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Scuba Diving With Sharks (No Cage!) In South Africa

Protea Banks South Africa

Shark Diving in South Africa

Margate, South Africa

The ocean around me is filled with hungry sharks. In just a few minutes, the sea has become thick with them, approaching from all directions. My heart races.

I was under 30 feet of water, without a cage, off the coast of South Africa. It was impossible to keep track of all the sharks around me. I counted at least 9 in my immediate vicinity, with more dark shapes lurking in the murky depths below.

A nightmare scenario for those who are afraid of the ocean.

When most people think of sharks, they instinctively remember the horror movie Jaws. Razor sharp teeth. Beady black eyes. The ocean’s deadliest predator lurking beneath the waves, ready to strike without warning.

Protea Banks Boat Ride

Motoring Out to the Dive Site

Embracing Your Fears

You’d think that hanging out underwater in shark territory would be the most dangerous place to be in the ocean. However our fears are not always rational — more often they’re primal. Based on emotion rather than facts.

For most people, fear is something they avoid at all costs. For others, it’s what drives them. I consider myself the latter. It’s a personality trait known as sensation seeking — someone who thrives on adventure, risks, and sensory overload.

While swimming with sharks is not as dangerous as it seems, that doesn’t mean it won’t give you a good jolt of adrenaline anyway.

Strapping on the Dive Gear

Strapping on the Dive Gear

South Africa Shark Dive

This is actually not my first time scuba diving with sharks. I’d met them up close and personal once before in Fiji, also without a cage.

Sharks are beautiful, powerful, agile creatures. Capable of both extreme violence and incredible elegance. Attacks on humans are exceedingly rare, despite all the negative media attention they receive.

Don’t believe me? Talk with anyone who spends significant amounts of time with them. Like marine biologists or scuba dive masters. Sharks deserve respect, not irrational fear.

Yes, some species attack humans from time to time.

It happens when they mistake us for animals they normally eat, like seals. But deep underwater, in their world, these intelligent animals are smart enough to know we aren’t on the menu.

Protea Banks Sharks

Shark Selfie!

Diving Protea Banks

In fact, sharks are often more frightened of us. As our group of divers first descended under the waves at Protea Banks, we actually scared off a large tiger shark. Tiger sharks are responsible for the 2nd highest number of attacks on humans. Yet this one wanted nothing to do with us.

Too bad, as this is the type I was most looking forward to meeting!

Protea Banks is home to all kinds of different species of shark like Black Tips, Bull Sharks, Tigers, Great Whites, Ragged Tooth, Hammerheads, and many more. They come to feed on large schools of tuna that thrive here.

It’s one of the few places in the world you can dive with 12 foot Tigers.

On this dive we encountered mostly Black Tip sharks, 4 to 5 feet long. A school of them circled the bait ball, a plastic device filled with fish heads that sharks can’t actually eat. After initially keeping their distance, they relaxed and had no problem swimming up to say hi.

The bull sharks were more skittish. I could see a few down below. Bull sharks are responsible for the 3rd highest number of attacks on humans. I found it kind of funny that one of the most dangerous species of sharks was also the most scared of us.

Sharks are Incredible Animals

Sharks are Incredible Animals

Diving with Sharks at Protea Banks

Diving with Sharks at Protea Banks

Shark Conservation

We spent an hour diving with the sharks at Protea Banks before surfacing to return to the boat. I’ll never get sick of these experiences. Visiting the underwater world is about as foreign as it gets, aside from outer-space.

The more time you spend in the company of sharks, the more your fear of them is transformed into respect and admiration. Sharks are beautiful, marvelous creatures.

Unfortunately they are getting killed off at an alarming rate.

Millions of sharks are fished out of our oceans annually. No wonder they’re afraid of us!

So when you hear about “attacks” like the recent one at a Jeffreys Bay surf competition, understand that we are the ones attacking their territory. We don’t own these oceans, yet we seem to love killing everything in them.

Sharks don’t even like humans — occasionally they just mistake us for something else. Maybe we deserve it. ★

SEE ALSO: Searching For Dolphins & Whales Off Reunion Island

Watch Video: Protea Banks Shark Dive


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Location: Margate, South Africa

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READ MORE SOUTH AFRICA TRAVEL TIPS

I hope you enjoyed my guide on scuba diving with sharks in South Africa! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

Would you ever try swimming with sharks? Are you a scuba diver? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

The Son Of Thom

Tuesday 19th of December 2017

OMG this looks amazing! I had dive with sharks in a cage in South Africa on my bucket list but this looks even more special. I saw baby black tip reef sharks in the Maldives this year but would love to see them as adults.

mika shirahama

Tuesday 15th of August 2017

love all your photos and blogs! Ive been visiting your site for years. Hope you are still on your way!

Melanie Wall

Friday 30th of June 2017

I'm a huge animal lover, animal rights type, person. I just have a hard time having sympathy for sharks. Their eyes just seem so dark and soulless. I definitely don't want to see them killed but I feel so sorry for the seals. I know it's nature and I sound like an idiot. Anyway, I have a lot of admiration and respect that anybody can free dive with them. I am just curious what is the biggest mistake anybody can make while free diving on a guided tour that could set them off and endanger others?

Lisa Marie

Wednesday 16th of November 2016

Thank you, Matthew for speaking positively in behalf of sharks. You are jawsome!!!! Sharks are very vital to our Oceans. The fear install on them is killing them in alarming rates putting the health of our Oceans in jeopardy. I hope others who read your article will be inspire or at the very least understand the importance of a LIVE SHARK. Thanks, again. Take great care & looking forward to reading more of your travels!?

Bridget

Friday 5th of August 2016

Thanks for sharing your story here and for dispelling some of the myths about sharks. I love sharks--in particular the way they move in the water--and recently got to snorkel in Malaysia in a place where I saw a lot of reef sharks, including having one moment where it was just me and three of them! I loved it. Every sighting was exciting and a gift. I definitely look forward to getting back in the water!

Matthew Karsten

Tuesday 15th of November 2016

The ocean is a magical place! Too bad humans are ruining it. I think if more people dived, they'd appreciate our oceans more.

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