In life, we come across many different people during our journey. We are after all, different threads interwoven in the fabric of life. Yet sometimes, just sometimes…we have the good fortune of meeting someone extraordinary. Someone whose passion, dedication and beliefs set them apart, someone who strives tirelessly to educate and create awareness of creatures who cannot speak for themselves. Someone who has made a difference to the lives of a much maligned and misunderstood animal, the great white shark, and has dedicated her life to changing misconceptions and garnering respect for this beautiful apex predator…that someone is the Sharklady, Kim Maclean.
The towns of the Gansbaai, Kleinbaai and Hermanus and the marine creatures swimming in the waters off their coast are very fortunate to have her in their midst.
Kim Maclean, the Sharklady, has been passionate about sharks and other marine creatures since a very early age. After matriculating at Cape Town High School in 1978, Kim applied to the Department of Sea Fisheries and was accepted as a technical assistant in various sections including demersal, pelagic and southern oceans.
Kim was the first woman allowed to join the research teams at sea for the Department of Fisheries, who had until then had not allowed women at sea. Kim did so well that she was regularly sent on research missions for the department, including several to the Antarctic and a highlight was when she was chosen to go to Marion Island on the maiden voyage of the Sea Fisheries’ new boat, The Africana.
After six years of service with Sea Fisheries, where she qualified as a technical assistant in oceanography, Kim had the opportunity of working with Dr Leonard Compagno at the South African Museum, assisting with research on great white sharks where she remained for two years until moving on to work with the White Shark Research Project tagging great whites.
The research work had a life changing effect on Kim’s life as it gave her new insight and understanding of these incredibly beautiful creatures, who are generally very misunderstood. Kim realized that she had to teach and inform the public the truth and purpose of the great white shark in the marine eco system.
When the new and world renowned Two Oceans Aquariums on Cape Town’s Waterfront was in its planning stage, Kim was chosen out of 350 applicants as an aquarist and collections diver. During this time she completed the difficult scientific class IV diving course and assisted in collecting a plethora of different species of fish including ragged tooth sharks.
Kim Maclean became the best qualified cage diving pioneer in South Africa by qualifying as:
- Rescue diver
- Level three first aid
- Radio operator
- Oxygen provider
- Scientific class IV diver
- Safety at sea and life raft proficiency
- Fire fighting certificate
- Western Cape tourist guide
- Specialist underwater guide.
In 1992, Kim’s life long dream became a reality when she pioneered white shark cage diving and surface viewing in South Africa, founding her successful and very popular shark diving company, Sharklady Adventures. Sharklady Adventures has an absolutely fantastic reputation throughout the world. Kim, and the Sharklady Adventures team, are arguably the most experienced operators in the industry and to date have taken thousands of tourists out to sea to have the wonderful experience of viewing the magnificent great white shark up close.
For Kim, shark cage diving is not just about the adrenalin of seeing a shark up close…she has made it her life’s mission to create awareness and educate people about all sharks, not just the great white. Owing to massive negative media publicity over the years, sharks have become one of the most maligned, misunderstood, even hated animals on our fragile planet. They have been pursued, hunted and indiscriminately slaughtered over the years to the point where many species are endangered.
Kim has made it her life’s goal to dispel some of the hype and myth and the fear which surrounds these magnificent animals. Kim says, “Even if through our commitment, we only introduce some element of objective perspective to the people whom we come into contact with, then we have at least made some contribution to maintaining the natural balance in at least one ecosystem in our communal home, earth.”
Kim serves as an ambassador on land for the sharks at sea and has founded the White Shark Embassy in Kleinbaai as a shark learning centre dedicated to highlighting the plight of both sharks and other marine creatures. The Kids Club is a fabulous initiative of the White Shark Embassy where children are given the opportunity to be involved in beach clean ups, watch educational videos, attend fascinating lectures on marine life and conservation, many given by the Sharklady herself.
On World Ocean Day this year, Kim invited local children to celebrate this day by coming to the embassy and listening to talks on the devastating effects of pollution to the marine environment and participating in a beach clean up. In this way, by educating the youth on the horrors of pollution, Kim is paving the way for a world where, hopefully,the youth who have attended the talks will not commit the atrocities themselves.
Kim Maclean, the Sharklady, has dedicated her life to caring for and protecting sharks and other creatures in the ocean and Sharklady Adventures gives people the chance to see these gorgeous animals up close and hopefully through the passion of Kim and her team, many great white sharks will be saved!