Is it possible to have a severe case of the blues when scuba diving? It is if you’re surrounded by blue sharks in the crystal-clear, deep-blue waters of the Agulhas Current off South Africa.
The warm, clear waters of the Agulhas Current flow down the east coast of South Africa and mix with the cold Benguela Current off Cape Point during the summer months. The warm waters of the Agulhas make for great conditions to dive with blue and mako sharks and, while False Bay is famous for great white shark cage-diving operations, it is lesser known for the equally impressive blue and mako shark trips that run offshore from November to February. When the great whites move away to feed elsewhere during this time, the cage-diving operations adapt by traveling further afield to offer mako and blue shark encounters.
While this is definitely not a trip for those looking for an easy, short day of diving, it makes for a fascinating day at sea if you’re prepared to endure the sometimes rough waters around Cape Point and a 2- to 3-hour small-boat journey to a remote location bordering the Southern Ocean. What makes this experience exceptional, and accessible, is that you don’t need to be a qualified diver to spend time in the water with the sharks; it’s suitable for novice snorkelers through to experienced divers.
The 8- to 9-hour trips run from Simons Town, which is easily accessible from Cape Town, and depart early in the morning. The dive boat passes Cape Point, home to historical shipwrecks that earned it a notorious reputation as dangerous sailing territory. Cape Point’s sheer cliffs, coupled with the lighthouse and lack of human habitation provide a real sense of adventure and make for great photo opportunities. Pay close attention and you’ll notice the change in air temperature and water clarity when passing over the boundary line between the Benguela and Agulhas Currents as you leave the Cape behind.
Once the boat has found a good area for attracting sharks and bait has been deployed, it may take from 30 minutes to one hour before they arrive. The blue sharks are often abundant and will come in numbers to the boat and stay for quite some time. Makos tend to be more elusive and make swifter passes of the bait. You can cage snorkel with the sharks and continue in rotation with the other guests for a number of hours, weather and sea conditions permitting. All equipment is provided, including wetsuits, towels and refreshments. Expect good visibility underwater and hopefully close-up views of the ever- curious blues. Occasionally a shark will enter the cage and swim out again as it investigates its surroundings.
As with any wildlife-viewing trip, patience and watchfulness are encouraged. While waiting your turn in the cage, you can check out oceanic birds such as albatross and petrels. You may also see a pod of dolphins, whales or different sharks such as great hammerheads during the journey back to shore. Once ashore, there is time to explore scenic Simons Town and the penguin colony at Boulders Beach. The area is ideal for a post-dive meal at any of the local restaurants and cafés and, if you’d like to get back in the water, there are plenty more scuba diving opportunities available in the area.
Water temperature: 66 to 73 F (19 to 23 C)
Visibility: 50 to 100 feet (15 to 30 m)
When to go: November to February is peak blue and mako shark season