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Monday January 27, 2014

Whale Coast, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comCage diving with beautiful Great White Sharks in Gansbaai, at the southern tip of Africa.

Whale Coast, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comClimbing into the cage, ready to see one of our favorite animals – sharks!

Whale Coast, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comWatery image of a Great White Shark circling our cage … look at those teeth!

Whale Coast, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comBeautiful.

Whale Coast, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comPerched on a rocky ledge hiking the Whale Coast’s Cliff Path, perhaps the best land-based whale watching spot in the world. We had Southern Right Whales swimming right up to the rocks below us!

Whale Coast, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comThat isn’t a rock in the ocean … it’s a Southern Right Whale covered in barnacles!

Whale Coast, South Africa www.bucketlistbums.comViews from the Hermanus Cliff Path.

Safari with The Big Five. Share a beach with African penguins. Hike with wild Chacma baboons. And CAGE DIVE WITH GREAT WHITE SHARKS! You really can do it all in South Africa.

We moved on from Cape Town, departing early for lovable little Hermanus with plans to spend most of the day on the town’s famous Cliff Path. The coastal trail, perhaps the best land-based whale watching spot in the world, stretched more than 12 km along the tiny town, at the southern tip of Africa. With binoculars in hand, we hiked the scenic path along the rocky coast and found it to be better than any boat-based whale watching we had experienced! We spotted pods of dolphins in the distance, but the Southern Right Whales were right off shore – so close, we could have easily jumped in the ocean and swam out to them (we didn’t, of course). One local we met identified three whales we were watching for more than an hour as a mother and her calves.

The question that plagued our stay in Hermanus was whether we would cage dive with Great White Sharks at the start of the next leg of our trip. The plan was to leave Hermanus before sunrise and stop in neighboring town Gansbaai for a morning in the ocean with the sharks. Fear wasn’t holding us back (this had been on our bucket list for years) … it was the pricetag making us think twice. But we decided to do it. We were at the southern tip of Africa in an area densely populated with Great White Sharks. Of course we had to do it!

The experience really was once-in-a-lifetime. We used Shark Diving Unlimited, who had positive reviews online and seemed to be the go-to shark diving operator for celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Halle Berry. Our small group on the big boat was a huge plus; it was just us and then another trio of South Africans from Durban, so it felt like a private excursion.

When they say cage “diving” with sharks … it really isn’t diving. We are certified divers, and this definitely wasn’t scuba. There was a submerged cage attached to the side of the boat that all “divers” climbed into once we were anchored in the bay enroute to Geyser Rock (rocky ocean outcrop covered with hundreds of seals). Metal bars lined the top of the cage for us to hold onto as we submerged ourselves below the surface to see the sharks circling underwater. It was pretty intense. We saw four Great Whites that morning and they got VERY close (yay!), bumping the cage several times as they swam by us. The sharks were BEAUTIFUL. Everyone asks if we were scared, and honestly we never were. To see a Great White Shark in the open ocean is a rare opportunity, and we were really just in awe of their grandeur.