Descending into South Africa

01:54, Sep 24 2013

Canadian Scott Wilson and Kiwi Ellis Emmett have been where no men have been before.

An 18 month trip took them to some of the world's remotest dive locations - many of which have only recently been discovered.

Scott and Ellis chronicle these travels as co-hosts of a show, Descending on the Travel Channel. We'll catch up with them each week about the destinations they've been to.

Scott and Ellis visit South Africa to face their fears and brave some of the most notorious shark-filled waters in the world. Disaster strikes on what should have been an easy shipwreck dive.

We catch up with Ellis about the South African dive experience.

What was your favourite dive from this episode?


Getting the chance to dive amongst a school of 25 - 30 feeding oceanic black tip sharks was one of the highlights of South Africa.

From the surface, I think we were all afraid to get into the water. There was plenty of chum around and the sharks were there for only one reason - FOOD.

As we sat on the side of the zodiac I guess we all were a little afraid that we might become a part of their food chain, but the moment we hit the water it became apparent that the sharks were not interested in us.

It was an amazing experience!  

What diving risks were you concerned about in this location?

By chumming the water our hope was to attract tiger sharks or at least one tiger shark that wasn't camera shy.

While swimming and filming the oceanic black tips we did have one large tiger shark show up, but it just cruised in for a look, quite deep and then headed back into the blue where it came from.

Unlike the oceanic black tips, tiger sharks have a pretty notorious reputation. When you are diving in deep water and you know there are big predators around and all you can see in every direction is dark blue water, it makes you feel pretty vulnerable.

As humans we are pretty used to being at the top of the food chain and then in the water all of a sudden we are not at the top anymore.

Strangely I personally quite like this feeling in a way I think we as humans believe we are far more important than we really are.   

What's one thing every traveller should try there?

If you make it to South Africa go and experience great white sharks for yourself. I promise you this is a rewarding experience.

Nothing can prepare you for how large and impressive these creatures are. To see one of the world most feared and misunderstood creatures within touching distance is a truly humbling experience. 

What should you avoid in this destination?

Being eaten!

Did anything go wrong on a dive?

South Africa was one of our more difficult shoots we had. We went there for two main reasons; to witness the annual sardine run, where billions of sardines school together and migrate up the coast of Africa - it happens every year around the same time - EXCEPT when Canadian film crews are there to film them.

The second major thing on our agenda was diving 'outside a cage' with great white sharks, something we had been psyching ourselves up for, for months.

However, some internal political issues prevented us from swimming outside the cage with these impressive creatures.

On one hand I was relieved, but on the other I was extremely disappointed at having to experience the great whites from behind bars.

I am not terribly good at being locked inside a cage - even if there are hungry great whites on the other side of the bars.    

What's the coolest thing you saw?

It would have to be Andre along with his tethered camera and underwater housing being tossed around like a rag doll as he was trying NOT to be cheese-grated in a shipwreck by a powerful Atlantic oceanic swell.

I have to admit it wasn't very 'cool' at the time, seeing your good mate getting thrashed around by an incredibly strong current, or the vortex which went from around 75ft, almost all the way to the surface, but when we all got back on the boat safely it was a pretty cool team-bonding experience.

It was something terrifying we all went through together and learned from. These tricky moments always give the biggest amount of personal growth and knowledge - mostly never underestimating the power of Mother Nature.

What did you think of South Africa?

South Africa is a tough part of this world. Whether you are a human or an animal it is survival of the fittest, we saw this first hand on so many occasions.

The cultures and the wildlife are so richly diverse, there is so much to see and do, so if it is not on your bucket list already, it might be a good time to add it in there.  

Watch Descending, Wednesdays, 8.30pm on the Travel Channel.