A rough boat ride from South Africa’s town of Kleinbaai brought me into stormy open sea next to a small island with a fur seal colony. Crammed into a steel cage like sardines in a can with a few other brave souls, I submerged to see great white sharks.
To my surprise, I wasn’t scared when the first shark showed up. There was no “TA-NA-NA-NA, TA-NA-NA-NA” playing in my head, nor was there a seemingly deadly dorsal fin breaking the calm of the water. It just appeared out of the blue. The people watching safely from the boat saw it coming and yelled to those in the cage. One by one the sharks came and inquisitively circled around. I caught myself thinking that, though I preferred watching animals without bars in the way, I’d rather be the one in a cage – watching the sharks, instead of them being the ones confined. In the meantime, the sharks kept coming. Some paraded their magnificence for a few minutes and swam away, others chose to try and see what the cage tastes like. I had to smile at the thought of cartoon images of great whites, even though the snorkel in my mouth made it hard. The sharks can’t help their toothy grin, curved down and making them look evil. I had a chance to see and even feel a bit of this smile, as close as one can without getting seriously hurt, when one four meter-long male shark stuck its nose through the rails. The power of the impact made clear that if these grinning giants had any interest in taking a bite for real, no cage would stop them. In fact, even easier for them would be to simply jump out of the water, as I’ve seen them do countless times, land inside the boat, and have Russian salad for dinner.