Getting screeched at by the Skipper to jump feet first into 12 degree water isn’t usually the way you plan these things to go…
Thinking about doing a cage dive with Great White Sharks in Bluff, New Zealand? Here’s a few words of caution for you, before you decide to take the plunge.
Naturally, it is expensive and if you are like me and my partner, living and working in New Zealand on a lower wage than we had previously received in the neighbouring country of Australia, this comes as a hard hit to the savings. In saying this, once the idea was planted in our minds, there was no stopping us! I was so excited at the prospect of ticking off my ultimate bucket list item, I would have smothered myself in John West and jumped in head first at the chance. However, at a costly $499 per dive ($568 if you don’t have a PADI dive certificate), backpackers will be living off packet noodles for the opportunity.
I’m sure it might be obvious, but sharks aren’t guaranteed! These are wild animals which don’t appear at the click of a finger and I can’t emphasise enough how much waiting around happens just to catch a glimpse of the predators. Much to the favour of the animal’s welfare and a positive point of diving in New Zealand, the Great Whites aren’t fed. Instead, the water is baited with tunafish brine and divers simply wait until the big fishies come swimming on over. This is certainly a more cautious and considerate approach after some of the horrendous injuries that occur to both animals and humans when feeding is involved. As a result, the overall experience feels a lot safer, just be prepared that you might end up having a nap onboard to pass the time between sightings.
Now it’s understandable with 15 people on a boat, that the experience can be very rushed. Everyone wants a chance to see the magnificent creatures but the way that old Skipper handled the situation pretty much killed any of the magical underwater experience that we had wished for. Bellowing at people on deck to jump into the cage, all whilst yanking on the oxygen supply tube to force the current under water divers to clamber back out was hardly what we were hoping for. In the end, we all knew the real reason behind this quickly paced encounter was to make sure that everyone saw at least a glimpse of what they had paid for, and let’s be realistic; to make sure they couldn’t claim their money back unless they had an unsuccessful outing.
Some may think that I have judged this too harshly, in all honesty we still had a great time and I personally don’t regret anything since it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and Great Whites are truly majestic animals to witness in their natural habitat. However, the reality is that we only saw the one shark and he lingered around out of curiosity for about 15 minutes before naturally, becoming bored of Go Pros being shoved in his face. Therefore, the rest of the trip was spent waiting around in the hopes another would come along. This all whilst having no further encouragement from the crew, who decided to give up trying to scout for more once they knew their money was secured. Too ‘harsh’? I’d argue ‘honest’.
Would I recommend this activity to others? It’s difficult to answer this question since New Zealand is probably one of the most morally appropriate countries to do a dive but it’s also probably the most expensive, dare I say overpriced? If you’re planning on heading over to Australia, I’d say it might be worth doing a bit of research on diving there as they have a few more companies to choose from. If remaining in New Zealand and you’re really set on the idea, I’d say just go for it and hope you’re fortunate enough to spend more time with the kings of the sea. Maybe we were just unlucky? Maybe I just want a reason to moan? The latter is not uncommon.
For more honest travel tips and places to visit in the South Island of New Zealand, check out my blog post!