Shark diving is an activity on many people’s bucket list.
It’s a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the world’s most lethal, feared predators, but in a way that is safe and won’t see you end up as lunch!
How many experiences can compare to the sheer thrill of looking straight into the eyes of a great white?
If you’re looking to go somewhere in the world with excellent shark diving, then you can’t go far wrong with Cape Town as a base.
A couple of hours down the road from Cape Town is Gansbaai, which is arguably the world’s foremost shark diving location.
The area around Gansbaai boasts what is reputed to be the world’s densest concentration of great white sharks, so much so that one spot has been nicknamed ‘shark alley’ and has been used as a filming location for multiple documentaries.
Excellent shark diving isn’t just limited to Gansbaai though, with False Bay also a fantastic spot to see great whites.
If you’re planning a more time-limited trip to Cape Town this might be the choice for you, as it’s within easy reach of Cape Town city center.
All that being said, let’s walk through some of the best, most reputable shark diving operators in the Cape Town area.
If you’re a little skittish about the idea of getting in the water with a great white, this might just be the tour operator for you.
The company boasts an incredible twenty years of operation without a single blemish to their safety record.
Another attraction is that the tours are organized by none other than local legend Brian McFarlane, who has developed a reputation as something of a ‘shark-whisperer’ for his ability to attract great whites to his specially designed vessel.
The company has had just six non-sighting days in the past decade, so you’re more or less guaranteed to see great whites on this tour.
It’s for these reasons that Great White Shark Tours are Lonely Planet’s most highly recommended operator for shark diving in Cape Town.
The four or five hour round trip also comes with a continental breakfast included to keep your strength up for the dive of a lifetime.
Another excellent choice for shark diving in Cape Town is Marine Dynamics Shark Tours, particularly if you believe in ethical tourism.
Marine Dynamics is Fair Trade Tourism certified and conservation is a huge part of what they do, with the company motto ‘discover and protect’.
By choosing this tour operator you will be contributing to invaluable conservation work and research, not just for sharks but for all the creatures that call Gansbaai home- seals, dolphins, whales, and the endangered African penguin.
With research and conservation being such a focus, you’ll have a qualified marine biologist on board your custom-designed shark diving boat to talk you through research and conservation efforts and answer any questions you may have about the local sharks.
There’s so much more to recommend about this operator, including accessibility for visitors with disabilities, but we particularly like the company’s offer of a 2nd trip free if there’s no shark activity on your first!
If you’re looking for a shark tour a little closer to Cape Town city center, this could be the tour operator for you.
Operating from Simon’s town, which is just an hour’s drive from Cape Town, African Shark Eco-Charters have been running shark tours since 1996.
They’ll take you from Simon’s Town out into False Bay, where you’ve an excellent chance of seeing not just great whites but all the sharks that call the bay home.
As a small-group excursion this tour operator creates an intimate, friendly atmosphere on board between visitors and the experienced captain and crew, who’ll be more than happy to share their knowledge from years of experience working with sharks.
Another company that prides itself on leaving as small an environmental footprint as possible, African Shark Eco-Charters have also been featured on the BBC, National Geographic, The Discovery Channel and Animal Planet.
White Shark Diving Company is another tour operator based in Gansbaai, one of only eight operating from there.
If safety is your number one concern, this operator is another that has a 100% safety record across 24 years of running shark diving tours.
Like many of the shark diving operators in the region, the White Shark Diving Company holds conservation dear, and is committed to protecting South Africa’s marine eco-systems.
The company is a founder member of the Great White Protection Foundation and has been a leading voice in calls for local tour operators to collaborate in order to protect the dwindling numbers of sharks and other marine species off the coast of South Africa.
The White Shark Diving Company has held the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence award every year since 2014, so you can rest assured that you’ll be in for an unforgettable experience.
The operator caps numbers on board the White Shark at 22 people in order to maximize shark cage time, and you’ll get to spend three or four hours at anchor off Dyer Island learning all there is to learn about these majestic creatures.
Apex Shark Expeditions was founded over twenty years ago by Chris and Monique Fallows and aims to give customers the most natural shark diving experience possible.
This is another operator perfect for travelers who may be a bit tight on time, and can’t afford to spend a whole day on their shark diving experience.
Although Apex Shark Expeditions do run shark diving tours to Gansbaai and Mossel Bay, they primarily operate out of Simon’s Town, which is at most a 45 minute drive from Cape Town’s bustling center.
Spend three to four hour at sea diving at either Seal Island or the majestic Cape Point, with the chance to see blue sharks, mako sharks, sevengill sharks, and of course the terrifying great white.
This is arguably one of the most intimate shark diving experiences that Cape Town has to offer, with a maximum of twelve divers per boat and just five divers per cage.
Not only does this help guarantee everyone a proper shark diving experience, but it helps to minimize the ecological footprint of the venture, too.
Before you go ahead and book your trip to Cape Town, here are a few things you might want to consider.
When To Go?
Sharks live around the cape throughout the year, making cage diving an all year round activity. However, there is a ‘high season’, locally known as the ‘shark season’, in the winter months.
This runs from May through to October, and is when great white shark numbers are at their peak and the sharks are at their most active.
So, if you’re particularly interested in seeing great whites on your trip, you should aim to travel in this window.
The weather is a major factor to consider when planning your shark diving trip, especially during the winter months.
Unfortunately, the best time of year for shark diving coincides with the stormy season, and the Cape has a reputation for storms.
Tour operators will never risk customer safety and do not run trips in inclement weather, so keep an eye on the forecast for the day you’ve booked your trip for.
If possible, look at the forecast before booking your trip to avoid disappointment!
Duration of Trip
Bear in mind that trips to Gansbaai are whole day affairs, with the whole day, including travel back and forth between Cape Town and Gansbaai lasting anywhere from ten to twelve hours, including four to five hours at sea.
Booking a trip from Simon’s Town will greatly reduce travel time, with the round trip between Cape Town and Simon’s Town being approximately 1.5-2 hours in total.
You’ll still spend four hours at sea- so if you want a slightly less time consuming trip, we would recommend opting for Simon’s Town.
Speaking of travel, most operators run a shuttle that will pick you up at your hotel or accommodation provided it is Cape Town or the surrounding area.
This goes for both Gansbaai and Simon’s Town, and usually involves an extra fee, but it is convenient for those without their own transportation.
Of course, fees to Simon’s Town, being close to Cape Town, are cheaper than Gansbaai.
If you’re traveling independently, Gansbaai is a two and a half hour drive from Cape Town, but will take you past some gorgeous scenery.
You might even want to stop at Hermanus, which is South Africa’s whale spotting capital. If you’re interested, you could incorporate a stop here to see another of the ocean’s most majestic animals.