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Learn the Whole Truth

Ever since Steven Spielberg brought Jaws to the big screen the great white shark has suffered an image problem. To most people a shark is a bloodthirsty monster.

White Shark Ecoventures, www.white-shark-diving.com, in Gansbaai, South Africa offers you the chance to put aside common misconceptions and learn the whole truth. Established in 1992 by Cindy Thornhill and Mariette Hopley, it became the first company to offer shark viewing and diving tours in a channel known as Shark Alley just off Dyer Island.

Originally Thornhill and Hopley were studying and tagging the sharks when some overseas friends asked if they could accompany them and observe. Two years later White Shark Ecoventures pioneered surface viewing in the Dyer Island area.

White Shark Ecoventures’ motto is Research, Education, and Preservation and its mission is to “create awareness for those highly misunderstood animals, through preservation and education.” The company deals with approximately 1,000 clients per year and certified divers can enter the water for a face-to-face encounter with the sharks, however participants can also view the sharks from onboard the boat.

White Shark Ecoventures supports the Department of Sea Fisheries and Nature Conservation in the effort to become involved in the research and protection of the great white. They note sightings, tag the creatures, and support companies wishing to test the POD instruments used to drive great whites away when divers and surfers are in the water.

“We also look for scars on the shark, count the males and females, and give this information to the Univ. of Cape Town, and the zoology department of the Univ. of Stellenbosch,” says Hopley. In addition, they monitor shark activity and are attempting to link this with factors such as weather conditions, seasons, and the time of day.

When sharks attack humans it’s usually a case of mistaken identity. Admittedly, not much compensation for the swimmer in question, but also not good for the great white’s efforts in improving its popularity rating. Humans, riding surf and boogie boards look to the shark like a seal, and a seal is a meal in their eyes. Once it has bitten the shark usually shies away. Humans don’t taste like seal; in fact people taste pretty awful. Most people survive, but that fact would never make a very good Hollywood movie.

For further information contact: White Shark Ecoventures, www.white-shark-diving.com