South Africa: It's Not What You Think

15 February 2016

I was recently asked to write a guest blog post for Journeyman. I will be writing a 5 part series on my adventures in South Africa. The following is the first part, check out more on Journeyman's blog!


AFRICA! What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear that word? I will tell you what came to mine…poverty, monkeys, lions, and giraffes! Basically I was thinking Lion King with a little Blood Diamond mixed in. Boy was I wrong! South Africa is the most gorgeous country I have been to thus far. The oceans sparkle, the countryside is vibrant green, and the plentiful vineyards are back dropped by gorgeous mountains that look like a scene from a movie that was only edited to look that beautiful. The trick is to land in Cape Town but rent a car and travel outside the city. The roads are better than ours here in the States, no potholes, easy to understand signs and everyone followed the rules, but just remember that you will be driving on the opposite side of the road. Everything was so affordable and the best part was the delicious wine and gourmet food. It’s a 5 star vacation on a 3 star budget for those of us visiting from America.

I had traveled to South Africa with my sister and met my cousins from India, London, and Canada there. We were 5 girls in Africa and we had an unforgettable and amazing time! Let me tell you about the time I came face to face with a Great White in Gansbaai.


I was going to say that this was the best and worst experience of my life but then I remembered climbing Table Mountain and let’s just say, it’s a tie (more on that later). My cousin had suggested the shark cage diving. It’s not something that was at the top of my bucket list by any means but I like to think that I would try anything at least once.

Well it’s the night before the big dive and the house fell silent as we realized that tomorrow may be our last day alive! DO NOT watch YouTube videos on shark cage diving, you will inevitably end up on the “When Sharks Attack Your Cage” video and you will either chicken out, have nightmares or have knots in your stomach for days if not all three. Seriously, the things that run through your head other than a Great White shark biting you in half... what if the cage gets detached from the boat and I sink, trapped in a metal cage to the bottom of the ocean? How long can I hold my breath for? Can I out swim a Great White? 

View on the drive to Gansbaai

The drive down to Gansbaai the next morning was long, scenic, and quiet. We were half asleep and at the same time half terrified. When we arrived, we were greeted and told to “Calm down! Everything will be fine,” I guess you could see the fear in our eyes! A small breakfast was provided but most of us couldn’t choke down any solid foods at that point. We saw some photos of Brad Pitt and Matt Damon on the wall, heck if they could do it so can we! Then we saw the 'Great White Fact Wall' that I would have preferred reading after the dive. For example, they have rows of teeth that could number in the thousands and their eyesight is amazing...GREAT, let’s go swim with some! We signed our waivers, made our payments, heard a short orientation and headed to the boat.

Now let me say, that boat is my mortal enemy! The ride out was fun but when we anchored it hit us one by one and it hit us hard….MOTION SICKNESS! That damn rocking boat! All at once my fear disappeared and all I wanted to do was jump in that cage, in that freezing water and see the biggest, baddest Great White there was and get back to dry land ASAP! The ordeal of putting on a damp wet suit on a tiny boat with 25 other people while having motion sickness is really one of those unforgettable torturous experiences that I think deserves an award. Somehow I managed to get that suit and googles on and being one of the first people ready, the captain basically just picked me up and dropped me into that cage!

I was floating all around, bumping into the people next me, grabbing the wrong bars, and my legs were moving out of the cage. I thought this is it! This is how I am going to die, a Great White is going to come and bite my feet off and then my hands! After the initial 5 second shock, I told myself to get a hold of myself! I hooked my legs to the bars of the cage on the boat side so they weren’t floating forward and out towards the sharks, I grabbed the inner bar that was painted red signifying HOLD ME ONLY and I steadied myself in that frigid water. Now, all I had to do is wait for Brucey (the shark from Finding Nemo) to show up and he did! It all happened so quickly! He bumped into our cage first and then we were told to go under and that’s when I saw this massive, beautiful, graceful, Great White swim directly in front of my face! It was majestic and he was smiling at me! Honestly, the sharks we saw were the most peaceful creatures ever! I truly loved seeing them in their natural environment and so up close! I would do it all again in a heartbeat but this time I would make sure I stuck those motion sickness patches all over my body!!!

After we got to land and kissed it, we needed some time to recover so we headed to this little café called Coffee on the Rocks overlooking Gansbaai and it was the most beautiful view! The ocean was literally sparkling like little diamonds. There were whales everywhere, breaching the water! It seemed surreal. And I thought to myself, 'Is this real life?'

Panoramic view of Gansbaai from Coffee on the Rocks café 

Coming up….
2.       Visiting the Vineyards in Stellenbosch and Franschoek
3.       Climbing Table Mountain in Capetown
4.       Aquila Private Game Reserve on the Western Cape
5.       Robben Island

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