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Two hours south of the picturesque city of Cape Town, South Africa is the sleepy fishing village of Gansbaai. Its unassuming shores are where two of the world’s major oceans collide. The warm waters of the Indian ocean meet the frigid Atlantic making it the prime feeding ground for one of the world’s largest predators. A 20-minute boat ride brings you to what locals call ‘Shark Alley,’ and the largest concentration of great white sharks on earth.

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From an early age, I remember being simultaneously fascinated and petrified of sharks. Every summer I would tune into Shark Week for hours on end, but always end up being reluctant to jump into the water for weeks afterward. On a recent trip to Cape Town, I got a chance to come face to face with my fascination and fears at Gansbaai’s Shark Alley.

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Wondering why the hell I am going to jump out of a perfectly good boat – Photo by:

Our group journey to dive with the sharksbeganbefore dawn, when the sharks are at their most active. The seas rolled heavily that morning, pushing the bow of the boat high into the air only to come crashing back down. A quick glance around the very silent vessel reassured me that I was not the only one too preoccupied with my thoughts to be bothered by the rough seas. The rest of the would-be divers had their eyes fixed far off into the distance probably wondering the same thing, ‘Am I really about to jump into the water with great white sharks?’

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The only thing seperating us from the teeth of a shark – Photo by:

After guidingour boat into the heart of Shark Alley, the captain left his spot behind the ship’s wheel to help the deck hands with the cage. A few quick tugs on its knots and the cage released and splashed down into the green water throwing a salty spray back at the ship’s deck. With the cage below the surface, he yelled out “Time to suit up!” with a heavy Afrikaans twang to his voice. The rest of the crew began to chum the waters with leftover bits of tuna. It was almost go-time.

Cue the Jaws music…

Within minutes of arriving at Shark Alley, one of the deck hands excitedly yelled out, SHARK! With that, the lid of the cage flipped open and the adrenaline of the moment overpowered the primal hesitation of jumping in the water with these beasts. I drew the honor of being the first in the water that morning. Amplified by fear, the water was so cold it took my breath away as it surrounded my body and filledthe wetsuit. One by one my cage mates filed in and the lid slammed down behind the last in.

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Holding on for dear life inside the shark cage – Photo by:

Only a few thin steel bars separated us from this ferocious predator. Above the surface, the boat crew was working to bring the shark toward the cage with a big chunk of tuna on a hookless line. As we settled in, fear turned to awe as the first large great white swam by at just an arm’s length away. Right in front of us swam a shark that was longer than all five of us standing shoulder to shoulder inside the cage.

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The massive shark makes the people inside the cage look tiny, and this wasn’t even the biggest one – Photo by:

Another shark joined along the side of the boat, and then another, then another. At one point we sat suspended in our cage surrounded by 11 great white sharks, most of which came right up to the cage to check us out. Some head first, others brushed by the cage with an effortless flip of a tail fin. The size and power of these prehistoric predators is hard to put into words or capture on film.

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Seeing the sharks through your TV screen at home doesn’t quite capture the scale and the speed of these animals. I remember at one point setting my camera aside and just watching the sharks swirling around us. It’s one of those moments where you have to give yourself the proverbial pinch and ask, ‘Is this really happening in front of me right now?’ Being in the water with these majestic creatures is truly a bucket list worthy activity.

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Hannah & Adam | Getting Stamped Bloggers
Hannah & Adam are travel writers & photographers who have called the road home since 2013. Their passion for adventurous travel has brought them to 60 countries and counting. They blog about their adventures on their travel blog

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