Sunday, July 02, 2006

Four grannies will participate in a cage diving experience with the great white sharks

Four elderly sisters are proving you are never too old for adventure - by following up their skydiving escapade with cage-diving among sharks.Aged from 76 to 86, the four Hitchcock sisters are due to take the plunge in Gansbaai on Friday.Betty Niewoudt, 86, Anne Spies, 84, Joan Fourie, 78, and Babs Maré, 76, originally the Hitchcock sisters from De Aar, first enjoyed the adrenalin of a parachute jump last year.

'I know I'm going to be scared'"It started with my sister (Anne) saying that she wanted to do a parachute jump," said Betty. "Then she talked us all into it and we all did it. We all did individual jumps. It was a bit frightening, but very adventurous."There is a bit of a free fall until the parachute opens and then you go down slowly. Then you come down to the ground and all the people on the ground are waving. It's lovely," she added.

Their next adventure was fairly sedate by comparison - hot-air ballooning in Bloemfontein in February.Then during a television interview they vowed to do a cage dive among sharks.By chance Charmaine Beukes, a partner in White Shark Projects, saw the show and managed to track them down."My father was a policeman, so I did a bit of detective work and managed to find them," Beukes explained.

The company invited the foursome to Gansbaai for the hair-raising thrill of diving with Great Whites."I'm very excited about the dive," Betty said."I've seen sharks in the aquarium and on TV, but never like this. I know I'm going to be scared, but I suppose we'll be in a cage and there's no real danger."When not going on extreme adventures with her sisters, Betty Niewoudt "keeps out of mischief" with long walks, gardening, table tennis and music concerts.

"I have four grandchildren and they all just laugh and wish us the best of luck. But they probably think we're a bit mad."Beukes said the day would begin with a breakfast and a debriefing before the boat is launched at around 9am.The cage dive will take place at Shark Alley, Dyer Island, near Gansbaai, and each diver will be in the water for 10 to 20 minutes.


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