This change in the public's perception is vital to establish an appreciation of, and thus conservation of this wonderful species.
What is your conservation involvement?
Both Marine Dynamics and Dyer Island Cruises are dedicated to conservation and the protection of the environment and wildlife. Wilfred Chivell, owner of Dyer Island Cruises and Marine Dynamics, is certainly the most knowledgeable person about the ecosystem and varied wildlife found on and around Dyer Island. He established the Dyer Island Conservation Trust in 2006 and his care and dedication to the health of this sensitive ecosystem has led to the launch of various conservation projects for the area:
- The ‘Faces of Need’ housing project for the endangered African penguin has grown over the last ten years with more than 2000 penguin homes placed at various colonies. This project continues to look at the best model home in consultation with scientists and penguin colony managers.
- In 2015 the Trust opened its own seabird rehabilitation facility in Gansbaai – the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary known as APSS. With a fully equipped lab and a vet on standby birds can immediately be treated thereby increasing their survival rate and released close to their home colony, Dyer Island.
- The seas around Dyer Island have one of the densest populations of great white sharks in the world creating a rare opportunity for the marine biologists of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust to conduct invaluable research from their dedicated research vessel, Lwazi, which means ‘seeking knowledge’. With reliable sightings all year round, research activities include tagging and tracking of great white sharks, behavioural surveys, wound healing, environmental parameter monitoring as well as daily observational data that includes fin identification for population studies.
- The unique fishing line bin project and marine pollution efforts.
- The team attend to all marine animal strandings in the area as well as whale and dolphin entanglements.
Can you organise transport and accommodation?
We certainly can organise transport and accommodation for your excursion or visit to Gansbaai. We can arrange for a shuttle to pick you up in the morning in Cape Town, drive you to Gansbaai and then drive you back to your accommodation in the city in the afternoon. These shuttles are run by independent companies and they charge between 350 ZAR per person return. We would, however, recommend that you stay at least one night in Gansbaai, preferably the night prior to your excursion, as the drive from Cape Town to Gansbaai is fairly long (approximately two hours or 200 km’s) and our trips launch early. We can also arrange a rental car, and we can recommend this option - especially if you are not travelling alone - as this might be cheaper than taking the shuttle. Car rentals start at 200 ZAR per day, but make sure to take insurance coverage and unlimited mileage as distances in South Africa are rather large.
We can also organise a variety of accommodation tailored to your needs and budget. Gansbaai offers many options - from back packers, guesthouses and B&Bs to exclusive lodges, and we have selected different alternatives that present the best quality and price ratio. Prices range from 200 ZAR to 2800 ZAR per person per night. The Great White House also offers two self-catering cottages, housing up to four people each for 350 ZAR per person per night which includes breakfast (optional).
How many days should I book?
Only you will be able to find the answer to this question . . . Some of our crew members have worked with these Sharks for nearly a decade, and they still get excited and happy to observe White Sharks today! Great White Sharks are intelligent animals presenting very different behavioural patterns and attitudes. They display different characteristics; some being very shy or extra cautious, while others are seemingly playful and curious in the extreme. Every day is different at sea, and we can never forecast what the conditions, situations or encounters will be like. If you just want to see a Great White Shark, then one day should be enough, although you might regret spending only one day with these amazing animals once you have encountered them. If you are a Shark lover, then we would highly recommend that you spend at least three or more days to get a better feel for the variety of White Sharks. You should also schedule more than one day during the austral winter months (April through September) to avoid any disappointments due to bad weather conditions. We would recommend that serious Shark enthusiasts stay in Gansbaai for 4 to 6 days at least, and go to sea for at least 3 days.
What can I do during my stay in Gansbaai?
Once a sleepy fishing village ignored by most maps, Gansbaai has become a booming tourist coastal town during the past few years. The town of Gansbaai stretches along over 20 kilometres of coastline from De Kelders to Pearly Beach, and offers some amazing walks along the rocky shore of De Kelders, or along the beautiful beach of Uilenkraalsmond. De Kelders offers some amazing shore based whale watching from June through December, and Dyer Island Cruises offers the boat-based whale watching option which gets you closer to Southern Right Whales than you ever thought possible. Walks in the unique Fynbos Biome can also be undertaken, but a guided tour is highly recommended so that you can learn something about the hundreds of indigenous plant species. Gansbaai is definitely a place where you can get in touch with nature, and if the city-slicker in you awakens, then the larger town of Hermanus is only 50 kilometres away.
Are you an eco type orientated company? How? Why?
According to Wikipedia, ecotourism is defined as follows:
"Ecotourism essentially means ecological tourism, where ecological has both environmental and social connotations. It is defined both as a concept-tourism movement and as a tourism (specifically sustainable tourism) sector." Born in its current form in the late 1980s, Ecotourism came of age in 2002, when the United Nations celebrated the "International Year of Ecotourism". The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people". However, this is a vibrant, new movement and there are various definitions.
Ecotourism focuses on local cultures, wilderness adventures, volunteering, personal growth and learning new ways to live on our vulnerable planet. It is typically defined as travel to destinations where the flora, fauna and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. Responsible ecotourism includes programmes that minimise the adverse effects of traditional tourism on the natural environment, and enhance the cultural integrity of local people. Therefore, in addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, initiatives by hospitality providers to promote recycling, energy-efficiency, water re-use and the creation of economic opportunities for local communities, are an integral part of ecotourism.
Many global environmental organisations and aid agencies favour ecotourism as a vehicle to sustainable development. Ideally, true ecotourism should satisfy several criteria, such as:
Are you respecting the Sharks?
Yes. Marine Dynamics is dedicated to respecting the Sharks above and beyond any other consideration (except our guests' safety, of course!) We strive to show you the real and true Great White Shark, not the image all too often used in magazines, newspapers, documentaries or movies. White Sharks are very curious animals, which can lead to some amazing moments and emotions when you look directly into the intelligent dark blue eyes of a passing White Shark swimming with his/her head above the water . . . but they are also extremely cautious animals, which are a good thing for their own survival, and we respect this behaviour. White Sharks also have very distinctive personalities, and this trait is what makes every encounter with a White Shark so special. No two Sharks are alike in their behaviour, and you can easily distinguish White Sharks by the characteristic notches and pigmentation patches present on their dorsal fin, and the markings and scars they present on their body. We will NOT show you the Shark from the movie JAWS! We will not trigger unnatural and teased reactions for your viewing fantasies.
- We vouch to do our best not to feed the Sharks (by law we are not allowed to intentionally feed the Sharks, and our ethical dedication prevents us from conducting this practice).
- We vouch to do our best to avoid any contact between the Sharks and the boat or the cage to prevent any accidental injuries to the Shark.
- We vouch to respect the regulations in place, which do not allow the opening of a Shark's mouth or the free diving practice.
- We vouch to show you the real Great White Shark in its natural environment and minimise any impact we may have in interacting with these amazing, wonderful and captivating animals.
How deep is the cage in the water?
The cage remains afloat and about 30 centimetres of the cage floats above the water at all times. The cage is also solidly attached to the boat with two thick ropes that further prevent it from sinking or drifting away from the boat. The bottom of the cage is lying about two metres below the surface.
Will I scuba dive in the cage or just be breath-holding?
In most conditions, we prefer not to use scuba equipment that produces a lot of noise and bubbles under the water, which often keeps the Sharks from coming close. You will have a better chance of seeing the Sharks if we can point out the direction to look, especially when the underwater visibility is poor. But if you insist on using scuba equipment, and if, and only if, you are a qualified scuba diver, we will provide you with a regulator to dive in the cage once everyone else has had their share. (This is only available on request, so if you want to use scuba gear for your dive, you should pre-arrange this with us long in advance.)
Am I allowed to scuba dive in the cage having just a PADI Open Water diving certification?
Yes, but we recommend that you do not use scuba equipment in the cage due to the potential negative effect that the bubbles and noise create, keeping the naturally cautious Sharks at a distance. In clear underwater visibility conditions, this becomes less of an issue, but when the visibility is reduced, we discourage the use of scuba equipment in the cage, until everyone else has seen the Sharks underwater by breath-holding.