Great white shark cage diving in Australia is a really quite unique experience. It is the closest you can possibly get to seeing these apex predators in their natural environment. And it will also allow you to fully appreciate what incredible creatures great whites truly are.
Australia is one of only four locations globally where cage diving with great whites is conducted on a regular basis. The other three are at Gansbaai, near Cape Town in South Africa. The remote volcanic island of Guadalupe located about 240km off the west coast of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. And from the small town of Bluff on the tip of New Zealand’s south island.
In Australia, great white sharks are found from Central Queensland on the east coast. All the way round the bottom of the continent up to the northern parts of Western Australia. However it is the state of South Australia that is best known for them. Plus it is also the only location in the country where great white shark cage diving is allowed.
Great White Shark Cage Diving – Port Lincoln
The town of Port Lincoln in the Spencer Gulf is the operating base for the cage diving operators. It is also the tuna fishing capital of Australia and said to be one of the wealthiest places in the country. As a drive around the Lincoln Cove Marina will show you!
Port Lincoln is a short 50 minute flight across the Spencer Gulf from Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. As you fly in you will see a number of rings floating in the sea.
These are the tuna pens where the juvenile tuna are kept. Caught in the Southern Ocean, using a special technique that was developed in Port Lincoln and is now generally adopted globally. The tuna are basically force fed to fatten them up so they can be harvested and then shipped to Japan.
It is the tuna pens and their rich harvest that have made Port Lincoln such a wealthy place!
But that wealth is earned and if you want to understand how, check out the National Geographic documentary Tuna Cowboys that is now available on YouTube!
Port Lincoln – The Tuna Capital…
Once the tuna is harvested it is cleaned and tagged. Then it is either put into deep freeze, pending the arrival of the mother ship that transports it back to Japan. Or it is chilled and flown there (usually on the evening it has been harvested) where it’s freshness brings a significant premium.
Either way the tuna would end up at the massive and iconic Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo… Which closed in October 2018 after the ultra-modern Toyosu Market was opened. Either way, Australian Southern Ocean tuna is highly valued and in great demand!
Great White Shark Cage Diving – Neptune Islands
In South Australia, Great White shark cage diving is only permitted at the four main islands of the North and South Neptunes Islands.
Physically the Neptune Islands are located some 60km south-east of Port Lincoln. Roughly half-way to Kangaroo Island in the Great Australian Bight – the huge open bay that covers most of the southern coastline of the Australian continent.
The food of choice for great white sharks is seals… And studies have shown that one seal provides enough nutrition to sustain a great white for 2-3 days.
The Neptune Islands has one of the largest colonies of fur seals in Australia. And it is the reliable availability of those seals that have made the islands a key location on the great white “super-highway”… The migratory corridor they use along the southern coast of Australia.
Great whites are present all year round at the Neptunes. But they are not resident there – they come and go… Staying only long enough to either satiate their appetites. Or till they decide to move on to another feeding ground.
Great White Shark Cage Diving – Where They Roam
Long-term tagging of great whites over a period of 12 years, conducted by a team of marine scientists led by Julia Spaet, reveals just how far and wide Australasian great whites roam.
Detailed analysis of that data by the scientists revealed some interesting patterns. With the highest concentrations of tagged sharks in the coastal waters of New South Wales from late August to late February. Followed by eastern Bass Strait area between Victoria and Tasmania from December through to April.
Interestingly, no obvious seasonal patterns were found for coastal areas in South Australia. Which tends to support the year-round, but random appearances of great whites at the Neptune Islands. In that the fur seal colonies provide a known source of nutrition for the sharks. But it is obviously not the only one – it’s just that the rest are not known to us!
The Neptune Islands – Best Time to Go…
Both traditionally and rationally the Australian winter and spring seasons have been the best times of the year for great whites at the Neptune Islands. Traditionally, as that is when the most sharks have been seen. And rationally as those months are when the seal pups are born and weaned. So their initial forays out in to the waters around the Neptunes make them easy targets for the patrolling sharks.