Tiger Shark photos by Uwe Jacobs.
DISCOVER OUR AMBASSADOR OF THE MONTH: Morne Hardenberg
This month, meet Morne Hardenberg!
As a young boy, Morne’s playgrounds were the mysterious kelp forests of the Southern Cape, South Africa. It was during his dives there that he became aware of the ocean’s most famous inhabitant - the great white shark! What started out as natural fear towards them has turned into a love of diving, research and filming great whites as well as other ocean animals.
Morne was one of the first divers to assist the South African government in conducting great white shark research in 2001, and since then he has contributed his skills and knowledge towards helping scientists tag and track various shark species. His knowledge of animal behaviour has allowed him to get close and comfortable with these normally shy creatures.
Morne is dedicated to positively contributing to ocean sustainability and 2009 founded a diving company, Shark Explorers. The Shark Explorers team not only offers safe and environmentally responsible shark diving trips in South Africa, Mexico and the Bahamas but a portion of the profits, images and videos, are donated to local conservation organizations.
Morne’s mission is to continue exploring the ocean and its wildlife and sharing their beauty, awe and vulnerability through tourism and filming.
Discover Morne's top product picks!
Morne worked as a Dive Master and underwater cameraman in Gansbaai, South Africa, from 1999-2008. This was when he fell in love with white sharks, wanting to learn more about them and spend more time with them.
After years of learning, he realized that most people think of a white shark when the word “shark” is mentioned, but there are so many species! He made it his goal to put more people in contact with different species of shark, so more people could learn about them and protect them for the future.
In 2008, he came up with the idea of Shark Explorers and started the business from the ground up. They faced many challenges when starting up, but the team powered through and came out the other side.
Brocq Maxey has been a part of Shark Explorers since the beginning. In 2009, at the age of 18, Brocq took a gap year after school in the US, volunteering on a research boat in Cape. He arrived with great dive and boating skills, sharing the same enthusiasm as Morne for long days at sea in the sun, waiting for sharks and then experiencing special moments filming and photographing them. It was an easy decision to involve him in the organization.
The whole Shark Explorers team is passionate about sharks and the way people perceive them, that’s why their slogan is “Change your perspective”, something they have managed to help many people do over the last 15 years!
We asked Morne what intrigues him about sharks.
“I think the thing that is most intriguing about sharks is the fact that they are nothing like we thought they were 30 years ago. Back then, we thought the best shark is a dead shark, we thought that if we go in the water, the shark will eat us without thinking twice. The more we learnt and the more that sharks educated us, the more we wanted to learn about them. They’re not mindless killers, they’re complex and social. They are curious but cautious, and every shark has its own personality, just like humans.”
Morne’s favorite shark is the white shark, the one he first started working with 25 years ago, and that got him hooked on sharks!
“White sharks are intelligent; they have complex social behavior, just being around them takes your breath away.”
Have you ever been diving with sharks? As Morne says, diving with sharks is not so much about adrenalin; it’s more about a mutual respect between the diver and the shark, about coexisting and learning.
“Each species has a different reaction towards divers, and often negative interactions happen when we make the wrong move or we put the shark in a bad mood with our behavior. Sharks are predators and we must never forget this, but they are not mindless killers. As with most predators, a good tip is to always keep eye contact with the shark who is interacting with you. Never turn your back on them and do not swim away like all its prey does.”