Baited dives with tiger sharks, Zambezi (bull) sharks and oceanic blacktip sharks are becoming a primary focus of many dive tours to South Africa, and once again South Africa earns its place among the worlds top shark diving destinations. Baited shark dives were first introduced at Aliwal Shoal in 2001 when the area became famous for diving with tiger sharks.
Baited dives in South Africa are conducted without cages. Sharks are attracted to the area by the use of a “bait-ball” or drum, filled with bait – usually sardines, tuna or other fish products. Divers enter the water on scuba or snorkel to drift freely with the current, the sharks and the bait-ball.
Baiting keeps the sharks around longer and brings them in closer, allowing divers to study different nuances of shark behavior and observe different species of sharks at close quarters. For serious photographers, a baited dive is almost the only way to get those close-up shark images.
Baited dives at Aliwal Shoal attract large numbers of Blacktips (C. Limbatus), with as many as 50 sharks around the bait-ball, there is constant action, while the presence of a tiger shark is always the highlight of the dive! Baited dives on Aliwal Shoal often drift close to the reef and divers can be surprised to find themselves surrounded by schools of jacks and reef fish, adding another dimension to the dive.
Baited dives on Protea Banks are a quite different experience. Protea banks is famous for it’s Zambezi (bull) sharks and often provides divers with the chance to witness more complex interactions between shark species. The bull sharks are attracted to the activity in a baited environment – game fish, other sharks and excited divers can stimulate their curiosity and suddenly the whole focus of the dive changes as the bull sharks take charge!
Other species successfully attracted to a baited dive environment include, dusky sharks (C. Obscurus), bronze whaler and on rare occasions, great hammerhead sharks.
Diving with sharks in a baited situation offers divers a privileged opportunity study sharks and shark behaviour at close quarters.
Each species of shark behaves differently in a baited situation. Different sharks behave differently from day to day and the interactions can be quite complex as a hierarchy according to species, size and numbers is established – this can take the most part of a dive as the dynamics are constantly in flux with the arrival of new sharks and the departure of other sharks.
Sharks in a baited environment will usually approach with caution. As they begin an often lengthy assessment process, they may closely investigate the divers, before approaching the baited drum. Despite the sometimes deceptively slow movements of the larger sharks it must be remembered at all times that these animals are in a stimulated state. Diving in a baited situation is high energy shark diving!
The ethics of baited dives: Baited shark dives will always be a controversial subject and there are many arguments and misconceptions about the practice of shark baiting.
The shark diving industry plays a vital role in public education and shark conservation. We believe that baited dives with a responsible dive operator can help to inspire a passion for sharks and encourage a better understanding of these magnificent predators. Providing an economic value to the live animal through tourism is perhaps the only hope that many species of shark have of achieving any form of protective status.
Cage diving in KwaZulu Natal: For non-divers there is now an exciting new cage dive option available. If you’re unable to make it to Cape Town or you’d like to see different sharks, these cage dives in KwaZulu Natal offer regular sightings of tiger shark, Zambezi (bull) and blacktip (C. limbatus) sharks. Visit our dive tour pages for packages that include baited dives or allow us to create a custom tour for you with transfers and accommodation to suit your individual requirements.