Ripoff Alert! Great White Cage Diving in South Africa with SharkLady Adventures

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The Sharklady Adventures Great White Cage Diving South Africa Ripoff post is part of the South America & Africa Points Heist Trip Report.


Warning! Warning! Warning! Do not go shark cage diving in Gansbaai before reading this post. The first time I was in Cape Town, I tried to book Great White cage diving. The night before, the company cancelled because it couldn’t provide transportation. This time, I went out of my way to make sure that I would not miss out on the experience. I survived bungee jumping in Victoria Falls and was excited to defy death by swimming with Great Whites. Or so I thought.

The night before, the tour company, SharkLady Adventures, called to confirm that they would be arriving at 3am. We were told that there was no guarantee that we would see Great Whites because, according to the tour operator, they had not been seen in a few days. Hoping for the best, I went to bed early and prepared for the three hour drive to Gansbaai. Upon arriving, I was told the same line: “We do not know if we will see Great Whites, they haven’t been around for a few days.”

Shark Infested Waters?
Scam company boat
Unnecessary cage

After a safety demonstration, in which the tour guide said that punching an attacking Great White in the nose is not advisable, we were ready to set sail. The boat headed out a few nautical miles from shore and each member of the group was told to change into wetsuits (which were still wet) and wait for our turn to head into the cage. It was very cold day and I was not looking forward to going into the freezing water. At the same time, it was not pleasant to sit on the deck in a damp wetsuit as the howling winds swirled.

For about an hour, the crew threw chum into the water along with a fishhead on a string which apparently would entice the Great White to pay a visit. Simultaneously, the crew continued to say that they did not know if we would see sharks today. All of a sudden, a shark appeared. The crew tried to get everyone excited, but nobody was thrilled because these sharks were not the Great Whites that we had hoped to see. 

This minnow

In case you forgot what a real Great White looks like, here are the photos from SharkLady’s brochure:

One group after another went into the cage. One group after another came out of the cage quite disappointed that they could not reenact a scene from Jaws. Finally, it was my turn to go into the cage. The water was absolutely ice cold. I sat in that damn cage for thirty minutes while the crew tried to attract the sharks. The same docile ones came by. Like the other groups, I did hear the duh nuh overture. 

He brought his own snorkel.

Finally, we were pulled from the water and went back to the safety of land.

The whole thing was a waste of time apart from these sexy glamour shots that I had to take to compete with this guy who brought his own wetsuit (same guy who brought his own goggles).

BYOWS
Still Not
Sexier

On the way home, I googled ‘Gansbaai No Great Whites’. Here were the results: 

Irritated, I began reading reviews including this one. As it turns out, the orca has been killing the Great White sharks in numbers for months. It devastated the population of the Great Whites in Gansbaai and has crippled the cage diving industry. Instead of telling us about this new phenomena, the crooked tour operators pretended that it was an anomaly.

On the drive back, I emailed the tour company the following:

My fiancee and I booked your company this morning for shark cage diving. We were disappointed with the experience and are requesting a refund. To be clear, the refund is not because we did not see Great Whites. The refund is because we were not told ahead of time that there were killer whales in the area and the likelihood of seeing great whites was diminished. Other companies contact clients and provide this information ahead of time along with the option to cancel the trip.

Had I been given this information, I wouldn’t have woken up at 3AM, drove six hours round-trip, and wasted half a day to not see great whites.

This lack of communication is unacceptable and if I do not receive a prompt refund, I will have no choice but to contact Protea by Marriott (the hotel that referred me), followed by my credit card company to dispute the charge. 

Again, not seeing Great Whites is not the issue. The issue is not being given the information ahead of time and the opportunity to cancel. Here is the TripAdvisor thread that details another tourist’s experience. Note that he or she was given the option to cancel at no charge. Also note that it was written on October 21st which shows that the companies were aware of the issue then. Indeed, our guide today told us of the killer whale problem but only after we had arrived.

The more I read, the more angry I became. I followed up that email with another:

Upon further research, the problem is worse than I thought. Operators have known for months of the Orca problem. This isn’t an unfortunate coincidence. This is deception. See the screenshot attached.

Why not be honest with tourists instead of carrying on the charade of taking people out on the boat and pretending to be excited when a different kind of shark shows up? That’s like going on a safari and equating a hyena with a lion.

I expect my refund today.

SharkLady Adventures ignored me. Chase denied my claim because SharkLady by conflating that there is no guarantee to see Great White disclaimer with not telling its guests that there’s a massacre being carried out by Willy being free. I’m still working with Marriott to see if they will do anything. Bottom line, TPOL was hustled!

When I was in Tahiti, I swam with Blacktip reef sharks. That was an experience. This was a scam ripoff in the amount of $330 for two people.

Moorea with no cage

25 COMMENTS

  1. What a waste of a time to write this post. Sorry you were disappointed at NATURE not showing up. Hilarious you tried a chargeback.

    • What a waste of time to comment when you clearly missed the point of all the details that I included. The orca massacre of Great Whites is not normal. But hey if you put ‘nature’ in caps, it makes your points stronger.

  2. Thanks for this series. I had a trip involving CPT-LVI-CPT last month. Blog doesn’t have the flash of others, but I travel similarly to your style.

    Of course stinks it played out that way for you, but positive development for the Cape overall. Allegedly there is a correlation of shark attacks to the increase of these operators, so they make bank while potentially drawing shark activity into coastline. However, no recorded attacks on humans by Orca in the wild. Maybe you can catch a boat trip to see Willy battle Jaws next time.

    • No flash! All I see is swag! Stupid orcas. Just tell me ahead of time and I would’ve spared myself the trip. And I could’ve gone out on Saturday night in Cape Town.

  3. Characterizing a company as fraudulent who showed you wild sharks and even warned you ahead of time of a dimished chance of seeing them is dishonest and unfair.

    This is a horrible, whiny post. The tour operator literally called you to tell you they haven’t seen sharks in many days, and then you get mad because you didn’t see the sharks.

    More accurately, you wished their warning was more detailed and the sharks you saw were bigger.

    The post comes across as super whiny, entitled, and a complete overreaction. Every photo caption calls them a “scam, “ripoff,” etc.

    You probably need to cool off, count to 10, then come back and rewrite the post in a couple weeks. Sorry the animals in the ocean were not behaving to your exact liking. Horrible.

    • All wrong. It’s Great White Cage Diving. It’s not ‘oh that’s a shark’ cage diving. That’s the reason book the trip. That’s the reason why there’s a giant great white on top of their building.

      Go read the TripAdvisor link I embedded. As I said, honest tour companies told participants of the orca crisis.

      The last sentence shows your lack of comprehension.

  4. Don’t punch a great white shark in the nose. Good safety tip, right along with don’t choke them by shoving your arm down their throat. Congratulations on your engagement!

  5. Funny that he does the research after the event rather than before the event and complains. That’s like traveling during monsoon season and getting upset that no one told you there’d be rain…

    • Oh another comment blaming me. Good riddance. It is assumed that the experts in the field would tell the people they are charging that the service they are providing is not available due to an orca killing shark epidemic that has never happened before.

      Contrast that to your lousy example of a monsoon which happens around the same time every year. Come correct with your comments and I’ll respond accordingly.

  6. Haha you’re still upset **shrugs shoulders**. Take some responsibility instead of assuming tour operators are 100% truthful and reliable (any regular traveler would know that). Guess if you knew better, you’d do better…

    • Ha yeah when I travel to 13 countries in 40 days, I read up on every.single.detail of every activity I’m going to do. Of course, I’m still upset. And I admitted that I got hustled.

      I write about all the good and the bad. That’s the point of the blog. Have you seen all the mistakes I’ve made while traveling? Go read my posts about my visa incompetence. Go read how I got ‘robbed’ in Italy. Better yet, go read Chapter 4 of my book “It Pays to Get Robbed.”

      Knew better, do better. Haa. Imperfections and duck ups make trips memorable.

  7. Touché…the fact remains the info you posted on sharks missing has been around for years. Nice try playing the “I didn’t have time because I was too busy traveling to 100 countries in 3 days”. A real one chalks it up to the game and doesn’t play the charge back game.

    • It hasn’t been around for years according to the Tripadvisor post and the news articles. That’s my point. It was only months before that the orca terrorists came after the great whites.

      This same trip, I went on safaris. I didn’t complain that I didn’t see a white rhino. It’s common knowledge that white rhinos are tough to come see in the wild. I also wouldn’t have complained had I not seen a lion. It’s the wild, lions show up and then they don’t. I learned that from the Lion King.

      Here, you had a purposeful effort to dupe customers by not telling them that orcas are on the prowl and are killing great whites. Orcas usually stay in their own lane and the great white has its own fun.

      Hopefully, this article proves my point. Note that it was published on May 10 2017 and I was in Cape Town in October 2017.

      ORCAS ARE KILLING GREAT WHITE SHARKS AND EATING THEIR LIVERS
      BY DOUGLAS MAIN ON 5/10/17 AT 2:54 PM

      http://www.newsweek.com/orcas-killing-great-white-sharks-eating-livers-607002

      Here’s the best quote: “Orcas are very smart, and have different behaviors for hunting different animals around the world. It is possible that the creatures have now learned to go after killer whales. ”

      If the great whites aren’t wise enough to know that orcas are coming after them, how could I?

      In conclusion, saying this has been around for years is ‘alternative facts’. If the tour guide was honest they would have said Orca problem going on for months, not we haven’t seen sharks in a few days.

      I can go on forever. There’s a difference between the game and cheating. At least there used to be.

  8. I guess Jan 2016 (the first article on your screenshot) wasn’t years ago along with other articles from years ago **shrug shoulders**. Didn’t take you as a trump supporter but should’ve known from The NY Times post job denial. Interesting times when #facts are so easily thrown around as “fakes news, alternative facts, etc.”

    • Again, ‘for years’ implies multiple years! I went there in 2017. Jan 2016. How is that years? Facts matter. This is an apple.

  9. And if you didn’t find humor in the NYT post where I made fun of myself, then you’ll never come around to my content.

  10. I think ripp-off is a little strong, as they gave you a half-hearted warning. Besides, the cage diving should stop anyway – they are teaching sharks to associate food with humans, then draw them closer to land, way to go!
    I went on a tour to see a French-Colonial ruin in Cambodia, an eery ghost building leftover from the war, followed by lunch at the waterfall. No warning that the ruin had been renovated into a hotel and the waterfall was fresh out of water! Now, that’s a RIPPOFF!!!
    Just chalk it up to “you win some, you learn some” and treat yourself to a great wine tour or something instead…

  11. But reading the reviews of the other company you posted it appears quite a few people have seen great white sharks. So it seems like you didn’t get lucky. But it wasn’t deception to say that it might not happen but it does clearly happen for some people. I understand you wanted a clearer explanation of the overall environmental situation. And it would have been good if they’d provided it. Certainly that would be a more transparent business practice. But I think the situation falls short of a scam. Unless a law requires disclosure of the shark population by tour operators it seems it was your responsibility to pursue the statement that sharks hadn’t been seen. Clearly it’s not the best way to run a business. But “scam” indicates fraud. That doesn’t sound like what occurred.

    • I appreciate your analysis. Unlike the others, it was thoughtful. My day job is blogging but my night job is consumer protection law. If this was an American company, I would file a complaint and be confident that I would prevail on a fraud/misrepresentation theory. Bottom line: provide the details and then let the potential customer decide if he wants to deal with being in a hell mini-bus for 6 hours roundtrip for the improbable chance that a Great White would appear. Since I was on the road for 40 days and this was my second to last night, I know I would’ve skipped it.

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