Well, I had to do it. Before leaving Cape Town, I booked myself on a cage diving experience with Great White Sharks. Or Lazy Greys - the name they used to be called here several decades ago. Somehow it sounds a lot less frightening.
Cage diving is a simple affair. There is no scuba involved, the boat just travels to the shark feeding grounds, drops anchor, puts out a bait and lowers a small cage over the side of the boat. Around five people at a time can get into the cage where they wait for the sharks to take the bait. We motored out to the area - near Seal Island on the Indian Ocean side of the Cape - in thick fog. As soon as we anchored, almost immediately, dorsal fins started appearing around us. The organisers say that sharks are constantly passing through the area and they're unlikely to see the same shark twice. But these sharks seemed to associate our boat with a good feed.
Tuna heads are used as the bait and they boat can only use a certain amount before they have to return. Getting into the cage was a little more worrying than I had thought. It's a pretty flimsy structure and the sharks are right there, an arm's length away, circling. You're given diving weights to help you stay a coule of metres under water at the bottom of the cage holding your breath. Then suddenly they lunge, powering through the water from below and gnashing at the bait. In the frenzy they smash against the cage, their teeth and dark eyes right in front of your face. It's an amazing thing to witness the power and beauty of a predator. And the adrenaline rush means you don't get all that cold waiting around. But I wonder whether we should be playing games with them.
Did it put me off swimming? Oddly enough no. I'm glad I've had a good look at who's in control in the water. But I hope I never have to see those great jaws shooting towards me without the cage for protection.