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Shark Cage Diving: A sinking industry?

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The words “Shark cage diving” strung together has a sort of thrill about them that few sentences truly do. What can be more exhilarating than deep sea diving and Sharks!

Shark diving has always been one of those thrilling adventures that everyone has on their bucket list, but unfortunately in recent years pollution, poaching, overfishing, and habitat destruction has led to the endangerment of many shark species. And many have slowly been disappearing from our waters.
This has led to the question…is Shark Cage Diving a sinking industry? With the recent ban of shark-related Tourism around Isla Guadalupe in Mexico, a shark diving hotspot, the question has become more prevailent.

This is not a simple question to answer. So for the sake of time we will zooom in on the southernmost point of Africa. The Country of South Africa has one of the most diverse coast lines and is one of the few places where it is possible to sea orcas, whales, penguins, and the elusive Great White shark!

In this article we will be diving into troubled waters in the pursuit of clarity surrounding the Great White population. We will also be discovering whether or not Shark diving will be one peoples Bucket Lists for much longer.

Key Points

Key Points
Shark cage diving is a thrilling adventure where tourists dive with sharks while safely hidden behind bars.
Many shark diving companies prioritize conservation and eco-friendly tourism, partnering with conservation programs.
Tourists emphasize the importance of diving with accredited companies to ensure the well-being of the animals and the environment.
Great white shark diving is popular in locations such as Port Lincoln (Australia), Gansbaai and Mossel Bay (South Africa), and Farallon Islands and Cape Cod (USA).
Shark cage diving contributes to conservation efforts by raising awareness and changing people’s perception of sharks.
Threats to the industry include the impact of the pandemic, poaching, habitat loss, and pollution.
The declining sightings of great white sharks is a concern, highlighting the need for conservation efforts and responsible fishing practices.
The survival of the shark cage diving industry depends on supporting conservation, promoting eco-tourism, and protecting coastal areas.
Raising awareness, changing perceptions, and emotionally connecting people with sharks are crucial steps in saving the species and the marine ecosystem.

Shark cage diving

A shark diving boat is launched at Kleinbaai harbour as the Harbour Master and her Dog watch.

What is it?

Shark cage diving is as thrilling as it sounds. It is, in its simplest form, diving with Sharks!
Strapped into a wetsuit and guided by professionals, tourists can plunge into the icy blue home of these dangerous predators. Safely hidden behind bars, shark diving allows for a unique firsthand experience that people travel thousands of miles to experience.

Shark diving and conservation

Unlike other tourist traps, many of the boat companies we talked to and researched, regularly put conservation and eco-friendly tourism at the forefront of their practices. Many of these boat rides also include discussions on board about the sharks and the area where the guests will be diving. These shark diving companies are often affiliated with different conservation programs, such as Justice for Jaws.
We talked to the office manager; Tilla Conradi of Cape Shark Adventures a Shark diving company located in the small harbour town of Kleinbaai. She was eager to share about the company’s love for the ocean and everything shark.

“We don’t offer a thrill trip; we offer you a trip so that you can experience sharks in their natural habitat.”

 Tilla Conradi

Just a block away another company Marine Dynamics makes its home, another diving Company with a heart for conservation. Just a quick glance through both of these companies websites will tell you all you need to know. It’s hard to ignore their influence on conservation.
Marine Dynamics in particular has many affiliated programs around Dyer Island (a shark diving hotspot) such as The Dyer Island Conservation Trust.

A word from the tourists

The Mayers (Dellisa, Justin and Alex) Along with two other South African Tourists ready to go shark diving

To make sure that these companies were not just putting their best foot forward, we also talked to some of the tourists themselves. Dellisa Mayer, with her son and daughter, Alex and Justin, from Colorado, were kind enough to tell us about their shark diving experience. Dellisa had many good things to say about the company she was diving with, the White shark diving company. A shark diving company accredited with many conservation groups.

She gave some very sound advice to anyone interested in Shark Cage diving.

“I don’t believe you should be going out with someone who is not accredited because they could actually be hurting the animal and causing problems for the environment.”

Dellisa Mayer

We could not agree more and strongly suggest to any readers to research each company carefully. This more important than ever with the recent ban of shark diving around Isla Guadalupe. The government cited bad practises in the industry for this ban which highlights the importance of eco-tourism. Usually it is rather easy to see a diving companies conservation page on their website. If it is hard to find on their website then it is probably better to locate a more accredited company.

Where can I do it?

 So where can you go diving with sharks? Shark cage diving takes place all around the globe, but we will be looking at Great white Shark Diving. Commonly found across the southernmost tip of Africa and areas like Australia, New Zealand, the North Atlantic, and Northeastern Pacific, there are many places to choose from.
Being oceanic nomads, Great White sharks often take on great migrations. This is why it is also only possible to see great white sharks in the wild. Because they need so much space no aquarium can keep them in captivity.

We have a soft spot for the South African coast, but here are some Shark diving locations worth Checking out.

Top locations for Great White Shark Diving
  • Port Lincoln, Australia
  • Bluff, New Zealand
  • Gansbaai, South Africa
  • Mossel Bay, South Africa
  • False Bay, South Africa
  • Farallon Islands, USA
  • Cape Cod, USA

To learn more about these locations, check out our article on Great White Shark Cage diving.

Why should I go diving?

Shark cage diving boat

As Mentioned before, many Shark Diving boats play a role in conservation by Spreading awareness of our oceans. People who have experienced such intimate encounter with sharks often go away changed. This leads to more people being aware of the sharks struggles and helps stop the spread of misinformation about sharks.

While talking to Delisa and her family I was surprised to hear that this wasn’t their first rodeo, so to speak, the Mayers had been shark diving before.  Her Experience with diving and traveling the world has led her to, in her own words, believe that “Sharks are a part of the ecosystem just like any other animal.”
She is one of the many tourists who have gained an acute awareness of conservation through diving.

Shark cage diving, when done right, is truly one of the pillars of support for conservation efforts, and through the help of ordinary people, they are capable of spreading a message of conservation. This is why it is important to not only support the industry but also hold it accountable, as was done in Mexico.

Threats to the Industry

The pandemic

While Covid-19 dealt a severe blow to every industry on earth, no one can deny that tourism across the globe was dealt a harsher hand. For more than a year, many workers in the tourism industry lived day to day, not knowing whether they would survive the Pandemic. Fortunately, many local communities could step in and lend a helping hand. Unfortunately, this was not entirely the case for Shark diving.

Shark diving is by trade expensive. Boats cost money to operate and maintain, and with the spike in gas prices, they are not cheap to put on the water either. What’s worse is that Companies that are doing their part to save the ocean give alot of their revenue towards conservation, leaving little room for profit. Because of this, Shark diving, especially in countries such as South Africa, relies heavily on international tourists.

So, it is no surprise that the industry was almost crippled during the pandemic. Talking to one of the skippers on the boat, Phillip Colyn, I gained insight into the hard life of walking the line between conservation and supporting a living. Out of 9 boat companies 2 went completely bankrupt during the pandemic, leaving only 7 to desperately cling on. He shared with me the frustration of fighting for the survival of not only shark cage diving but the sharks themselves.  


Poaching of sharks for Asian markets has always been a looming threat to conservation efforts, and Phillip shared with me that he had personally witnessed many poaching events in his time working the boats. When I learned that poaching of great white sharks specifically had stopped I was momentarily delighted, only to be devastated by the reason. There are simply too little great white sharks left to poach.

I felt furious with poachers for devastating the population but through my talk with Phillip Colyn I learned that this is not a direct one-on-one fight, in his own words “It is not just one thing”. The threats to sharks are coming from all directions, but so to does it’s defense. Many laws have made it harder and harder to poach and smuggle species such as the great white. Conservation is also on the rise with more peopel becoming aware of the threat to our planets biodiversity.

Habitat loss

overgrown kelp forests force sharks further from shore

The poaching of other marine life, such as Abalone, leads to the destruction of habitats along coasts like South Africa which drives the sharks further away from the shores. Long-lining and hunting of smaller shark species also creates a dent in the Great White Sharks’ food supply. Commercial fishing is constantly stealing from what little food the Great white shark has access to. There is a domino effect we see taking place. The loss of one animal from an ecosystem topples the balance and leads to species such as the great white shark slowly disappearing.

These are not a singular events and are happening on coasts all aroudn the globe. This is why it is so important to promote marine protected areas and call for sustainable fishing practices.


Pollution has its effect across the globe, but it is particularly horrendous in coastal areas.
Invisible plastic bags and fishing lines often make their way into the stomachs and throats of marine life, literally choking them to death. Marine animals also get tangled by fishing lines and have no way to free themselves.

This is why it is important to keep coastal areas clean and support places like the African Penguin and seabird Sancruary, who regularly rehabilitate animals who often fall victim to pollution.

Disappearing great white sharks

If you have made it this far in the article, you’re probably royally curious about these elusive predators. Mary Rowlandson from Shark & Safari who moved to South Africa in 2008 from England and did her master’s in marine science in cape town helped me to really understand how the industry of shark cage diving has changed over the years.  According to her, the sightings have “Substantially decreased”, an alarming fact that has been echoeing through the industry.

Introduction to Great white sharks

Great White Shark

Before we dive into the deep end, here are some things you might want to know about these bone-chillign predatores.

Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) are apex predators, meaning they have no natural predators in their marine ecosystem. They have an exceptional sense of smell, which allows them to detect blood in the water from miles away. Despite their fearsome reputation, great white sharks do not typically view humans as prey and most recorded incidents involve cases of mistaken identity or investigative bites.. Here are some key statistics about these fascinating creatures:

Average Length13-15 feet (4-4.6 meters)
Maximum LengthUp to 20 feet (6 meters)
Average Weight2,200-3,500 pounds (1,000-1,600 kilograms)
Maximum WeightOver 4,000 pounds (1,800 kilograms)
LifespanEstimated 30-70 years
Top SpeedUp to 25 mph (40 km/h)
DietMarine mammals, fish, and occasionally seabirds
Conservation StatusVulnerable (IUCN Red List)

Great white sharks play a crucial role in marine ecosystems, and their conservation is essential. Protecting their habitats and promoting responsible fishing practices are important steps towards preserving these awe-inspiring animals.

Threats to the population

YouTube video

Recently we have done an article on Orcas hunting great white sharks, and while this is alarming, it is not the main threat to these majestic creatures. You can read more about port and starboard the two orcas hunting great white sharks in another one of our articles.

The real hunters are humans. While this is a bold statement it is not one without substantial evidence. The increase in things such as global warming, pollution, habitat destruction and overfishing have all slowly taken its toll on the species.

But all is not lost, we caused this tragedy, but we can also reverse its effects. By supporting places like the dyer island conservation trust ,promoting Eco-tourism, and helping keep our coastlines clean anyone can help save these sharks.

How does this affect the Shark cage diving industry

While the threats to great white sharks should not be ignored by tourists and conservationists alike, it is not the iceberg that will sink this ship.
Even if the great white has become more elusive there are still many sharks in the sea! Many people are more than satisfied with seeing sharks such as the bronze whaler sharks(Copper sharks), affectionally dubbed the “bronzies”.

Talking to so many people in the industry has given me a more optimistic approach as I’ve learned about the versitality and diversity of our ocean. There are still many different sharks worth diving for, but it is up to us to save our ocean if we still want to see the majestic great white!

What can you do?

Raising awareness of the great white and its vital importance to the marine ecosystem is a good first step to saving not only the species but the vulnerable ecosystem to which it belongs.
Helping to change people’s perception of sharks and the way that they feel about sharks is vitally important as it is one of the biggest detriments to their conservation.

In this regard Shark Cage diving is a beacon of awareness in these troubled waters. This is because it allows a personal connection for each person with the ocean and these disappearing creatures.

“The reason we do this is to raise awareness and to get  people to emotionally connect with the sharks so they can feel differently about them so that we can help conserve them.”

Mary Rowlandson

With this I leave you with the optimistic message that you can make a difference in saving this disappearing creature….and that shark cage diving might just be the plunge we need.

“Sharks are beautiful animals, and if you’re lucky enough to see lots of them, that means that you’re in a healthy ocean. You should be afraid if you are in the ocean and don’t see sharks.”

Sylvia Earle

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much does it cost to go shark diving in South Africa?

The cost of shark diving in South Africa varies depending on the location and company, but it can range from around $100 to $500 or more.

Is it safe to swim in a shark cage?

Swimming in a shark cage is generally considered safe as the cage provides a barrier between the diver and the sharks.

Has a shark ever saved a human?

There are rare cases where sharks have shown curious behavior towards humans or helped injured divers, but it’s not common for sharks to intentionally save humans.

Can a shark bite through a shark cage?

Shark cages are designed to withstand the biting force of sharks, so it’s highly unlikely for a shark to bite through a properly constructed and maintained cage.

How long does shark cage diving last?

The duration of a shark cage diving experience can vary, but it typically lasts around 1-2 hours, including boat travel, briefing, and time spent in the cage.

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