The Great White Sharks of False Bay

If there was an ancient legend regarding flying man-eating sharks, the Great Whites of False Bay would definitely lie at the heart of the fable. These incredibly massive hunters of the deep blue sea have been catapulted into the international limelight through a National Geographic documentary which explores their unusual hunting techniques.

The creatures unbelievably powerful jaws, their rows of razor sharp teeth, their staggering size and their piercing dark eyes have instilled fear and respect in millions of people around the world. However, there is only one place on the globe where these ferocious marine predators leap from the water to make a spectacular aerial attack on their prey – False Bay.

False Bay (Valsbaai in Afrikaans) is a body of water which is defined by the bent finger-like projection of land, known as the Cape Peninsula, that lies to it’s right. It got its name from early sailors who easily confused the bay with Table Bay which is located to the right of the Cape Peninsula and encapsulates Robben Island. False Bay has a remarkably similar shape to Table Bay and sailors arriving from the East easily mistook it for Table Bay. Along the shores of False Bay, the climate is Mediterranean with enjoyable warm weather during summer. The water is about six degrees warmer than those of Table Bay but they are still generally quite icy. A few kilometres of the coast, you will find that False Bay is home to Seal Island – a small granite landmass which is occupied by Cape Fur Seals and some sea birds. It is this dense population of seals – a favourite food of the Great White – which has drawn so many of these great ocean predators to False Bay.

It is a commonly known fact that Great White Sharks seek out and hunt seals as a food source. However, this act of predation usually takes place beneath the water’s surface. In False Bay, hunting takes on a new twist as Great White Sharks propel themselves from the depths of the ocean with incredible speed and accuracy in order to breech the water and either snatch their prey in mid-air or crash down on them from a small height. The act is as gymnastic and spectacular as it is gruesome and, since it is unique to this small corner of the world, it has drawn a variety of spectators and scientists. Fortunately for many, you do not have to be in the water to enjoy this marvel of nature. If you are one of the millions that find this concept of flying great white sharks alluring, book your trip on one of the few boats which offer shark spotting around Seal Island the next time you are in Cape Town. It’s an unforgettable experience.