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Swimming with Sharks

by - October 21 2010

I'd already been cage diving with great white sharks, but having the cage there had made it rather impersonal. Fortunately the Cape Town Aquarium allows qualified divers to get inside their shark tank and scuba dive with their sharks without a cage. The tank contains ragged tooth sharks (also known as grey nurse sharks and sand-tiger sharks) together with some huge sting rays, a friendly giant turtle, and various less exciting marine creatures.

While ragged tooth sharks can be dangerous, they don't usually attack unless provoked and these sharks had been fed the day before so they wouldn't be hungry. If a shark did go for me the keeper had a stick he could hit them with. Sting rays usually only attack if you act like Steve Irwin. It was pretty cool being able to swim around with all the beasties and have them pass within inches of my face. We found a shark tooth and stingray tooth on the bottom of the tank that I took home as souvenirs.

The aquarium is a focal part of the V&A waterfront, an area that feels a lot like Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. Like Fisherman's Wharf, it is a place where tourists are expected to go, it has an aquarium, it has a ferry to a famous island prison, it has lots of souvenir shops and restaurants, and nobody who lives in the city ever goes there.