Durban’s coastline at sunrise is easily one of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever see and is home to some truly amazing creatures. With the Aliwal Shoal just a few kilometres off the coast, it’s a shark diving hot spot. If you’re looking to tick things off your bucket list then this is the place for you.
We frantically booked our shark cage diving experience the night before (top travelling tip; don’t do this, even though it turned out really well for us), so with a few hours of mental preparation and one member of our group hungover from clubbing, the 9 of us set off.
With the most breathtaking sunrise as our backdrop, we drove along Durban’s South Coast at 4am heading towards the Aliwal Shoal. Armed with the comforting knowledge that we would be in a cage, I gazed out towards the horizon, silently thanking whoever controls the weather for the calm ocean and clear skies.
So we get to this unofficial-looking place in the middle of nowhere and my sister, who arrived there a few minutes before us, approaches me with panic in her huge eyes and whispers “There’s no cage!”
My stomach drops.
“What!?” I panic-whisper back at her.
“They said it’s not as good when you use the cage so they have a cage but they don’t use it unless you’re really scared and you ask for it.”
Our Expedition Guide Diaan strides up to us and flashes us his brilliant, confident white smile explaining all the reasons we shouldn’t worry and I seriously consider whether we should really be doing this. But I’m too embarrassed to ask for the cage (even when I see my sister’s terrified glance at me) and I want the best experience we can possibly get.
My cousins dramatically bid us farewell and tell us that if we survive they might consider going themselves. 20 minutes later and I’m on a boat flying across the ocean and absolutely loving it. The thought of sea sickness hasn’t even crossed my mind as I keep my eyes peeled for flying fish and dolphins.
We reach the shoal; the waves are getting a bit large and I see a flash of nausea pass over everyone’s faces, but I ignore it because of my deathly fear of vomiting. The bait is set and a few minutes later, fins start to appear. They’re massive; bigger than I thought considering these Blacktip Sharks aren’t supposed to be that dangerous. We gear up and on the count of 3, we’re in.
It was amazing and honestly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. These sharks are beautiful and gentle and we were even lucky enough to see a few adorable baby sharks. It’s heartbreaking to hear how many are caught and die in shark nets each year. With the nets replaced by an electromagnetic boundary, so many sharks could be saved along with with countless other creatures such as dolphins and turtles.
The Blue Wilderness team actively promote shark conservation and for those who want to get more involved, they run many different research and volunteering projects for all levels of experience. We were so lucky to have found such excellent guides on such short notice. Raising awareness for shark conservation is a huge part of conservation and currently over 100 million sharks are killed each year by humans. Fear of sharks is a massive reason why people aren’t aware of how much damage we’re doing to the ocean, and how (most) sharks are not aggressive or a threat to humans at all.
Seeing sharks up close is the most surreal experience and they’re a lot calmer than I expected. They were totally uninterested in us, although a few of the shark pups were more inquisitive. The Blacktips just brush past you and it’s a lot harder than you think to judge depth perception when you’re looking through a snorkelling mask in the ocean.
“Oh my god I kicked a baby shark!”
I turn around and see my boyfriend looking pretty upset with himself while trying to not swallow seawater. I try and swim towards him and just as I kick my flipper out my foot impacts quite hard against something solid, but there was no one behind me.
I stick my face in the water and see a shark swimming past me. My imagination skips straight to me losing my leg and animal activists everywhere hunting me down and I frantically send telepathic messages to the shark in the hopes of saving my toes. Oh no I’m so sorry please don’t bite me.
The shark swam off as though nothing happened and I breathed a sigh of guilt-ridden relief. After nearly an hour in the water we were all ready to head back with most people feeling tired or sea sick.
I was one of the last people in the water, and as I swam towards the boat, I see our hungover friend leaning over the side of the boat. It almost happens in slow motion. One by one, each of them realises he’s throwing up and they each get that look of queasiness across their face… and then everyone threw up.
Nope. I turned around and swam away in the opposite direction. If I watched that any longer or got any closer, I would have 100% been sick right there in the ocean.
Sea sickness is real people! It affects so many more of us than you might think. Most of us who’ve been on a nice boat ride down the Thames think we don’t get sea sick, but let me tell you, the rough open ocean is a whole other story.
Obviously I survived but I did kick that shark quite hard, so Mr Shark, if you’re out there reading this, I am truly very sorry.
If you want to check out our amazing shark diving video (edited by yours truly) do check out my YouTube video here!!