The Chumming Debate

Blood and Guts

Different perspectives on attracting sharks using chum and bait.

Perceptions are interesting, all depends on where you are coming from.

Underwater photographers always want that great photo, and here is veteran photographer, Steven Frink’s take on bait :

“Speaking of chum (called “burley” in this hemisphere, as in “hurly-burley”, as in “puke”), Rolf had the good stuff. Tuna gills full of blood and stomachs still holding sardines, plus a blood and tuna oil secret-sauce added to the mix. In my opinion, scrimping on bait on a white shark charter is a crime. One can spend thousands of dollars and days of their life travelling to where great white sharks are, spend big bucks on charter boats to find proximity to great white sharks, only to find yourself out at sea with desiccated fish carcasses that no self-respecting shark would eat. The right bait is a critical component of white shark photography.”

Steven also says :

“As important as the quantity was the quality of the action, for these were players. These sharks were not put off by bubbles, or proximity to the cage, or sunshine, or lack of sunshine, or the profile of the boat, or the size of the wave, or the colour of my jacket. All of these and more have been offered as excuses by various shark wranglers at various times in various places as to why the sharks won’t come close to the boat. But here we had good bait, sharks eager to take it, and savvy wranglers able to lure the sharks close to the cage.”

Steven Frink is based in Florida, USA and he is describing a trip he did to Australia.

It is worthwhile noting that Steven had been to South Africa twice between 2001 and 2004, and did not not get that special day. On the other hand, he had also got skunked in Australia. Twice. Third time lucky ?  The point of this is not to try and compare Gansbaai with Port Lincoln.

The issue here is the chum and the bait. Clearly photographers like Steven want lots of nice bait, they demand it.

Californian Sean Van Sommeran is a fierce critic of Gansbaai cage diving operations, particularly the way baits are used. His standard line is ” don’t feed the wildlife”.

He does not want baiting to take place, not because he thinks sharks are being taught to attack people, but because of possible entanglements and resulting injuries to the sharks.

Unlike Steven Frink, Van Sommeran has never been to South Africa or Gansbaai, he was mainly relying on what self styled ” shark researcher ” and “expert” Craig Ferreira was telling Sean’s “envoy”, or rather his buddy that then went back to California and gave Sean his own warped ideas.

Later Van Sommeran decided that well known False Bay operator Chris Fallows was doing it exactly right, and held Chris up as an example of how things should be done.

Ironically, and apart from towing a decoy at sunrise, the methods of Gansbaai operators and False Bay operators are identical. It seems Van Sommeran is extremely jealous of the fact that South Africa, and particularly Gansbaai became the number one White Shark destination in the world.

Van Sommeran claims to be concerned about the conservation of White Sharks and over the years had a great deal to say about how terrible the Gansbaai operations are, his main concern was injuries to White Sharks .

Yet, and this is very strange… In more than 10 years he has never ever said anything, not one single word about the biggest threat to White Sharks in South Africa.

The Natal Shark Board netting programme.

One of the biggest killers, if not the single biggest killer of sharks on the South African coastline. That is apart from turtles, whales and dolphins.

In 10 years .. Not one a singleword about this from Sean van Sommeran! He claims to know what is happening in South Africa.. Yeah right Sean.

In South African White Sharks Cage Diving operations the aim is not to create shark action by feeding the sharks.. On the contrary , the sharks are not fed.

The sharks do manage to steal baits, particularly if the sun is coming in at an angle and the water is murky. It is important to note that there is no feeding effort taking place, crews do their best to keep the sharks from taking the bait.

The University of Cape Town has an excellent Oceanography Department.

Their web site is here :

On this  web site they have a poll :

“There is much debate surrounding the increase in shark attacks occurring around the coast of South Africa. A possible reason is that it is a result of the ‘baiting’ of sharks during Shark Cage Diving activities.
Do you think that Shark Cage Diving is responsible for the increase in Shark attacks?”

About 70% of participants voted Yes, that Shark Cage Diving is responsible for the increase in shark attacks.

Oops, but what is wrong here ?

 Unfortunately there has been NO INCREASE.

Imagine , a well respected University Department of Oceanography , having a little poll on their web site based on factual mistakes.

This example illustrates the perceptions that are out there, and it is clear that the South African Cage Diving Industry need to increase their PR effort.

The truth of the whole matter is that the cage diving operators are actually restricted on the amount and type of bait they are allowed to use.

No part or blood from any mammal may be used. This includes all land animals as well as seals, whale blubber or any blood or part of any sea mammal.

The operators are restricted to fish , this mains mainly sardines and tuna. They are also restricted to how much ( expressed in kilograms) they may use on a given day.

For now this is all that I am going to say about this issue, comments are welcome, and I am quite sure that this topic will be examined in full detail



Filed under Uncategorized

Great White Shark Cage Diving Charters in Gansbaai

As you have by now( hopefully) discovered, Gansbaai is probably the best place in the world to encounter Great White Sharks easily and reliably.

There are eight outfits that have permission to do this in Gansbaai.

Firstly, I have to explain something. Its not REAL diving. Yes you can go into the cage, and yes you are in the water, and yes you will probably see Great White Sharks and also have a great time.

But, unless you join a specific multiple day shark DIVING group, you will be on a boat full of happy day trippers.. OK, …well some will be seasick and puking, but what I mean is that the average trip is aimed at everybody. Anybody can go and see the sharks, and its a great trip, the kids , your granny , everybody can go on a calm day. Very frail people should not go when the sea is rough, and generally small children also do not tolerate the trip particularly well. For everybody else it is fine.

It is ideal for the casual visitor, you do not have to go inside the cage. Surface viewing is great.

The cages are nowadays quite large and anything from 3 to 6 “divers” can go into the cage at a time, depending on the boat and the size of the cage. I say “divers” because you will only be wearing a mask…. and maybe a snorkel.

The cages have at least 30 cm of freeboard, that is they stick at least 30 cm out of the water.

So the “divers” are all inside the cage happily chatting to each other or whatever, and waiting for the dive master to call out when the shark approaches. When the DM calls out DOWN !!! everybody takes a gulp of air and tries to spot the shark.

This system works very well in general and is perfectly safe.

If your mission is to try and get really great photos or videos of the sharks, then no, it aint gonna work. Not like this.

For the serious diver and or underwater photographer, you have to take a different approach.

If you are serious about the white sharks and into your diving, there are specific trips for that, and specific times of the year are recommended for that. This I will discuss in much more detail later.

The Gansbaai trip is however perfect for you if you want to meet Mr Jaws on a one day trip whilst in or around Cape Town, and do not have a budget of gizillion dollars to go out to sea for a week on some live aboard boat in Mexico or Australia.

One more thing, do not be led around the nose by scientific this scientific that.

Its simple, all the operations are taking shark viewers out to sea on a trip of about 4 hours, you will not be helping anybody with reserach. Oh yes, the crews are obliged to keep log of shark sightings, they have to hand in their logbooks every month, so everybody is helping to collect data.

Sure some people working for some of the companies at one stage of their life may have done some work for , or assisted some researcher in some way. Sure.  I am always astounded by the incredible claims to fame,  Gansbaai has also seen its share of failed “researchers” , who simply could not hack it with their post grad studies. Fair enough doing good research is not always easy, but for some flash in the pan guy to stroll in , sponge for a  few months and drop out of university does not make you a researcher or an expert.

If you have collected a DNA sample by poking a shark with a little barb, or tagged a few sharks, then you are by no means a researcher, every Tom , Dick and Harry has done that… big deal.. cut the bullshit already.

The Operators in Gansbaai are ( in no particular order of preference)

1. Marine Dynamics

2. Shark Diving Unlimited

3. White Shark Tours

4. White Shark Adventures

5. White Shark Diving Company

6.White Shark Eco Ventures

7. White Shark Projects

8. Shark Lady Adventures.

I will be discussing every single one of them one by one, so that you will know exactly who is who in the zoo.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

2004 Shark bite : very exclusive photos of the day

On 2 November 2004, News24 ran this story here :,,2-7-1442_1613621,00.html

Shark attack: Official probe
02/11/2004 08:31 – (SA)

Cape Town – Marine and Coastal Management has launched an intensive investigation into an incident over the weekend when a shark-diving operator was attacked by a shark, allegedly because he was “doing what he wasn’t permitted to do”.
Andre Hartman, 52, was bitten on the foot in Gansbaai while his leg was apparently hanging over the side of his boat. He was busy chumming – luring sharks to the boat with bait.
There were foreign tourists onboard the boat who were scheduled to watch the sharks from a diving cage.

Shaheen Moolla, chief director of fishing management at Marine and Coastal Management, said on Monday that a preliminary report indicated that Hartman apparently free dived with the sharks while bait was being used.

“It is against the law for operators to dive outside a cage when bait is being used. It is looking for trouble.”

A trained operator and a specialist must also be onboard. This aspect is also under investigation.

“If it is found that any rules were broken, we will not hesitate to act very firmly. The safety of tourists and the reputation of the industry may not be jeopardised,” Moolla said.

On his website where he advertises his packages, Hartman makes no secret that he dives without the requisite cages. Under a heading “Great white shark cage diving” one can read the following:

“This man (Andre Hartman) has no problem with free diving with the great white shark. Yes, you read correctly. Free diving with the great white shark!”

“We always did free diving and used bait in the winter when the water is clear. We never did it in summer because the water is murky. Since the new regulations have been introduced, we haven’t done it again,” Hartman said on Monday.

He said he wasn’t free diving over the weekend and that it was “something someone dreamed up”.

Operators have so-called permission to do business and they have to adhere to a code of conduct. The process of issuing official permits is expected to be introduced next year.


But what really happened  ?

The year is 2008, the above incident occurred about 4 years ago, and here are some very exclusive photographs.

It shows Andre Hartman weating Musto Yachting pants and a T-shirt, clearly Andre’s version has always been the correct one.


Andre Hartman on 30 October 2004

Andre Hartman on 30 October 2004

 Seconds after the bite

This photo was taken seconds after the bite.


First aid

First aid

As one can very clearly see, the one person that was’nt diving was Andre.

The rest of the crowd was doing cage diving. Why on earth then did they say Andre was freediving on that particular day ? We will never know who started the rumour… but anyway, the photos tell the true story.



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Where in the world is Gansbaai ?

Gansbaai is almost at the southern tip of Africa, but not quite.

It is about 160 km or 2 hours drive from Cape Town.

Gansbaai is world famous because it is the top destination to see  Great White Sharks.

It has been called ” The White Shark Capital” of the world.

Gansbaai is also known for the excellent whale watching.

From July to November  one can see Southern Right whales. De Kelders, which is a part of Gansbaai simply has spectacular views of ocean, mountains, and the whales, Also beautiful sunsets.

In this blog I will discuss everything about Gansbaai.  All that is happening.

Nightlife, restaurants, shark news, whale news, the people, the gossip, the fishing…. well, everything.

So if you plan to visit Gansbaai, or are interested in sharks, or in Gansbaai or anything like that… then you are probably at the right place.


Filed under Uncategorized