Day 17: Grootbos Private Nature Preserve, Cape Town Vineyards

Michael dropped us off at the dock just after there was enough daylight to see. The crew was already prepping the 25-foot shark boat; the seas had subsided overnight and the captain was comfortable going out today. Our host, a very attractive 32 year-old wildlife biologist with a Kiwi accent that had me drooling, welcomed us aboard and told us the plan: head out 7 miles to a small island that is home to thousands of seals (a.k.a. shark meat), throw overboard a rancid mixture of fish and fish parts, and wait for the great white sharks to arrive.

The first great white surfaced less than an hour after we anchored, and I and others were immediately told to put on wet suits. (The water was mild by New England and California standards but the suits were recommended anyway for added comfort during the long submersion.) They dropped the cage and Dean and I jumped in. Adél was on her way over too but she had to detour into the bathroom due to “losing the horizon” (i.e. a bout of sea sickness).

By dragging a hooked fish through the water and over the top of the cage, my ring-wearing girlfriend was able to guide the great whites extremely close to us, so close that if I had stuck out my arm I might have returned to the US without it. During one particular pass through, a great white swam directly towards Dean with its mouth wide open, which generated gurgled shouts of glee from both of us. The shark itself was absolutely beautiful—with its sleek body, powerful moves, and ferocious teeth, I got the sense that I was watching an animal that had fully evolved, and as a result it now owned the sea. It was like watching a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park—it could not be better adapted to surviving and thriving in its environment. After 30 minutes, maybe an hour (I lost track), I reluctantly climbed out of the cage and greeted green-faced Adél with a gigantic, giddy smile.

On the drive back to Cape Town we took an abbreviated tour of the Stellenbosch area, which is South Africa’s version of Napa or Tuscany. The history-rich vineyards are gorgeously landscaped and have impeccable facilities, giving the aura of an exclusive country club. The wine-tasting experience was very worthwhile—I’m not a wino but I probably learned more about wines and the wine-making process in that short time than I had ever learned before.

My buzz had just worn off when we pulled into the luxurious and intimate Twelve Apostles Hotel, which sits underneath Table Mountain and just above the Atlantic shoreline. It is definitely one of the nicest places I’ve stayed at, ever. (The only competition is some of the other places from this trip, like Pezula.)

Shark Cage Diving

Posted in on May 18, 2008

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