News & Reviews Africa South Africa Shark cage diving in South Africa

Whilst I’m away sunning myself in Turks and Caicos, I am reminded of the absurdly long backlog of posts I started writing about, only for my attention span to collapse in on itself.  With that religious festival that Jesus spoke so highly of – Shark Week – fast approaching, I was given the kick I needed to finish this.  To show you how well I can procrastinate, we went shark cage diving whilst staying at Ellerman House in 2017.  I then started writing this in 2022.  Oh well, it’s the thought that counts.

This blog is about luxury hotels and resorts, so I rarely discuss experiences.  The hotel is the starting point; the experiences fill in around that.  Yet I’m not going to remember which hotel had my favourite pancakes on my death bed (actually, it’s the Peninsula Paris, so that I might remember that), nor the highest sheet thread count or which interior designer was used in yet another Four Seasons.  Nope, the memories come from the people and/or the experiences.  I will remember trekking with gorillas, feeding a wild elephant, ride alongs with Miami Beach police department, flying fighter jets, going to Super Bowl LVII, and surviving when I stayed in a Marriott.

I grew up fascinated by sharks; from as young as five, I remember being obsessed and would only read books on sharks.  A few years later, my parents let me watch Jaws, which obviously injected an immense amount of fear that, to this day, I still won’t go near anything deeper than a puddle.  James Bond made even swimming pools terrifying.  Fast toward a few decades, and when we decided to head to South Africa, seeing a great white shark was inevitable.

But this blog isn’t about mass tourism.  It’s first and foremost about being a snob.  I was not going to share a boat and have to wait my turn.  I was never good at sharing my toys as a child.  I remembered a certain fella on the Discovery Channel who would do some of the most ludicrous segments, including acting as bait.  When I found out he worked at Marine Dynamics in Gansbaai, I hired a private, exclusive tour on condition he came along.  When your kids tell you what they want to be when they grow up, you probably hope this is not it.  Here’s some of Dickie’s finest moments.

The man is a legend.

This is the part of the story where I would love to tell you how it was all worth the two-and-a-half-hour car drive from my beloved Ellerman House.  Nothing would please me more.  I would love to provide exquisite footage of a monster like Bruce from Jaws, but alas, just like going to India just to see tigers and spotting none, our luck repeated itself.  We managed to spot a few bronze whaler sharks, and at one point, apparently, a great white showed up, but not once did it jump onto the boat and try and eat me, so that totally doesn’t count.  We never even made it into the cage because the sea was so rough, and the great whites were so absent because orcas had been hunting them.  Yet it got me fascinated by the orcas, which resulted in going to Vancouver  – only not to see them.  Spoiler alert: nature can be dicks.

The weather was not with us this day, so the visibility was poor, the water cold, and the sea rough, but good ol’ Dickie did his best to bring the entertainment by jumping in the water.  For Lucie and I, the boat felt a bit safer.

But that didn’t detract from the incredible experience with some incredible people.  I returned to India a few years later and had fantastic tiger sightings.  I want to return here again one day, and I see Dickie is still doing the kind of things that give his parents nightmares and me a great deal of joy.

Orcas, polar bears and Komodo dragons are the other animals I’m most excited to see in the wild, but the struggle still exists to do it luxuriously.  I’m unsure I can stomach Churchill Wild for a minimum seven-night stay.  So, in conclusion: experiences are the best and far outweigh the luxury setting, but I’m not going on the ones I want to go on because they’re not within a luxury setting.

Any great shark experiences you wish to share?  

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 7th Jul '23

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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