Leaping great whites
Great white shark breaching happens almost exclusively around Seal Island in False Bay, south-east of Cape Town, where you can witness this spectacular hunting behaviour. The best time to see this jaw-dropping natural phenomenon is from mid-April to mid-September, when baby Cape fur seals are abundant.
Air Jaws: Great white shark breaching.
© Chris Fallow/www.apexpredator.com. All rights reserved.
Did you know?
Years ago, shark trip operators discovered by accident sharks became immobile if touched on the nose.
Footage of great white sharks breaching (leaping into the air) took the world by storm. For some this premeditated hunting behaviour made the great white appear an even more formidable predator than they had imagined.
The cliché that ‘any publicity is good publicity’, sadly, has never held water for great white sharks.
More than 30 years after the worst publicity campaign any creature could wish for, marine-horror flick Jaws, great white sharks are still struggling to beat their bad reputation as man-eating predators maliciously prowling the ocean.
On a boat tour to see shark breaching in False Bay, you’ll discover quite the opposite is true, and, if you are extremely fortunate, you’ll get to see a 3m to 3.8m shark launch out of the water, in a unique display of hunting behaviour.
Baby Cape fur seals are the food source that elicit such remarkable aerial dinner-gymnastics from the great white. Located about 5km offshore, Seal Island is home to more than 60 000 seals. In winter, when the game fish are scarce, seal pups become the great white’s meal of choice.
Seal Island appeals to sharks for more than its ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffet. A sharp 25m drop-off from the island gives the sharks the perfect launch pad for their attack. Using the sea bottom and their colouration (great white sharks have a white belly and a grey back) as camouflage, the shark swims in a rapid upward trajectory with speeds often exceeding 40km/h.
It's the final thrust that takes the shark somersaulting out of the water, sometimes 2m or 3m into the air.
In about half the attacks, the shark doesn't catch the seal, and the seals escape using their incredible underwater agility.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
How to get here
From the airport, take the N2 (Cape Town) turn-off. Take the M3 (Muizenberg) turn-off, right, and head south for about 20km. At the T-junction, turn right towards Ou Kaapse Weg. Cross one set of traffic lights and take the Simon’s Town/Ou Kaapse Weg road left. This road will take you over the mountain, past the train station and into the centre of Simon’s Town.
Around the area
Being the base of the South African Navy, all things maritime are popular in Simon’s Town. Visit the beach, the harbour, museums, sail, dive, fish, sea kayak, whale watch and don’t leave without visiting Simon’s Town’s cutest residents: the African penguins of Boulders Beach.
Tours to do
There are museum tours, harbour tours, historic walking tours and even a mine tour to do in Simon’s Town.
You can reach Simon’s Town by car or by train. If you do not have a hire car, make prior arrangements with your accommodation provider to transport you to, and from, the harbour for your tour.
What will it cost
A morning viewing trip costs approx R2000 p/person; and an afternoon trip costs around R1600 p/person.
What to pack
All your dive gear is supplied as well as a light lunch and beverages. Wear flat shoes with a good grip, and take a warm, weatherproof jacket for the boat ride. False Bay seas can be choppy, so if you suffer from motion- or sea-sickness take the necessary medication prior to your trip.
Where to stay
Tours depart from Simon's Town harbour, so make this quaint fishing village and naval base your home from home. Choose from camping and backpacker’s accommodation to 4-star hotels.
What to eat
Seafood restaurants with fabulous views are de rigeur in Simon’s Town, but for something special visit the Boulders Beach Restaurant, and feast on Pacific-rim cuisine just metres from the famous Boulders penguin colony; or dine onboard a museum ship, the CS Cable Restorer. There’s a wicked patisserie in town too.
Souvenir hunters will find naval-themed art, shells and a gemstone or 2 from Mineral World.