Did you know?
Great white sharks were declared a protected species in South African waters before anywhere else in the world.
Gansbaai’s shark whisperers are at the forefront of understanding the behaviour of one of nature’s most misunderstood and magnificent predators – the great white shark.
Marine and shark conservationist Wilfred Chivell is the owner of Marine Dynamics, a Fair Trade Accredited shark cage-diving operation based in Kleinbaai.
A former spear fisherman and professional wreck diver, Chivell doesn’t whisper, he shouts (not literally) on behalf of great white sharks, and is the founder of Sharkwatch SA, a scientific research shark conservation programme. On a shark cage-diving tour with Wilfred, you’ll see and experience great white sharks in their natural habitat, and learn about the plight of sharks worldwide from one of the country’s most experienced shark conservationists.
Mike Rutzen runs Shark Diving Unlimited, a shark cage-diving company in Gansbaai. As a safety diver for film crews, Rutzen was initially fearful of great whites.
Soon, though, he became utterly smitten with the huge ocean predators, and has made understanding human-shark interactions his life’s work. He is a shark behaviour expert and has free dived for hundreds of hours with great whites, learning to interpret their body language.
Rutzen’s pioneering work includes exploring the technique of putting sharks into a state of immobility by stroking their snouts, a method taught to him by Caribbean-based marine biologist Christina Zenato. He has also been featured on the Discovery Channel, the National Geographic channel and Animal Planet.
Shark Diving Unlimited, together with the South African Department of Marine and Coastal Management, is actively involved in the DNA sampling and satellite and acoustic tagging of sharks for research purposes.
Andre Hartmann pioneered the technique of free diving with great white sharks, and he has free dived with as many as seven at a time.
Hartmann’s free diving exploits have featured on BBC, National Geographic and Discovery Channel documentaries, and he’s available as a personal shark experience tour guide for cage-diving in Gansbaai.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Marine Dynamics Tours
Tel: +27 (0)28 384 1005/+27 (0)82 380 3405
Shark Diving Unlimited
Tel: +27 (0)28 384 2787/+27 (0)82 441 4555
South African Shark Conservancy
Tel: +27 (0)28 312 3029
How to get here
It's best to drive yourself from Cape Town, on the N2 over Sir Lowry's Pass. Continue over Houwhoek Pass, and take the R43 turnoff to Hermanus, go straight through Hermanus. Keep straight, past Stanford, and do not turn off anywhere. The road will take you to Gansbaai. A number of intercity coach services travel to Hermanus.
Best time to visit
High season for great white sharks in Gansbaai is mid-April to mid-September.
Around the area
Beaches, fynbos hikes, nature reserves, golf, whale-watching
Tours to do
Eco-boat tours to see whales, marine birds and mammals.
Your operators can arrange transfers on request, hire a car, or enquire about shuttle services from Hermanus.
Length of stay
Trip lasts four to five hours; plan for half a day.
What to pack
If you’re cage-diving, operators supply all equipment.
Where to stay
The Great White House, located at Marine Dynamics, sleeps six people. There are plenty of accommodation options in Gansbaai and Hermanus.
The Hermanus Whale Festival, usually during the last week of September.