Once again I have put off posting a new blog for far too long. Since the end of the tournament we have mostly spent a lot of time shopping and hanging out in Cape Town. Amongst the shopping we also made it to the Two Oceans Aquarium; making Africa the third continent on which I've been to an aquarium. Two Oceans was quite nice, but I still rate it under our beautiful aquarium at Newport, Oregon.
Yesterday was especially fun, as we were able to meet up with Sean and his family in Cape Town after their tour of Robben Island. While we were there we also booked our tour of the prison for this Tuesday, the day before my return to the States. It was great to see Sean and his family and hear about their great experience attending the final. I am so happy that I was able to see five games, but I regret not being able to at least see the massive stadium, Soccer City in Johannesburg. We had lunch with Sean and the gang, did some shopping, and then parted ways. It was a short get together, but it was really neat to see them in Cape Town! We attempted to call it an early night to prepare for today, so Dave, Jamaica, and I headed back to Fish Hoek at a reasonable hour.
I didn't get nearly as much sleep as I would have hoped last night. It is difficult to rest, however, knowing that you are going to be in the water with great white sharks in just hours. Dave and I were the only two who braved the shark cage diving trip that began at 7:00am in Simon's Town. It was an absolutely incredible experience, and one that I won't allow myself to forget. Skipper Rob took us out on his boat with six others to the famous Seal Island in False Bay. The boat ride out to the island took about 25 minutes. The morning skies were absolutely stunning; a perfect start for what would be a perfect day.
We didn't waste too much time seeking out the great whites. The island is covered with around 40,000 seals, packed from flipper to flipper. The idea was to follow small groups of seals away from the island, and eventually pick up on individual seals that had broken off from their groups (those are the ones that the sharks go after). We did not have much luck, only seeing the tail of one right near our boat as I quickly turned my head towards the commotion. Next, we threw out an imitation seal on a rope that trailed about 25 yards behind the boat. We were instructed to watch the seal closely, as a shark could breach at any second. Just shortly after putting out the fake seal, a shark erupted out of the water (yes completely airborn) attacking the seal, flipped around in the air, and splashed back down into the water! I could not believe the immense power of the animal to completely launch itself out of the water. I've seen pictures of great whites completely out of water, but I guess I just expected it to bite the seal. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen! We were able to witness the sight two more times, the second one being quite a large shark. Dave got all three breaches on video clips!
Next up was cage-diving. I didn't feel really nervous about being in the water with the sharks, surprisingly. The crew on the boat attempted to coax sharks around the boat by chumming the water, using bait, and throwing out another type of fake seal. A few different sharks came over to the boat and checked it out, occasionally making a play at the seal. The size of the sharks swimming around the boat was unbelievable. Most of the sharks were around 12 feet long! Dave and I entered the cage together after brief instructions. My greatest fear was the cold water. The wet suits helped, but when I jumped in I was breathing very hard, likely due to a combination of the temperature and the intensity of the situation. This made it a bit difficult to find my breath using the scuba tank, as I had never used one before. Eventually I was able to calm myself down enough and trust the equipment; it is such a strange feeling having the power to breath under water! After a few minutes my body acclimated to the cold water and I become comfortable. Dave and I looked around as best we could for sharks, but they weren't having much luck luring them towards the boat. After about 10 minutes under water I felt a tap on my shoulder from Dave. I turned around and swimming past us was a massive one! It was just feet from the cage, and it came around again for a second pass. The shark wanted little to do with the us, but I was satisfied with our one great look up close and personal. When we got out of the cage, the people on the boat informed us that the shark that came up to us was about four and a half meters long, about 15 feet!! It was likely the biggest one that we saw all day! I expected to flip out when I saw the shark that close under water, but I was just excited in a very calm manor. I dried off and warmed up, but Dave got another opportunity to go again. I could have gone, but was already warm and satisfied with our first run. Right off the bat, Dave got a great look at a shark that took the bait right in front of him, then turned and smacked the cage with its tail. I had an awesome view of it from the boat, but Dave was so fortunate to be in the cage at that moment. I missed a good chance, but I was happy for Dave and still very excited about what I had gotten to see.
Throughout the day we probably saw 15 or more great whites! We were told at the end of the tour that we were extremely fortunate to see so many, especially the breaches at the beginning. Apparently, sometimes they are not able to see any sharks; it just depends on the day. I felt so fortunate that we had such an incredible day. We were out on the boat for over five hours and had one of my most memorable experiences ever. Dave got a few great video clips, but we also exchanged emails with another guy on the boat who is going to send us a few pictures from the trip.
Tomorrow is another action packed day. The five of us are all doing a kayak trip early in the morning that takes us over to Boulder Beach, where the penguins are located. Later in the day we are taking a boat tour out to Seal Island, where Dave and I spent the day today. All five of us are taking that tour and hoping to see sharks, whales, dolphins, and definitely more seals! I hope we have the same success tomorrow that we had today. I should be posting again really soon because the day after tomorrow is our Safari, then the next is our Robben Island tour! I'll try to post after each experience so everyone gets the detailed version.