If you are a fan of marine megafauna and shark diving, South Africa’s Western Cape is for you. Located on the southwest coast of South Africa, this incredible region has an abundance of diving opportunities, including some of the world’s best shark dives.
The Western Cape is a veritable playground for divers, with warm crystal-clear blue waters offshore and thriving kelp forests dotted along the coast. Together, these rich waters host numerous sharks. Whether you want to go diving with great white sharks, blue sharks, makos or ancient sevengill sharks, South Africa’s Western Cape has it all and more.
In addition to shark diving, there are excellent reef and wreck dives in the Western Cape, which are equally as rewarding and full of marine life. The Western Cape also hosts seven national parks, the vibrant city of Cape Town, and is South Africa’s main wine-producing region. All of which make it a great destination for divers and non-divers alike.
Here is our pick of the Western Cape’s best shark dives.
Where: Miller’s Point and Seal Island, Simon’s Town.
Sevengill sharks are some of the most primitive sharks alive today and first appeared in our oceans over 150 million years ago. More commonly known as cow sharks, these prehistoric predators live in South Africa’s kelp forests.
Cow sharks are naturally curious and come close to divers, making them fantastic to dive with. You can go cow shark diving at two locations in the Western Cape: Miller’s Point and Seal Island. Both of which offer very different cow shark diving experiences.
Miller’s Point near Simon’s Town is a shallow shore diving site, where you can walk from the water’s edge into sun-dappled kelp forests, kneel on the sand and simply wait for the cow sharks to visit you. The sharks appear without warning, cruising by at close range, and disappear into the thick kelp once again. The kelp forests also host diverse smaller marine life, including numerous fish, nudibranchs and shark species only found in South Africa.
Take a 20-minute boat ride from Simon’s Town to Seal Island and you will be in the company of around 60,000 noisy cape fur seals, tens of thousands of cormorants and numerous hunting cow sharks. This island in False Bay is a feast for the senses, and divers and non-divers alike can go cage diving with cow sharks there. You might also see bronze whalers, blue sharks and makos. Bryde’s and southern right whales are common in the area during winter, and if you are lucky, you might even spot orcas or a passing megapod of thousands of common dolphins.
Great white sharks are loved by divers around the world and understandably so. Nothing compares to coming eye-to-eye with these magnificent animals.
Whilst great white sharks have become rare in South African waters, Gansbaai still offers the best chance to see these iconic sharks in South Africa. This small fishing town in the Western Cape is a popular tourist destination known for great white shark cage diving and excellent whale watching opportunities.
You do not need any dive experience to go cage diving at Gansbaai, as the dives are conducted at the surface with a snorkel or scuba equipment. Put your wetsuit on, hop in the cage and enjoy! This bucket-list dive experience is not to be missed, and if the great whites do not show up, you might find yourself cage diving with bronze whaler sharks and enormous short-tail stingrays instead.
Where: Simon’s Town.
Head far offshore from Cape Point and you will find one of the Western Cape’s best shark dives. As you leave the land far behind, the cool green waters suddenly become warm and vivid blue. This is where the cold Benguela Current and warm Agulhas Current meet.
With no land in sight, no other boats and fantastic water visibility, you can dive or snorkel with numerous blue and mako sharks all day long.
Remember to take your camera and keep an eye out for passing dolphins, whales and sea birds. These blue waters host an abundance of marine megafauna and you never know what might show up.
Where: Miller’s Point, Simon’s Town.
Miller Point aka ‘Shark Alley’ is not only home to cow sharks. The seemingly endless kelp forests found there are teeming with life, including a variety of small sharks only found in South Africa’s coastal waters.
It is mesmerizing diving in these sunlit underwater forests. Endemic striped pyjama catsharks are easy to find as they forage among the kelp beds, as are puffadder shysharks, and you might also spot passing tiger catsharks.
Look closely and you can find colorful gas flame nudibranchs hiding in rocky crevices. These strange nudibranchs blaze like an open gas flame and are only found in South Africa.
Just make sure you look over your shoulder as you dive - you might find yourself being watched by a prehistoric-looking cow shark or two.
Are you interested in shark diving? Find out more in the SSI Shark Ecology program here. Or do want to know more about the different dive sites in South Adrica? Visit our MyDiveGuide online platform and get all important information.
Source: image©iStock/Howard Chen