Program of the Great White Shark Expedition in South Africa


Great White Shark Expedition in South Africa
Apex Shark Expeditions with Alessandro De Maddalena


great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, preying on Cape fur seal, Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus, False Bay, South Africa, Atlantic Ocean


The Expeditions / Courses in Shark Biology in South Africa are operated by Apex Shark Expeditions, owned by Chris and Monique Fallows. The expeditions are hosted by Professor Alessandro De Maddalena, one of the world’s foremost shark experts. The participants will encounter great white sharks in their habitat and learn about biology, ethology and ecology of these predators. All guests can cage dive as there is no scuba qualification required. There is space for a maximum of 11 participants per expedition. Participants must land at Cape Town Airport, South Africa, and leave from the same airport.

great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, breach on seal shaped decoy, False Bay, South Africa, Atlantic Ocean


Apex Shark Expeditions have operated in the False Bay area from 1996. The company has worked with many research institutes and with the foremost media of BBC, Discovery Channel, CNN & National Geographic. They work in a manner as to interfere as least as possible with the natural behavior of animals (at no point are the sharks purposefully fed or handled, they do not use shark livers or any other attractants that have a negative impact on the environment and every effort is made to avoid the sharks coming into contact with their vessel).

Alessandro De Maddalena (Milan, 1970) is one of the world’s foremost shark experts. He’s a researcher, writer, illustrator, photographer and expedition leader. He earned a Master of Natural Science, M.Sc., from the University of Milan. His Thesis was on the presence of the great white shark in the Mediterranean Sea. He is an Adjunct Professor of Vertebrate Zoology for the post-graduate course in Marine Sciences at the University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy. He’s a collaborator of Apex Shark Expeditions, (South Africa), of Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions (Australia), of Strømsholmen Sjøsportsenter (Norway), and has hosted over 30 expeditions with them. During these expeditions he gives courses in biology of sharks (in South Africa and Australia) and orcas (in Norway). He’s also the curator of the Italian Great White Shark Data Bank, a founding member of the Mediterranean Shark Research Group, a Regional Investigator of the Global Shark Attack File, and an Ambassador of the Undersea Soft Encounter Alliance. He is the author of 20 books on sharks, 35 research reports in peerreviewed scientific journals and 80 articles in popular and professional magazines, published in 17 Nations. He has also given many lectures on shark biology at many universities, museums and diving associations in Europe.

great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, False Bay, South Africa, Atlantic Ocean


The cost includes:

– return airport transfers,

– 8 nights accommodation at The Grosvenor in Simon’s Town,

– course in biology, ethology and ecology of sharks presented by Prof. Alessandro De Maddalena,

– 7 trips to observe great white sharks and weather permitting, cage dive, from Simon’s Town,

– all dive gear,

– possibility to observe other marine animals (Cape fur seals, common dolphins, southern right and Brydes whales, African penguins and many other sea birds),

– breakfast, sandwiches and drinks on board,

– a signed copy of the book “Great White Sharks of South Africa” by Alessandro De Maddalena.

NB: Flights are NOT included.


Participants will communicate to Alessandro De Maddalena their arrival at Cape Town International Airport (please provide fly company, flight number, date and time). Pick up at the Cape Town airport will be arranged for every participant. A driver from Apex Shark Expeditions will meet them at Cape Town airport (passed the documents’ check point and the baggage claim point, in the next hall, after the sliding glass door). The transfer is a 50 minute drive to Simon’s Town. Participants will meet Alessandro De Maddalena and the rest of the group upon their arrival at The Grosvenor in Simon’s Town.


The course will be taught by Dott. Alessandro De Maddalena. The lectures will be held at your place of accommodation. Each lesson lasts approximately 1 hour for a total of approximately 7 hours of lectures. Every day the lectures are taught in english, french and italian. During the boat trips, Alessandro De Maddalena and the Apex crew will be available to answer to all participants’ questions as the shark trips are a fundamental part of the course. Course program includes: evolution, classification, identification, size, coloration, morphology, swimming, buoyancy, skin, skeletal system, muscular system, digestive system, respiratory system, circulatory system, nervous system, sensory perception, urogenital system, reproduction, habitat, distribution, movements, mutualism, parasites, predators, social behaviours, predatory strategies, diet, the great white shark, threat to humans, fisheries, utilization, captivity, shark diving, conservation, research.


Seven morning great white shark trips are scheduled from Simon’s Town, weather permitting. The vessel, White Pointer II, is a 36-ft catamaran with a crew of 3-4 persons. Simon’s Town pier is the meeting point for the white shark trips. The meeting and departure times may vary depending on shark activity (punctuality is necessary). The boat ride to Seal Island is 25-35 minutes. We will arrive at Seal Island around sunrise to observe the natural predatory behavior of great white sharks breaching to catch Cape Fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus). Thereafter a seal shaped decoy is used to elicit a breach to observe this behavior up close. The 60 000 Cape Fur seals of Seal Island are observed for the presence of white shark bitten individuals. The best spot to anchor up is then chosen based on weather conditions and the sharks are attracted to the vessel. Once a shark approaches the boat a small bait is put in the water to keep the sharks interested around the boat for identification and viewing purposes.

If the weather conditions are favourable, the cage is lowered into the water for cage diving. The dives are in a steel cage which accommodates four guests at a time. Everyone can cage dive, no scuba qualification is needed. All diving is on snorkel. We prefer not to use scuba equipment which produces a lot of noise and bubbles. This often keeps the sharks from coming close. Cage divers will have a better chance of seeing the sharks if we can communicate the direction the sharks are coming from, especially when the water visibility is poor. During white shark cage dives, the cage is fixed to the boat. Participants must keep in mind that great white sharks are very dangerous animals, it is therefore necessary to follow carefully the instructions given by Apex’s staff. Do not stretch out your hands or feet from the cage nor touch the sharks and in general do not do anything that can threaten yours and the other guests safety. All dive gear is provided and includes 5 mm wetsuits, mask, snorkel, weight belt, booties and hood. Wet suit sizes range from small to XXXL. If guests prefer, they can bring their own wetsuit, camera, videocamera or other gear as there is space enough on the boat. It is advised to bring a second skin to wear under the wetsuit for extra warmth and comfort.

A light lunch and snacks are offered on board (see section meals). It is usually possible to see other wildlife, especially many species of sea birds (skuas, terns, shearwaters, petrels, penguins, albatrosses) and sometimes long-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus capensis), short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), southern right whales (Eubalaena australis), Brydes whales (Balaenoptera edeni). We arrive back at Simon’s Town pier around lunch time.

Sightings of sharks are not guaranteed. Usually great white sharks are present in good numbers. If the weather does not permit to go out at sea in the morning we may try in the afternoon. Moreover if the weather does not allow a trip from Simon’s Town, there may be the possibility to go out to sea from Gansbaai (two hours road transfer from Simon’s Town). The operator for the trip will be chosen depending on the availability; in this case there will be a surcharge to cover transfers. In the case where a trip has to be cancelled due to bad weather, a land-based activity will be organized and guests will not be refunded. (see section Excursions in case of cancelled shark trips).


In Simon’s Town, there is an African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) colony. The colony is only 15 minutes walk from the Grosvenor. It is possible to approach close to the penguins to take photographs, but touching the penguins is forbidden. There is an entrance fee to the colony.


Scuba divers have the possibility to add two more dives with the broadnose sevengill sharks and Cape fur seals in False Bay. This is optional and is not included in the package cost. These dives can be done back to back and weather permitting. The dive with broadnose sevengill sharks or cow sharks (Notorynchus cepedianus) is at Pyramid Rock, while the dive with Cape fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) is at Partridge Point. Usually we leave from Miller’s Point by rubber duck. The depth of water is 10-12 m. Usually from 3 to 20 sevengill sharks ranging from 1 to 3 m in length are encountered in each dive. Other species of sharks that can be encountered include spotted gully shark (Triakis megalopterus), pyjama shark or striped catshark (Poroderma africanum), leopard catshark (Poroderma pantherinum), brown shyshark (Haploblepharus fuscus) and puffadder shyshark (Haploblepharus edwardsii). Please keep in mind that broadnose sevengill sharks and Cape fur seals are potentially dangerous animals, therefore those that decide to dive with them do it at their own risk. In general, it is also necessary to follow the instructions given by your dive master. Do not touch the sharks and the seals and in general do not do anything that can threaten yours and the other diver’s safety. Although great white sharks have been seen in the area the chances of encountering one of these whilst on this dive is remote.


Where a great white shark trip has to be cancelled due to bad weather, there will be no refund, and a half day excursion will be arranged. Any of the below trips can be done in the afternoon as an optional extra. In this case, the cost of the tour depends on the number of participants who wish to join you. In order to guarantee total security, these trips will be done with a transport com-pany associated with Apex Shark Expeditions.


At the tip of the Cape Peninsula 60 km south-west of Cape Town, lies Cape Point, a nature reserve within the Table Mountain National Park; a declared Natural World Heritage Site. Encompassing 7750 hectares of rich and varied flora and fauna; abounding with buck, baboons and Cape Mountain Zebra as well as over 250 species of birds, Cape Point is a nature enthusiast paradise. Rugged rocks and sheer cliffs towering more than 200 metres above the sea and cutting deep into the ocean provide a spectacular background for the Parks’ rich bio-diversity. The natural vegetation of the area, fynbos, comprises the smallest but richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms. The lightouse completed in 1860 still stands at 238 metres above sea-level on the highest section of the peak and it can be reached by feet or by funicular. There is an entrance fee to the Reserve.


The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is the most beautiful garden in Africa and is one of the great botanic gardens of the world. The Kirstenbosch is located against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain. Kirstenbosch was established in 1913 to promote, conserve and display the extraordinarily rich and diverse flora of southern Africa. There are over 7000 species in cultivation at Kirstenbosch, including many rare and threatened species, covering a 36 hectares area. There is an entrance fee to the Garden.

  1. c) CAPE TOWN

There are two possible shark-related places to visit in Cape Town: the South African Museum (Iziko Museums) and Two Oceans Aquarium. The South African Museum (Iziko Museums) ( ) is located at 25 Queen Victoria Street, Cape Town, and hosts a permanent exhibit on sharks, Shark World, with taxidermied specimens, life-size models and jaws. Photographs are allowed. The visit lasts approx one hour. There is an entrance fee to the Museum. The Two Oceans Aquarium ( ) is located at Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, and hosts numerous fish species, including sandtiger shark (Carcharias taurus), spotted gully shark (Triakis megalopterus), Puffadder shyshark (Haploblepharus edwardsii) and Dark shyshark (Haploblepharus pictus). Photographs are allowed. The visit lasts approx one hour and half. There is an entrance fee to the Aquarium.


The Table Mountain is a 1086 m mountain overlooking the city of Cape Town. In approx. five minutes, the Table Mountain Cableway takes passengers to the plateau at the top of the mountain, offering views overlooking Cape Town, the ocean and the surrounding peaks. It’s important to bear in mind that the Cableway can be closed at any time due to high winds and clouds.


We’ll have 7 nights accommodation in Simon’s Town, a small town located south of Cape Town, approximately one hour by car from the airport, overlooking False Bay. Accommodation is self catering at The Grosvenor ( ), a group of elegant apartments with view on False Bay. The Grosvenor is just 12 minutes walk from the harbour where Apex Shark Expeditions’ boat, White Pointer II, is moored, and is very close to Simon’s Town center. We’ll have bedding and towels. The rooms we may have for our group are twin sharing. It’s possible to have a single room, by paying a supplement and if requested in advance. The rooms have a bathroom en-suite. We’ll have a large kitchen for the entire group. Wi-Fi internet connection is available at The Grosvenor, for which it needs to pay by credit card (keep in mind that internet connection is slow). It is important to keep in mind that in South Africa there are power sockets of type M (BS 546 3-pin plugs, 15-A). Adapters can be easily found in stores and supermarkets in South Africa, but can be found even in other countries even if they are less common.


There are automated teller machines available in Simon’s Town where it is possible to withdraw Rands, but there are no banks to exchange Euros or dollars into Rands. Keep in mind that ATM scams and credit card fraud are common in South Africa, so you should keep withdrawals from ATMs to a minimum and refuse offers of help at ATMs. It is suggested to activate the SMS transaction notification service for your card. You will be notified about your transactions in real time and this will enable you to identify any fraudulent transactions taking place on your card.


Meals are not included in the package except for the breakfast and a light lunch (sandwiches, soft drinks, fruit juice, bottled water and snacks) on board. For lunch and dinner we can make use of the large kitchen at The Grosvenor (there is a small supermarket at 10 minutes walk from the house) or we can choose one of the cheap but excellent restaurants located in the harbour area or near Boulders Beach, a 10-15 minute walk from The Grosvenor.


Please note that travel insurance is not included. It is wholly the participants responsibility to obtain adequate travel insurance.


For entering South Africa it is necessary to have a passport with validity of at least 30 days after the date planned for your return to your Country. US and most European Union citizens don’t require a visa (check at the local South African Consulate). Passport needs to have 2 blank pages (if you don’t have 2 blank pages you risk not boarding at all).


No vaccination is compulsory to visit South Africa. Malaria prophylaxis is suggested only for those visiting Kruger area and the coastal area north of Durban, therefore not for the Cape Town area where we will stay.


Considering the repeated and extremely frequent delays in the delivery of the baggage, it is strongly suggested to carry only hand luggage. Moreover when you embark, stay near the front of the queue as if the flight is full, the crew may request you check your hand baggage into the baggage compartment. If, at Cape Town airport you find out that your baggage hasn’t arrived, you must go immediately to the undelivered baggage point (in the same hall of the baggage claim point, on the right) and give the following address for the delivery of your baggage (it will be delivered 36 or 60 hours after):

The Grosvenor, 37 Forest Hill Road, Simon’s Town, South Africa. Mobile: +27795573201


Our expedition falls into the winter months of Southern Africa. Simon’s Town offers amazing sunrises and sunsets. The average temperature in Simon’s Town ranges from 15 to 20°C. At sea it can be cold and windy. Weather-gear for the trips is not provided by the operator. Therefore it is suggested to bring a waterproof jacket to protect you from the wind and cold. Other suggested wear includes long pants, cap, gloves, boots or other waterproof shoes, swim-suit, second skin and suntan lotion. We also reccomend that you bring polarized sunglasses. Wear layers, so that if the temperature rises it is possible to undress accordingly. Water temperature is between 14°C and 15°C around Seal Island and between 12°C and 17°C off Gansbaai.


It is important to prevent sea sickness. We recommend: Stugeron (cinnarizine) or Dramamine (dimenhydrinate). Stugeron works very well; a tablet taken the night before and a tablet in the morning an hour before you go to sea. It is strongly advised not to drink alcoholic beverages at night as alcohol can cause severe sea sickness.


A non-refundable deposit of 50% to be paid upon booking. The balance of the monies to be paid by 120 days before the expedition start.


Here the information concerning refund and fee in the case that one of the participants decide to retire from the Expedition / Course in Shark Biology.

– Cancellation 120 days or more before the time of start date: 50% of the fee.

– Cancellation less than 120 days before start date: 100% of the fee.

– No show or late arrival: 100% of the fee.


Dates, costs and spots left for all the expeditions are available at this page:



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