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Published: October 21st 2007
From Tanzania we flew to Cape Town with a short lay-over in Jo'berg. We arrived late after flying all day and were glad to be greeted with a shuttle to the hostel where we quickly had a shower, switched off the alarm and jumped into soft beds.
Monday, day one had us trying to hire a rental car for the four days and booking the tours we are hoping to go on. The first tour booked was Sam's Great White shark diving followed by my golf tee time for later in the week and finished with a wine tasting tour. After spending a good portion of the day haggling over rental prices and what is actually included in the "full coverage" insurance (tires, damage from break-ins, windows-not covered in SA) we decided to try and head to Robben Island. Robben Island is the prison island that housed all the political prisoners including Nelson Mandela. The ferry leaves from the waterfront, a beautiful part of town and tickets can be purchased at the Nelson Mandela Gateway Museum. The museum is free to view and is filled with two floors worth of emotionally moving pictures and newspaper articles. Unfortunately we were unable to
get to the island because the available ticket is not for week. After diner on the pier next to the museum and watch tower we headed back to the hostel for an early night.
The next morning we woke up bright and early at 5:00 am to take the 2+ hour drive from Cape Town to Kleinbaai so Sam could fulfill one of her lifelong dreams, diving with the Great White shark. We arrived at the dive shop just before 8:00 am for a complementary breakfast and class on sharks. I was quickly informed that only 5 people a year are killed by sharks whereas over 600 people are killed by chairs. They were unable to explain this freakish chair phenomenon or how the chairs actually kill people. After breakfast we were fitted with life preservers and boarded the boat for the 15 minute ride to the shark site. Great Whites are common in this area all year round but are more active during the summer months. The crew anchored the boat and dumped buckets of fish oil chum to lure the sharks. They also "baited" the sharks with tuna heads on a rope and "Georgie", a wooden float crudely
shaped like a helpless seal. A large stainless steel cage was secured next to the boat and 4 divers at a time climbed in to get an up close look at the sharks. The divers wore wet suits and mask and at the instruction from the spotters would take a deep breath a hold it as they submerged in the cage to try and catch a glimpse of the shark as it streaked past. Other companies offered scuba gear or snorkels so you could spend time under water and take time getting a good picture but this company said the bubbles from the scuba gear bother the sharks. Yea right, like the 4 other tour boats weren't annoying the shark. Sam eagerly jumped in the cage while I stayed on the top deck to get a better viewing angle and hopefully some pictures. Like watching most wild animals you need patience because they don't always appear. After several minutes a 2 meter shark nosed around the cage and the bait and then swam away. A total of 4 sharks appeared and it wasn't until the end that we saw a 3 meter shark that aggressively attacked "Georgie". Unfortunately we didn't
see the sharks breaching the water near our boat. One of the other tour boats had a very active shark near them and we could occasionally see it twisting in midair before splashing back down. Maybe it was the bubbles?
On the way back from Kleinbaai we stopped in Hermanus to whale watch. Known for the Right Whales that frequently play in the surf close to the beach, Hermanus is a beautiful town along the coast just south of Cape Town. We stopped for lunch at a small café overlooking the harbor. From the patio we were able to glimpse a few whales breaching in the distance. After lunch we began to drive back through the town only to spot a break between the houses stuffed with people staring out into the ocean. Pulling into the dirt lot next to a rocky outcrop we joined a dozen whale watchers gazing into the surf. Below us a large Southern Right whale and her calf slowly swam past us into the kelp beds less than a hundred feet from shore. In the shallow water they would roll over on their side waving a fin in the air as they dove to feed
on the bottom. A few times they would dive straight down sticking a tail fin high in the air. Farther out to sea several whales jumped almost completely out of the water turning on their side before flopping back into the ocean. The view was spectacular and we could have easily stayed all afternoon watching them play but we had to start our long drive back to Cape Town.
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