Calell rushes to the surface to check out tuna steak then swims towards the cage.

DOZENS OF TINY ISLANDS surround the region at the mouth of South Australias Spencer Gulf, where the cool 16C waters flow into the great Southern Ocean. These islands are mostly uninhabited, except for the massive colonies of seals and sea-lions that have called them home for eons.
One group, known as the Neptune Islands, has a particularly large seal and sea-lion population and deepwater trenches, which provide the reason for the additional presence of one of natures most remarkable and misunderstood predators, the great white shark.
Our group of 12 adventurers heads out from Port Lincoln on the 26m Princess II for Hopkins Island. This has a large sea-lion population but also a shallow-water cove where few, if any, great white sharks are ever spotted.
It is here that we kit up to frolic among the wonderful and inquisitive sea-lions for a few hours. Whether diving with sea-lions, dolphins or whales, spending time in the water with mammals always adds something special to a dive. The connection between humans and other species of mammals is noticeably different to the one we generally experience with fish.
As the skiff is lowered off Princess II, the divers look to the island with both excitement and apprehension. The sea-lions are staring back at them from the beach, where 50 or so have congregated, but the divers are well aware that these pinnipeds represent fine cuisine to great white sharks, and the surrounding waters are no stranger to the ever-stalking predators.
A crew-member provides a quick reminder that people have been diving here for decades with no shark attacks recorded off this particular beach. Now everyone sees the risk v reward scale sagging heavily towards reward.
The skiff leaves the mothership and zips towards the beach, the sea-lions watching with anticipation. As we approach the beach they begin to waddle excitedly into the sea. Clumsy and awkward on land, under water these animals become acrobatic wonders, second to none in manoeuvrability.
Once the divers are in the water, the thrills begin. Female sea-lions show off their beauty, swimming circles around the divers in a display that combines curiosity with superior mobility.
The males are far more reserved, waiting in the wings to protect their harem if needs be.
Then there are the young pups that nibble on your fins and stick their faces right in your camera lens and mask, exposing a trusting naivety that would warm the coldest of souls. This dive alone is worth the price of admission, yet no matter how much fun it is to dive with these puppies of the sea, it isnt them weve come this far to visit.
Life occasionally presents us with irresistible experiences. This is clearly the case with our sea-lion encounter, but while we have an amazing time hanging out with our new furry friends, no tears are shed when its time to head out to meet the great white shark.

THE ROAR OF THE DROPPING ANCHOR assures us that we have finally arrived at the infamous North Neptune Islands. Andrew Fox, our expedition leader and an authority on white shark behaviour, begins prepping chum, the gnarly-smelling soup he calls secret sauce
that is poured into the ocean and seems to be irresistible to sharks.
Within 20 minutes, someone yells: Shark! Shark! The shark in question is Johnnie, a 5m great white. He has shown up here for years to investigate the familiar scent of Andrews concoction.
Its time for action! Andrew orders the aluminium safety cage into the water. Camera in hand, I leap in just in time to see this massive great white charging towards the bait floating at the surface. The action is intense, as additional sharks arrive to investigate the new stimuli in the water.
As I peer into the beautiful eye of the oceans top predator, I wonder if it can differentiate between the cage and the divers who stare out of it. Either way, these sharks are certainly curious to find out what emits the scent.
After an hour or so of watching these sharks chase bait at the surface, I am ready to get out of this floating cage and take part in a bottom dive.
For me, and for many others, the best thing about this particular shark-diving operation is being given the ability to descend safely to the seabed in a cage made for four divers.
To date, Fox Expeditions is the only white-shark dive operation in the world that performs controlled, caged bottom diving. The 25m ride down allows you to experience shark behaviour in a very different way to how you see it just below the surface.
The animals look and behave quite differently on the bottom. They appear far less aggressive and much more inquisitive. Relentlessly they circle the cage, often coming so close that you could reach out and touch them. Their movements are slow and deliberate, and their power is astonishing.
This is my ninth great white shark adventure with the Foxs, so I feel a little more at ease opening the cage door on the bottom and stepping out to take a few photographs without any bars to protect me from these huge creatures (or to get in my shot).
There is a degree of risk, but after years of observing the behaviour of white sharks, you feels as if you can tell when they are being aggressive and when they look well-fed and uninterested.
Without question these animals are dangerous and represent a risk to divers who venture into their world without the protection of the cage. Yet more and more people around the world are starting to extend the fine line between calculated risk and simple foolishness.
Its only a matter of time before someone pays a high price for his or her bold actions. I believe that stepping out of a cage on the ocean floor to get a photograph is a calculated risk, but Im not so sure about riding the dorsal fin of a white shark like a remora while at the surface, as certain divers have been known to do.
Twelve ecstatic divers met 11 of these notorious fish. The adventure in and of itself is fascinating. From serious underwater photographers to adrenaline junkies, there is no other dive like this in the world and no serious divers logbook is complete, in my opinion, without a face-to-face encounter with the great white shark.

Alisa
Alisa Bechthold kneels inside the submersible cage, hoping to get that perfect shot of a white shark.
Curious
Curious Australian sea-lion pups love to come close and see their reflection in the dome port of a camera.
Powerful
Powerful and majestic, these sharks have ruled the ocean realm for millions of years.
Four
Four divers get ready to ride down to the seabed to spend quality time with the oceans most formidable predator.
Two
Two sea-lion pups wait for their mother to return with breakfast.
This
This sight is about as good as it gets for adrenaline junkies, even while protected by the bars of a surface cage.
Diver
Diver Mark Cohen is elated after seeing a great white shark on his first caged bottom dive. Greeting Mark and sharing in his joy is 30-year veteran dive operator, white shark expert and son of Rodney, Andrew Fox.

FACTFILE

FLIGHTS: Direct flights to Sydney from London with Qantas, BA, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific. Connections available to Adelaide.
DIVING: Liveaboard diving with Fox Expeditions, www.rodneyfox.com.au
ACCOMMODATION: The Princess II has accommodation for up to 17 passengers in twin- and four-berth cabins.
when to go: Year-round, though there is a risk of typhoons in Mozambique in February. Water 22-28C.
WHEN TO GO: Year round. February is generally best for shark viewing, then from late May to October (crossings can be rough but this does not affect shark activity).
PRICES: Fox Expeditions offers three-, four- and five-day tours on the Princess II from AUS $1995 (around 885).
FURTHER INFORMATION: 0207 2402881, www.diveoz.com.au, www.southaustralia.com