Great White Sharks are Fickle

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November 20th 2008
Published: July 5th 2009
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Great white sharks. Who wouldn't mind adding them to their life list of wildlife sightings? The main reason Alan and I are here in Hermanus is to see them. Oh, and to stay at the wonderful Birkenhead House .

We wake this morning to the sound of the ocean. Will it be too windy for our great white shark viewing adventure? After an omelet breakfast in the dining room, we sit on the back patio watching whales playing in the ocean. Steps from the property, a walking path meanders along the coast. It's tempting to stay here for the day to explore on our own.

Ngaire, from Brown and Keene Travel, gets the call. There's some wind but the adventure is a go. Soon our small group is boarding the White Shark Ecoventures van for the ride to Gainesbai. A guide narrates during the scenic drive along a semi-arid mountainous landscape dotted with bays and sandy beaches.

Before long, we're boarding a well-appointed boat that has been chartered just for us. The slight chop in the water provides a bumpy ride as the boat makes her way to the shark viewing area. Once the boat anchors, Alan and I climb the ladder to the top deck in hopes of snapping THE shark photo. You know the one - shark leaping out of the water with his mouth open to display those ferocious teeth.

Our friends, Ted and Mike, don wetsuits and prepare to enter the viewing cage. We watch as the cage is lowered into the water with a plunk. Although anchored, the boat bobs and weaves in the water making it hard to stand, resulting in shaky photos and queasy stomachs. In a matter of minutes, I'm following the captain's advice, "If you feel yourself becoming seasick, keep your eyes on the horizon."

Did we see any sharks? One. And he wasn't particularly hungry for the chum the sailors threw into the water. Did I snap my perfect shot? No, I spent the hours looking at the horizon trying to avoid sea sickness. Our friends in the cage finally came back on board shivering from the cold despite their wetsuits.

Later that evening, the group reconnoiters in the Birkenhead House lounge to discuss the great white shark adventure over fruity daiquiris. The dinner of smoked salmon appetizer, cauliflower soup, lamb roast and strawberry parfait adds a satisfying conclusion to a disappointing day.

Alan and I discover small votive candles lining the marble staircase when we return to our room. Opening the door to #8, more flickering candlelight greets us. The great white sharks might be fickle, but we can depend on the staff at Birkenhead House to end the day on a positive note.

Additional photos below
Photos: 4, Displayed: 4


6th July 2009

Did the same thing 11 months ago. Sad to read you saw only one shark. I had the chance to stay in the cage for 3 times 20 minutes...and it was quite amazing. But glad you enjoyed your hotel! Where is your next blog from? Peter
6th July 2009

One Shark Is Enough
What an adventure! Thanks for sharing this blog with us. I don't have the nerve to do what Ted and Mike did, but I can experience it vicariously through your blog. Cheers!
6th July 2009

Peter, I'm slowly finishing up South African adventures from this trip, which include a cruise from Cape Town to Rio. Stay tuned for new adventures this fall when I'll be reporting on Alaska, Siberia, Japan, China and Viet Nam. Thanks for reading.
6th July 2009

Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for reading.

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