Looking back on 15 years…
It was December 2000 when Dave Caravias and Elna Caravias decided to start their business adventure in Gansbaai, South Africa with the design and the building of The Roundhouse Guesthouse. After completion in 2003 the house quickly became known to locals as Roundhouse. Initially the Guesthouse was going to be dubbed something else but after the building process the name Roundhouse just made sense as that is how everybody fondly referred to it. When we look back we remember how the locals brought their families from Johannesburg and elsewhere to walk through this tall and strange round house whilst it was still being built. We still get locals regularly that just want to walk through the house and see how practical this Roundhouse actually is inside. In this modern African house you will find many things that have been hand made by Dave and Elna such as the unique thatched doors and cabinets throughout the kitchen and rooms as well as the rope woven luggage racks and more.
You can learn more about the Roundhouse on the following site: www.theroundhouse.co.za
After a few months of operating The Roundhouse Guesthouse as a running B&B we decided to expand our company into the ever growing diving and travel industry of South Africa and particularly Gansbaai.
2004 Saw the birth of Sharkbookings.com and this has definitely been Dave’s baby as he nurtured this company from a self-built 12 page website to the world class booking service. To summarise, Sharkbookings.com is a dive specialist in shark diving country wide as well as many international destinations. This newly re-launched website see’s Sharkbookings.com expanding into many new destinations worldwide covering Sharks and Rays. Sharkbookings acts as a central website and booking office where clients can browse and easily learn about the facts of the , Sharks, Shark Diving Companies and Shark Diving trips without having to read through website upon website trying to extract the best information and choose the best boat and trip for their needs. All of the information is in 1 place and easy to access and browse to see the differences between the experiences.
The booking process has been refined and it is now extremely easy and fast to book the shark dive you wish through our service. There is no false advertising and all of the information is streamlined and verified to give you the end user an informative and accurate account of the experience or company. Dave is passionate about sharks and quality diving with big animals and he wants everyone to have the best from their experiences as he has done in the past. Dave’s first ‘diving’ experience was the Great White Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai in 2000.
It was on an old rickety small wooden boat dubbed by some as ‘the master of disaster’. The cage was a thin nearly wire round cage where at the most 2 divers could dive in at the same time. He sat on the wooden roof of the cabin and balanced as the boat swayed in the swell. That day he saw 8 sharks and even had the nose of the shark inside the cage. Back then the industry was very young and small and the biggest boats took 8 people maximum and there were only 5 operators.
This experience was very special to Dave as he had been obsessed with sharks since a little boy thanks to the film Jaws. Meeting the Great White Shark face to face was an inspiring moment and never to be forgotten. Dave met Elna that day and they started dating. Soon Dave and Elna started working on travel packages to give people the same excellent experience with the Great White shark as well as designing the Roundhouse Guesthouse as their base.
Thanks to the film Jaws Great White Sharks are now admired (but also feared) and they are on the wanted list to view and photograph for 60,000+ tourists a year. This has developed into a huge industry now with 8 licensed operators in Gansbaai and 2 in False Bay and there is rarely a day when an operator does not go out due to lack of bookings. Great White Shark Cage Diving is the second most popular wildlife activity in South Africa after the Big 5 and as anyone can do this then this is definitely an activity which should not be missed when visiting this beautiful country.
Was the year when Dave and Elna opened Shark Alley Dive and Travel Centre in the Super Spar centre in Gansbaai. Elna fondly remembers opening the shop with a few white t-shirts and some postcards on the counter. The shop quickly grew as locals brought in their arts and crafts to sell, all with a shark on of course, and Shark Alley expanded with a travel desk. You could book bus tickets and flights here as well as a holiday to Mauritius if you wanted to. Soon they realised that the travel market in Gansbaai is not ready and so they shifted their focus to a Mozambique which was a travel market that was ready. Shark Alley then developed Scuba Mozambique which at first sent weekenders to a small bay in Mozambique for a few days diving but soon Scuba Mozambique grew into a world class dive travel specialist that books and arranges dive holidays for groups as small as 1 and as large as 25+.
Dave and Elna visit Mozambique regularly as they often do site inspections on location to ensure that their clients get top notch service but sometimes they also go to assist some of their large dive groups that they host annually. Currently Scuba Mozambique works with 50+ dive centres and accommodation resorts throughout the entire Mozambique. Scuba Mozambique is a proud package supplier to large South African companies such as Thompsons, Siyabona Africa and Flight Centre as well as many overseas agencies and dive clubs. We also pride ourselves in being available for all of our clients at all times from our individual travelers to our large dive groups that wish to see and dive in Mozambique. Have a look at www.scubamozambique.com for more information.
Dave and Elna started their most visible project yet; The Great White Adventure Centre at 1 Main Road in Gansbaai town. This is the first and most noticeable building in town as you drive in and acts as a tourist booking office for Shark Cage Diving and other activities. When this private booking and information centre became established they decided to close Shark Alley in the Super Spar centre. The premises used to be home to Café on Main, a coffee shop with an information desk. When the Caravias’s took over they decided to close the coffee shop and upstairs gift shop and focus fully on tourism and the whale and shark industry of Gansbaai. When a tourist walks into The Great White Adventure Centre they can book accommodation, a shark dive or whale watching trip, get a restaurant referral and come away with a positive feel of Gansbaai. The outside of the building is an attraction to tourists and film crews alike. The breaching Great White Shark photo on the building and the text “Welcome to Gansbaai, Capital of the Great White Shark”, has been featured on many international documentaries.
With the opening of the Great White Adventure Centre Dave & Elna decided to set up an activity centre to try to draw more people to stay in Gansbaai. They bought 10 Kayaks and a 10 seater Landrover Game Viewer and started to run Eco trips for tourists. These experiences will always remain with them as the Kayaking trips were world class and there is no where else in the world where you can kayak around the coast amongst Whales and Calves stop at a seal colony and do your own private tour of historic caves where you actually swim in crystal clear mineral water pools. The mountain trips were also spectacular with amazing views and wildlife. Unfortunately due to lack of support by the local tourism bureau and local Guesthouses we closed this businesses and sold the Kayaks and Landrover.
In 2010 the Shark Alley merchandise and souvenir shop was relaunched in Kleinbaai harbour. Shark Alley can proudly say that it has the largest selection of white shark merchandise in the world. Tourists from all over the world walk away with caps, T-shirts, Fleeces or Jackets proudly displaying the SA flag and the words “Gansbaai, Shark Diver” on them. Even in Cape Town you will sometimes notice people driving past you with a Gansbaai bumper sticker on the back of their car; purchased in Shark Alley of course. It is our goal to expose Gansbaai and promote this stunning place to the world.
2010 – 2015
We have been steadily improving our businesses over the past years and have developed another Self-Catering house as part of the Roundhouse. The guesthouse now has a swimming pool and games centre and is doing very well.
I have also just launched a stunning new product to Gansbaai which is our Fatbike tours. Fatbikes are mountain bikes with extra wide tyres able to ride easily on soft sand. This has opened up our whole coastline and we are able to easily share this amazing environment to the world with our stunning world class beach from De Kelders to Hermanus as well as vast sand dunes rising from 185 meters above the beach. Take a look at www.fatbiketours.co.za