Just when you thought it was safe to go absolutely nowhere… sharks!

DStv shows its teeth this July with shark doccies and movies that’ll have you scared to set foot in any water

Winter is here, and it has teeth!

DStv is showcasing movies, documentaries and series all about sharks. National Geographic (DStv 181) and National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) will be airing 17 brand-new shows, as well as bringing back some shark classics to celebrate their 8th annual Shark Fest. Meanwhile, Studio Universal (DStv 112) and TNT (DStv 137) have some silly shark films for you to embrace in all their gory glory as they climb aboard for the fun.

Among National Geographic's new features are two films by South African-based shark expert and marine biologist Ryan Johnson. Shark vs Whale showcases remarkable first-time-ever footage of a shark slowly and deliberately taking down a humpback whale many times her size, while Shark vs Surfer concentrates on interviews with surfers around the world who’ve survived shark encounters.


Ryan took us behind the scenes with a talk about how he filmed Shark vs Whale, what happened to False Bay’s great white sharks, and more…

Blood in the water

“What fascinates me about the great white is how it can be such an effective predator in so many different environments, when confronted with so many different types of prey, from reef fish, to seals, to something as big as a 9m humpback whale. This is a smart predator and it is aware of its own mortality,” says Ryan.

It’s quite a thought to be running through your head as you dive down without a cage in Plettenberg Bay and film a shark as it catches a seal in the water right in front of you – while you hang out there yourself like a tasty shark snack.

“That was unique for me,” Ryan admits. “We were in the water trying to film the seals when this attack started and suddenly you have to make decisions. You want to get yourself out of that situation. You want to film it a bit, but you want to get out safely, and you know the first rule with great white shark interaction is you can’t act like prey. If you panic and run away to try to get back on the boat, you’re telling that shark you are prey and they are attuned to that. This situation was unique because we had a hunting, feeding great white shark a metre or two metres away from you, and you realise you don’t want to be too bold because you don’t want to tell the shark that you are a threat, to take its food away from it because it will go for you. I played this balancing act and that was really me trying to stay vertical in the water, trying to stay big, keeping my (camera) on a pole between me and the shark and waiting it out. It sounds easy, but I was trembling inside a lot, and that all came out when I hopped out of the water. All the adrenaline just flowed out of me. I don’t know if I’d want to do that again.”

Get into the swim with sharks

New Zealand-born Ryan has been in South Africa for the past 20 years observing sharks to further his studies in marine biology. “It was a dream for kids in New Zealand to be able to go to Africa and study the wildlife and animals. I took that chance 20 years ago and South Africa has been everything to me. You can have adventures here with animals that you can’t have anywhere else in the world. A lot of countries don’t make space for their big, charismatic predators, but South Africa’s government has been protecting species like great whites for the best part of 30 years now (since 1991).

“The way I got into this was spending 14 years at university studying. If you get into science and you want to be an academic, that’s the kind of commitment it takes. There’s a lot of careers that give you a chance to work with sharks and big animals that aren’t necessarily academic – from research technicians to eco-tourism operators – so there’s a lot of avenues. But if you want to go that academic route, it’s a lot of commitment,” says Ryan.

The great white mystery

Anyone who has an eye on shark news will know that between 2019 and early 2020, great white sharks vanished from our coast. “There’s two schools of thought with that. First, it coincided with two orcas, Port and Starboard, coming in and being seen attacking a shark. And that theoretically scared all the sharks away,” says Ryan. “We saw it in False Bay, we saw it in Gansbaai with a number of these orcas coming back and attacking again and again. In November 2019, we saw it again in Mossel Bay when we saw a pod of orcas come in and harass sharks. And then in the next three months we didn’t see a single shark. I would believe that is the cause. There has been some speculation recently that it could be a general population decline following the removal of smaller predators (due to overfishing of small shark species, which are being sold to Australia to feed their fish and chip market -- since the small sharks are protected in Australian waters). I don’t think we have the evidence for that yet. All the situations where we’ve seen, the acute disappearance of sharks has been initially caused by the presence of these orcas. Through our research, which is based on mark recapture (using data from tagged sharks), we didn’t see any decline in great white numbers since its protection (in 1991). We didn’t see any increase, either. The population is maintaining itself.”


Helen: tagged in this picture

Helen, the whale-drowning shark who is the subject of Ryan’s documentary, and Ryan go way back. She’s one of the sharks that he’s been following since he tagged her (along with around 50 other sharks) in 2012/2013.

“We had a small boat out, and we’d place the hook in the shark’s mouth, and those would be attached to buoys, so the shark would tire really quickly – in about 10 minutes. We’d bring them onto a submerged platform and when the shark was on there, we’d lift the platform up and what was incredible is that when you lift a shark, even a great white, out of the water, it just goes dead still. So we’d put water through it and ventilate it and have a vet who would give it antibiotics and boosters, and then we had a 15-minute window to put a satellite tag onto its dorsal fin, take its blood, place another tag inside its stomach and collect a bunch of biological samples. Then we’d drop the cradle down and let the shark go, and it would swim away happy as Larry,” Ryan reveals.

How to shoot a shark

Ryan’s footage of Helen’s attack on the whale is remarkable as it is the first time that a shark has ever been recorded attacking an adult humpback. “I’ve scoured the literature. And we haven’t seen anything close to it,” says Ryan. “It was a rare event, and you’d have to be in the right place at the right time to be able to observe this again.”

The footage was shot from above by drone, and as Helen took over an hour to patiently wound, tire out and then drown the whale, it was quite a logistical feat to keep filming. “That’s a long story! I had 3 batteries and this incident came as a surprise, so I don’t think they were all charged. As I was coming to the death of the whale and I knew it wasn’t over, I called my mate because he had a drone, so he brought more batteries from his house. In a mad rush I managed to chuck those in and I got through 6 batteries. We had to fly (the drone) 400m out to sea each time between battery changes, which chowed batteries. And then (laughing) I shouldn’t laugh because it’s tragic, but when I saw that whale sink and I realised when it wasn’t coming back up that it had died. So, I came back and landed the drone. Just as I was doing that, one of my other mates turned up with his own drone going, ‘I’m going to film this!’ And I told him, ‘Sorry, man, it’s over,’ and he didn’t believe me, so he took his drone out and wasted 20 minutes looking for it. But yeah. It was tense trying to keep up with the batteries.”

And that’s a fact

Ryan’s favourite fact about great white sharks is that while we often call them cold blooded killers, that’s not the case – which is something he explains at length in Shark vs Whale. “When you live down in the cold water and swim and surf down here, you realise it gets really cold, particularly during winter. And one of the things that fascinates me is how these great whites can be such high-speed ambush predators whilst being – you’d think – a cold-blooded species. But what science has found is that they’ve got this really cool counter current blood system in which their cold blood goes past the warm blood, which is coming from their heart area, and it warms it up, which allows them to elevate their body temperature. It’s good enough to make them a powerful, fast, effective predator in cold temperate waters. They’re almost as good as mammals at regulating their body temperature.”

A shiver of sharks

Here’s a day-by-day playlist of all the shark shows coming your way in July…


Caught In The Act, Act V: Cannibal Shark

Sharks don’t raise their young and they don’t do family reunions. In fact, it’s often a shark-eat-shark world – right from the womb. Professor Mark Meekan from the Australian Institute for Marine Science, reveals how that happens, along with footage of one great white nearly biting another one in half. 
Watch on Saturday, 4 July on National Geographic (DStv 181) at 14:00 


Great Shark Chow Down

Scientists introduce footage of five fascinating feeding frenzies. 700 great reef sharks surround one diver at night. While in another frenzy, 300 black tips, dusky sharks and bronze sharks massacre a school of fish. And the carcass of a whale attracts 200 blue sharks for a feast. Ding, dong, dinner time! 
Watch on Saturday, 4 July on National Geographic (DStv 181) at 14:50 


Operation: Sharklift

Noumea harbour in the island of New Caledonia, off the coast of Australia, was the location of a world-first effort at relocating local bull sharks (who’d become problematic after years of hand feeding by tourists) to the safer waters of a nearby coral reef where they could lean to hunt for themselves again. See how a team of scientists, led by Dr Laurent Vigliola and Australian shark scientist Dr Will Robbins, caught, lifted and transported each shark to its new home. 
Watch on Saturday, 4 July on National Geographic (DStv 181) at 15:40 


When Sharks Attack: Cape Jaws

Cape Cod in the US was a favoured summer resort until 2012 when sharks attacked a body surfer. Over the next three years, four more people were attacked. Shark experts Dr Greg Skomal and Dr Dan Huber dig into why – 80 years after the last recorded attack – there was suddenly blood in the water.  
Watch on Saturday, 4 July on National Geographic (DStv 181) at 16:30


Eyewitness Shark Attack: Great White Sharks

Researchers examine viral footage of great white shark attacks to help us understand more about how they live, hunt and feed. In one heart-pounding moment, a shark even lunges out of the sea in an attempt to attack biologist Dr Greg Skomal. 
Watch on Saturday, 4 July on National Geographic (DStv 181) at 17:15


Eyewitness Shark Attack: Facing Jaws

Experts look at shark encounter footage captured by amateurs to assess whether sharks see humans as a prey species, and to analyse what is happening during the different attacks.  
Watch on Saturday, 4 July on National Geographic (DStv 181) at 18:05


When Sharks Attack: Four Strike Hammer

In 2019, over the space of two months, four separate shark attacks on humans were recorded on the North Carolina coastline in the US. Scientists wonder whether climate change is affecting sharks’ ranges, pushing them into new territory.  
Watch on Sunday, 5 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00 


When Sharks Attack: Hawaiian Terror

Tourist hotspot Maui in Hawaii recorded 16 shark attacks between 2012 and 2013 – 3 times the annual average. The beaches are a favourite among tiger sharks and humans for the same reason – a large, well-protected shallow ocean shelf.  
Watch on Sunday, 5 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:45


When Sharks Attack: In Shallow Water

Two spikes in shark attacks in North Carolina and Virginia, 10 years apart, have locals and tourists baffled and terrified. Scientists look at where the sharks come from, where they vanish to, and why they suddenly start attacking humans.  
Watch on Sunday, 5 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 19:35 

America’s Deadliest Sharks

The waters around the United States are home to over 175 species of shark – and the location of more shark attacks every year than any other place on Earth.  
Watch on Monday, 6 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00 

What the Shark

Sharks thrive everywhere from the shallows to the depths of the ocean at 2438m (8000 feet). This doccie looks at the extreme adaptations that different species’ bodies have undergone in order to exploit these niches. Meet bizarro sharks like the Goblin shark – the oldest living shark species on Earth – and other denizens of the deep.  
Watch on Tuesday, 7 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00 


When Sharks Attack: 10 Minutes Of Terror

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is flooded by tourists during the holiday season. On 14 June 2012, 4 swimmers suffered shark bites in the space of just 10 minutes. Now a team of investigators are looking into the incident.  
Watch on Saturday, 11 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00

When Sharks Attack: Red Terror

In December 2010, Egypt’s paradise Sharm El Sheikh turned into a bloodbath, with 5 shark attacks and 1 fatality in less than 1 week. The spree caught everyone off-guard and led to insane claims – like that foreign powers were sending robot sharks to destabilise the tourism industry. When dead sheep also started washing onshore, investigators got serious about connecting the dots.  
Watch on Sunday, 12 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00


3-Headed Shark Attack [MOVIE]

A mutated, three-headed, great white shark targets a cruise ship and an underwater research facility, but 2 biologists escape the rampage to sound the alarm. This film has everything – Claws star Karrueche Tran, Danny Trejo lashing at the shark with a machete… and the 3-headed shark with half-eaten victims screaming from inside its mouths! This shark can do it all. It can breach its giant body out of the water to do flips in the air, it can thrust itself onto a beach to enjoy a human buffet, and it can snatch a man right off a toilet. Stupid in all the right ways. A classic.  
Watch on Monday, 13 July on Studio Universal (DStv 112) at 21:45


Shark vs Surfer

Marine biologists Ryan Johnson and Dr Steven Kajuira provide insight on why and when sharks attack surfers in this documentary that travels around the world to meet shark attack survivors.  
Watch on Tuesday, 14 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00

World’s Biggest Tiger Shark

Emmy Award-winning cinematographer Andy Casagrande and marine biologist Kori Garza dive with Tahiti’s tiger sharks as they search French Polynesia for the world’s largest living tiger shark, Kamakai. And for the first time ever, they record co-operative hunting tactics between two juvenile tiger sharks. 
Watch on Wednesday 15 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00


Megalodon [MOVIE]

Diver and Naval Captain Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) is asked to help recover a scientific research vessel from the bottom of the Mariana Trench. But the ocean isn’t the only threat. The sub is also being attacked by a giant prehistoric shark and Jonas’s ex-wife is aboard the sub. Choices, choices. Based on Steve Alten's Meg: A Novel Of Deep Terror. 
Watch on Wednesday, 15 July on Studio Universal (DStv 112) at 21:45


Shark vs Whale

Marine biologist Ryan Johnson captures unique drone footage of a great white shark methodically attacking, weakening and drowning a humpback whale that’s been weakened by being caught in fishing lines. The documentary delves into what Ryan was able to establish about great whites based on the encounter. “The premiere of Shark vs Whale, which was shot off the coast of South Africa, promises to reveal a whole new side of these incredible creatures” said Evert van der Veer, Vice President, Media Networks, The Walt Disney Company Africa.  
Watch on Friday, 17 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00


Dam Sharks [MOVIE]

A violent storm drives a shiver of bull sharks up a river where they find some delicious salmon and not-so-tasty resort employees to snack on. With so much food roaming free, the sharks wonder why they should go back to the great, dark empty ocean, and they set about constructing a dam with the human dinner leftovers. 
Watch on Friday, 17 July on Studio Universal (DStv 112) at 21:45

When Sharks Attack: Cape Terror

Over the last decade alone, there have been 27 shark attacks in South Africa’s Western Cape, 11 of them fatal. Experts look at what makes the bays around Cape Town a shark paradise.  
Watch on Saturday, 18 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00

When Sharks Attack: Tropical Terror

Between 2013 and 2015, there were 9 recorded shark attacks in the waters around Hawaii’s Big Island. Experts gather to figure out what’s been causing the spike in shark encounters. Is it simply a numbers game, or has something gone missing from the food chain?  
Watch on Sunday, 19 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00


Deep Blue Sea [MOVIE]

The one and only – one of the best movies ever about giant, genetically engineered, super-intelligent eating machines. An all-star cast including Samuel L Jackson, Saffron Burrows, Thomas Jane, LL Cool J and Stellan Skarsgård get picked off one by one as they slowly figure out that the escaped research subject shark is orchestrating a way to get them all into the water so that it can escape and feast. The motivational speech moment is truly memorable.  
Watch on Sunday, 19 July on TNT (DStv 137) at 20:00


Most Wanted Sharks

Marine biologist and shark-suit inventor Jeremiah Sullivan explores the stories of the most sensational sharks of all time. These celeb sharks have their own followers, internet pages and mystique.  
Watch on Monday, 20 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00



Shark scientist Dr Michael Heithaus looks into what attracts sharks to volcanic islands around the globe. “If we didn’t have these volcanic features but we had an open ocean, we’d have a few species of sharks out there but not a whole ton of them. But by creating new land that brings nutrients, concentrates lots of food that brings a lot of different sharks and by having that shallow water, it creates spaces where other species that are kind of small can hide from bigger sharks,” says Michael.  
Watch on Tuesday, 21 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00

Zero Shark Thirty

The most famous Navy SEAL in the world, the man who killed Osama Bin Laden, Robert J O’Neill is fascinated by sharks, and now he’s getting into the water with great whites.  
Watch on Wednesday, 22 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00

When Sharks Attack: Small Town Siege

Experts must act fast as news of shark attacks threatens to scare tourists away from small beach towns that rely on their summer income to make it through the winter.  
Watch on Thursday, 23 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00

When Sharks Attack: Nightmare In The Northeast

Devastating attacks in both New York and Cape Cod in 2018 have the experts baffled. The most important question on their minds has to do with whether the spate of shark encounters is a one-off, or the start of a seasonal trend.  
Watch on Friday, 24 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00

When Sharks Attack: Blood In The Water

The Bahamas’ 2019 summer season was wrecked when beachgoers were attacked by sharks in 3 separate incidents. One death later and the islands’ $1 billion tourism industry was on the line. Officials and scientists have to explore how to keep both people and sharks safe.  
Watch on Saturday, 25 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00

When Sharks Attack: World’s Shark Capital

Florida in the United States is “the shark attack capital of the world”. And one stretch of coastline near New Smyrna Beach is the site of more shark attacks than anywhere else on Earth. Experts investigate which species are holidaying in Florida or just passing through, and uncover a shocking fact about what could be driving the attacks.  
Watch on Sunday, 26 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00

When Sharks Attack: New England Nightmare

Shark attacks have risen dramatically around Cape Cod in the US recently, and Massachusetts had a shark bite fatality for the first time in 80 years. Now officials and scientists must weigh up the right sort of advice to give the public to avoid more tragedies – and that means studying the causes of the rise in attacks.  
Watch on Sunday, 26 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:45

Sharks vs Dolphins: Blood Battle

Specialists in shark and dolphin interactions are headed to Shark Bay, Australia to study the secrets of shark and dolphin combat. The bay’s bottlenose dolphins have been studied for since the early 1980s, and over 70% of them carry scars from shark encounters, particularly from tiger sharks. The two share a home and prey and are adapting their behaviour to one another.  
Watch on Tuesday, 28 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00

When Sharks Attack: The Last Resort

Experts answer the call as shark attacks spike in the waters off The Seychelles and Reunion Island. Again, the tourism economy means prioritising ways in which humans and sharks can safely co-exist.  
Watch on Wednesday, 29 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00

When Sharks Attack: I Shouldn't Be Alive

Shark attack victims from the Texas coast and Oregon share their stories of survival. Could a common factor link attacks taking place on opposite coasts of the US?  
Watch on Thursday, 30 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00

When Sharks Attack: Great White Spike

In 2011, great white sharks started attacking beachgoers in California and Australia at an alarming rate. Scientists must figure out why, whether shark numbers are booming, or whether there are other causes for the rise in encounters.  
Watch on Friday, 31 July on National Geographic Wild (DStv 182) at 18:00

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