Wednesday April 15, 2015 (Africa, South Africa)
We made it back alive!
This morning looked a bit foreboding. We’d heard last night from the owner of our bed and breakfast that “All of the ships except Marine Dynamics have cancelled their trips tomorrow. Swell is too big.” I guess it depends on whether you’re a glass half empty or glass half full kind of person to interpret whether that’s a good or bad thing. Being the type prone to seasickness, my overall reaction would be something like tempered positivity.
A misty morning overlooking the ocean, and then some naps for me as I’d already been taking motion sickness medication since last night in preparation for the trip.
Upon arrival at the facility, we were given a briefing and a lunch of lasagna and salad. Some basic safety tips and awareness, and we were off donning our lifejackets and hopping on the “Slashfin” boat on the way to Shark Alley. Well, we were actually just beside it since that’s where the big boys and girls are this time of year… but we’ll pretend we were in SHARK ALLEY because that sounds even scarier.
I actually found myself holding on to the boat on the way out – the swell and speed of the boat were a bit more intense than I’d anticipated!
After a 10-15 minute boat ride we’d already arrived at our destination. Since the boat was already chumming the waters on the way out, within the time I started the wetsuit entry process there were already several very large great white sharks circling the boat. Yikes.
I’d requested that Sandra and I be in the first group into the cage. We had about thirty or so people in our whole group, and the cage fit about eight. Going first is the ultimate anti-sickness approach, since hopping in the (cold!) water directly is less vomit-inducing than hanging out on a wobbly boat, and then once you’ve had your turn you can just lay down at the front of the boat and try to ward off the gastro nasties.
Right off the bat it was sharks galore! I believe by the end of the day the crew had tallied seven separate sharks, each approaching the boat at least a couple of times. The crew throws a fur seal-like decoy into the water to act as an attraction to the sharkies, and also a set of severed fish heads as a bait. The idea behind the fish heads is that they’re smelly enough to attract the sharks and make them very interested, but calorically unsatisfying enough so as to not be considered feeding the sharks. We don’t want to feed the sharks for a whole host of reasons, not least of which is associating healthy meals with people in wetsuits.
With both decoy and bait being tossed around the cage, it wasn’t long before they were literally banging on the doors. It was pretty amazing to have massive sharks within arms reach with their huge pink maws opened wipe.
After quite a while in the cage, we hopped out shivering to let the others take a peek. The views from the boat were also awesome and afforded some great photo opportunities. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough respect for how quickly the sharks were moving, so many of the photos are slightly blurry. I can’t afford a faster lens, so this is what we get!
We also get some crazy awesome pink and green picture that my camera managed to capture. I have left it completely unadultered because I thought it looked kind of nuts and awesome. Never seen that before, so enjoy.
We had a great experience on the shark dive and would highly recommend checking it out! I was blown away by how many sharks we actually saw. I was expecting a whale-watching like scenario with the kind of “well, we MAY see a whale about 100m out, but nothing’s guaranteed”. This was shark city! I thought the advertising copy with a big shark’s face saying “GET THIS CLOSE” was hyperbole, but we really did get that close! A great day.
A nap, a sunset on the water, and a short drive later and we were eating at Benuela Restaurant. Chic white-on-white decor, beautiful contemporary art, and an owner/waiter who knew everything about everything. I had a steak for 125 ZAR, or about 13 CAD.
The food quality to cost in South Africa is off the charts. If you’re a foodie, definitely visit South Africa. I feel like it should be number one on your list, at least from what I’ve seen on my travels so far. I’ve never seen such consistently great atmosphere, ambiance, and service at such ridiculously affordable prices.
One last word before we go. OK, two. I’ve forgotten two awesome things I’ve learned in the miscellaneous category so they will go here.
South Africans often greet each other with a simple “Howzit”. As in “How’s it going?” With their accent it sounds great. So try it on your friends. Howzit?
I had known that two of the primary tribes here were Zulu and Xhosa. Everybody knows how to pronounce Zulu, but I was a bit stumped on Xhosa. I was pronouncing it something like “ZHO-sa”. Like the “Xh” made a kind of “Sh” or “Zh” sound. This is incorrect. In Xhosa language, the letter “X” is… wait for it… a click! A mouth click! Isn’t that awesome?!
So to say it, you pretend like you’re giving a finger gun to somebody and making the mouth click, then you just add on “osa”. When Xhosa people say it, it’s so nice and fluid. When I try it sounds like a word placed after a click, but I’m trying. “X” is kind of high front-of-mouth click, “Q” is a lower open-mouth-cavity kind of click, and “C” is a “tss” kind of high-hat cymbal sound.
It’s endless fun to hear and make these sounds and imagine they are part of your language. They’re not, but one can always dream.
- I added a bonus because I love you so much. We’re presently in Gansbaai, but because it’s Afrikaans the “G” you say like you’re preparing to spit and you’re doing that throat-clear kind of manoeuvre. Then the “baai” you pronounce like a Newfoundlander saying “boy”. Welcome to hchh-awns-buy!
Tomorrow we head to the ostrich capital of South Africa. Because why not?