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Cape Town Tours

Great White Shark Expeditions with Chris & Monique Fallows

Cape Peninsula, South Africa

Great White shark predation
Return to Cape Town & Cape Winelands Tours          © Chris Fallows

While great white sharks are commonly portrayed as invincible killing machines, the reality is quite the opposite. They are highly vulnerable masters of evolution and whilst their hunting prowess is remarkable, they are highly selective in what they attack and consume; indeed to see one hunting is a rare event.

White shark and sealGreat whites are no more abundant anywhere on earth than in South Africa, yet even here they are not common. To be able to witness these great animals flying out of the water to hunt was, until recently, thought to be the product of a rich imagination; however, Seal Island in False Bay is one such place that has no match in this respect.

It is our privilege to be able to interact with these sharks and our duty to conserve them. We hope that when you see the great white for yourself, you to will be left with a burning desire to protect these amazing marine predators and their kin.

Chris and Monique Fallows have been working with sharks on a daily basis since 1989 and have specialized in leading and hosting shark expeditions since 1996, when they started the first successful Great White Shark eco-tourism operation at Seal Island in False Bay, South Africa. Great white shark eco-tourism is strictly controlled and only very limited numbers of permits are issued; the Fallows' were the first to obtain a permit in 1998.

The great whites of Seal island are now world famous for the highly athletic breaches that they make in pursuit of Cape Fur seals. These sharks and their very unique behavior have been the subject of over 30 international documentaries which the Fallows' have facilitated. Chris and Monique have also collaborated on numerous shark research projects with various other individuals.

Notwithstanding the white sharks that patrol the Island, there are more than 60,000 seals, as well as a host of bird species on Seal Island that make this a truly fascinating area to visit and a naturalist’s paradise.

The main focus of the tour is on a natural interaction with the sharks and every effort is made to treat these animals with the respect they deserve.  Chris and Monique strive to share their passion for these animals with you, their guest.

Cape Fur Seal swimming homeThe trips to Seal Island leave at around 07h00 in winter (May-Sept), as it is best to get to the island at first light each morning to allow you to observe the natural predation which is most prevalent near sunrise. Each morning you will observe natural predatory behavior for as long as possible; however, it is usually the first hour and a half that are the most intense. After this period they will try a short decoy tow using a fake cut out carpet seal where they try to get the sharks to breach.

It is a very unique way to elicit predatory behavior and has been very useful to help learn different strategies adopted by different sharks. They do this for short periods, despite it being very spectacular, so as to ensure that the sharks do not waste too much energy in pursuit of a non regular prey item. After the decoy tow, they do an inspection lap around Seal Island, looking for any signs of bitten or injured seals which are recorded for research/conservation purposes.

They will then choose the best spot to anchor up based on weather conditions and attract sharks to the vessel.

Please note that the Fallows' do not chum for sharks around seal Island and they are the only operators in South Africa who do not chum. Due to there being very few other boats operating in the area, it is not necessary to chum and sharks will inspect the boat out of curiosity, whilst naturally patrolling the island.

Once a shark approaches the boat, a small bait is put in the water to keep the sharks interested around the boat for identification purposes. At no point are the sharks purposefully fed or handled. The 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 direct contact with the vessel.

These trips do offer the opportunity to cage dive with the sharks for any guest who is qualified; however, it really is recommended that more emphasis be placed on the surface viewing.

Each and every encounter with a great white is a unique experience and it is Chris and Monique's intention to share with their guests the knowledge they have built up over the years, as well as the intense passion they both have for these super predators.

Note on Vessels: All of the Fallows' expeditions are run from their high powered 28-ft catamaran, equipped with two new 140-hp, low emission, 4-stroke engines, capable of speeds in excess of 30 knots if need be. They also have access to a larger 36-ft catamaran for larger groups if need be. These vessels are custom built for these activities, are safe, fast, and reliable, offering a well designed layout suitable for photography, filming, diving and general surface observation.

Note on seeing sharks: As sharks are entirely wild animals with no boundaries, no guarantee can be made for any sightings at any time of the year; however, there are certainly better times than others.

Seal Island - chances of seeing one or more sharks:
High Season (May to mid Sept): 95%
Mid June - Mid August: best for natural predation observation.
May & June: usually the better weather months during the high season and also best for observing sharks around the vessel.
Intermediate season (April and Oct): 65%
Low season (Nov to March: 55%

The white shark expeditions take place near to Cape Town. This is an area that has a mild climate and is predominantly a winter rainfall area, May-Sept. Average day temperatures in summer are around 25C and in winter around 19C. Water temperatures for the white sharks are around 17-20C in summer and 13-15C in winter. Oct-June Visibility at Seal Island is around 5-8 meters with good days being 12-15m. The summer winds are predominantly S-SE and average 15-20knots during Nov-Jan, with lighter winds earlier in the mornings.

From Feb to mid May, winds moderate and more winds from the SW and W become common, averaging 10-15knots most days, with flat calm days in between. June-Sept sees W to NW winds dominating and during cold fronts, which seldom last more than one to two days, winds can blow 30-50 knots. Between the fronts, light N-NW Winds are the expected winds. All trips are carried out based on the best weather reports available and are at the skipper’s discretion.

Other animals which may be seen:
Cape Fur Seal colony of 60,000, breeding African penguin colony; three species of cormorant nesting, including Bank cormorants, numbering less than 6,000 worldwide; common & dusky dolphin; Bryde’s, Southern right, humpback, & Minke whales. A variety of sea birds, including Cape Gannets.

Recommendations and requirements:
Guests suffering from nausea or motion sickness are advised to take precautionary measures prior to each day's scheduled departure. Warm waterproof clothing is recommended and during summer and autumn months, sunscreen and a hat are advised

Any persons wishing to cage dive with white sharks need to have entry level scuba qualifications.

Chris and Monique Fallows Great White shark predation Great White shark at the boat Great White shark breaching Great white shark from dive cage
All images © Chris Fallows

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