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Feel the adrenaline with the sharks from South Africa

The fascination with sharks can be satisfied in South Africa, in the KwaZulu-Natal province, where Patrick and Christa McEvoy, from Surf‘n Turf Tours, are your hospitable hosts on the shores of the Indian Ocean. The sharks can be observed both on cage-free dives, as from the surface, while snorkeling.

The action takes place at the Aliwal Shoal reef, a protected marine area, situated approximately 5 kilometers from the shore, with a length of approximately 3 kilometers and a depth which varies between 6 and 27 meters. “The Aliwal Shoal with its large variety of sharks, diverse marine life and magnificent wrecks is without a doubt one of South Africa’s finest dive sites”, explain Patrick and Christa for mydive.ro. After, they add: “this must be one of the few places in the world where people get IN the water once the sharks arrive and not OUT!

Tiger Sharks, Blacktip Sharks and Dusky Sharks can be found in the Aliwal Shoal area all year long, while from June until December it’s the season for the Ragged Tooth Sharks, as well as Copper Sharks (Bronze Whaler), and from December until June the Whale Sharks’ and also the Bull Sharks’ (or Zambezi as they are known in South Africa) season. Giant Guitar Sharks can be seen from November until February. 

The annual visit of the Ragged Tooth Sharks (affectionately called “Raggies” by locals) is eagerly awaited by divers, who enjoy close encounters with these Sharks that are mostly harmless, docile and relaxed. Diving with Blacktip Sharks too is a good introduction to divers who are a bit apprehensive about shark diving. On a baited dive you will feel the freedom of diving with these beautiful animals without the restriction of cages. You will find yourself in the company of 20-30 Blacktip Sharks!” says McEvoy.

The dives are organized with much attention, guided by experienced divers (they execute at least 30 instruction dives before guiding a shark dive) and accompanied by a presentation about safety principles, shark behavior and the responsibility of divers participating in this program. Patrick and Christa McEvoy explained in detail for mydive.ro how a cage-free shark dive takes place, dive which can take up to an hour:

Cage-less baited Tiger Shark diving is obviously not for the faint hearted, but it offers an exhilarating underwater rush like no other – a diving adventure to remember forever! Here divers as well as non-divers of all ages can experience real shark encounters in the wild. The baited dive is a surface drift dive with snorkeling and boat based viewing opportunities available for non-divers.

A baited Tiger Shark dive is classified as a high risk dive because divers are in the water with sharks that are in a feeding situation. Although the sharks are not fed, they react to the bait and think there is food. They close in on their target (the bait bucket) after they pick up the smell of the chum. The idea is not to give the sharks the food inside the drum – this keeps them interested for a long as possible.

To create a baited shark diving experience the minimum visibility must be such that the bait bucket is well visible from the surface. It is therefore a relatively shallow dive between 5-7 meters deep and that is why snorkelers and non-divers can also observe this from the surface.

To ensure a close encounter with these beautiful sharks, divers have to level off at the depth of the bait bucket. Divers dropping off might create a special interest for the sharks or cause the sharks to go deeper and thereby destroy the shark experience for all the other divers in the group“.

What are the two McEvoys saying about how dangerous it is to observe sharks in their natural habitat? “Sharks are viewed by the masses as dangerous and aggressive and all of us have had a nervous thought or two about sharks at the start of our dive training. Worldwide the days of vicious shark slaughter in the name of ignorance are long gone. It is a fact that the more people can be educated about sharks and their behavior, the better the sharks’ chances of survival will be”. And they emphasize that there are several rules which you have to follow when participating in these open shark dives which they organize:

The diver must have nothing hanging or dangling off (make sure you tie up all hoses, lanyards and buoys);

Nobody should ever touch a shark;

Divers need to stay upright in the water and not to wave their arms about;

All divers need to stay in a tight group on the opposite side of the chum slick – this ensures easy access for the sharks to the bait as well as an easy escape route away.

If you think about all the advices about not to dive or swim with sharks while they are in a feeding situation, the next question that pops in your head is how many people are taking part in such a program. And Patrick and Christa McEvoy have an answer for this too: “These cage-free dives are tremendously popular. Although it is an adrenaline rush, seeing these graceful magnificent animals up close and personal never seize to amaze the avid diver. This experience leaves divers across the spectrum in awe – everybody: from the brazen to the nervous and downright scared diver!

Surf‘n Turf Tours offers predefined packages for those interested in diving, but can tailor, on demand, personalized offers. Besides diving, the visitors can enjoy also the other attractions of Kwa-Zulu Natal, from the natural reserves where one can meet crocodiles and hippos, to adventure rafting or even a beer in the pub located at the greatest altitude in Africa.

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