Africa is world-renowned for its unique wildlife and the famous Big Five . . . but have you met the majestic Marine Big Five yet? Gansbaai is probably one of the only places in the world where the ocean's giants evoke the same awe and adolation as the jungle celebs and they increasingly draw the who's who of the world to their pristine aqua-jungle.
King of the underwater-world
The term Marine Big Five originated in Gansbaai and refers to the prolific populations of whales, Great White sharks, dolphins, penguins and seals that flourish along this coastline near the southernmost tip of Africa. Where King Lion reigns over the animal kingdom, the Great White is the undisputed icon of the marine kingdom and the largest fish species on earth. It is, after all, the mysterious Great Whites that earned this former fisherman's village international fame as the Mecca of Shark Cage Diving. Mankind's fascination with these Apex hunters and his quest to understand them better, also spearheaded several extensive marine research and conservation projects in Gansbaai, aimed at saving them and other marine species from extinction.
Today, Gansbaai boasts eight world-renowned shark cage diving companies and a whale watching company that are all - in one way or another - involved with marine research projects to conserve our five flagship species. A trip on any of these boats are guaranteed to bring you into close proximity of at least three members of the Marine Big Five on any given day.
Five Flagship Species
The area between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock, named Shark Alley, is where the Great Whites casually hang out during the winter months to feast on the colony of fat Cape Fur Seals that breeds on Geyser Rock. The adjacent Dyer Island is a protected bird sanctuary where endangered species such as the African Penguin, Cape Cormorant, Gannet and Black Oystercatcher breed. The entire area, including Walker Bay, is the playfield of the gigantic Southern Right Whales that flock here between May and December to date, mate and give birth in our sheltered bays. Various species of dolphins, including the playful bottlenose, can often be seen surfing the waves throughout the year. A huge pod, totaling more than 2 000 that joyfully raced past Walker Bay, had locals agog last year. The whales cruise close to the shore and the boats, enticing onlookers with mesmerising displays of lob-taling, tail-slapping and breaching. Unlike the shy Humpback whales that keep a safe distance, the Southern Right Whales seem to bask in the human adoration. The highlight of any boat trip in this area is witnessing a Great White breach right out of the water to ambush a seal. The real life hunting and predation scenario beats any fictitious movie and is an unforgettable experience!
Gansbaai's reputation as the Great White Capital and home of the Marine Big would not have materialised without the joint effort, knowledge and expertise of a few local spear-fishermen and wreck divers who share an encompassing love of the sea and its amazing creatures. It helped that some were more fascinated than freaked out when they had their first occasional close encounters with these rulers of the underwater world. This fearless fascination eventually lead to former Springbok spear-fisherman André Hartman's first free-diving experiments with Great Whites in the late 1990's. Riveting footage of these encounters took the world by storm. His friend and former employee, Michael Rutzen, soon followed suit and today they have both secured a place in history as the humans who singularly took the bite out of blockbuster thrillers such as Jaws that depicted the Great White as a mindless man-eating monster. Celebrities, researchers and leaders in the film and media industry know them by name and the cream of the who's who list, including Prince Harry, Brad Pitt, Nicholas Cage and various other celebs often secretly escape to a Gansbaai hide-out for a fascinating exclusive shark-adventure with our two world-renowned Shark Men.
Need we say more? Come watch, learn and meet the iconic species of the ocean and see them through the eyes of the experts who live to love and protect them!