Shark Documentaries

Apex Shark Expeditions and Chris Fallows have featured on the many shark documentaries on the Natural History Channels with Apex being the first choice for virtually any serious shark orientated documentary in South Africa.

The Air Jaws series is our flagship of Shark documentaries with over 20 years of exposure on Discovery.

How Air Jaws Started

Discovery Channel sought to educate the public about the plight of sharks around the world through public service announcements with partner organizations Oceana, Ocean Conservancy and The Pew Charitable Trust. The PSAs aired each night during primetime, informing viewers about threats currently facing plummeting shark populations.
Prior to 2000 not many people believed that Great white sharks could launch themselves completely out of the water.
In 2000, producer Jeff Kurr of Discovery’s Shark Week, traveled to South Africa hoping to be the first to capture the incredible hunting techniques of the Great white sharks that inhabit Seal Island, False Bay.
To feed on seals, the Great white sharks have the ability to breach the water’s surface. Going airborne, the 2000-pound hunters grab their prey while lifting their bodies entirely out of the water, an amazing feat seldom seen on television until Jeff Kurr and Shark Week’s Air Jaws Series properly captured the phenomenon.
Working on Discovery’s Shark Week for 20 years, Kurr traveled regularly to False Bay, South Africa thereafter to capture these jumping sharks together with shark expert, Chris Fallows.
Colossus - Breaching for Jeff Kurr

The Air Jaws Phenomenon

To be able to capture the Great white shark breaching behavior from so many different angles has meant much time spent in the field. One of the key successes has however been to make use of extremely valuable information on the Seal Island area and shark behavior that the Apex Shark Expeditions crew have recorded over the last 21 years.

As technology has advanced, new cameras have allowed the jumping sharks to be filmed like never before bringing the majesty of breaching Great white sharks to those who cannot experience this in person. Images of sharks racing at full speed from the deep and catching a decoy on the surface, three different angles of sharks investigating Chris Fallows on a kayak or the unforgettable shot of a Great white breaching towards Chris on the Seal sled have become Shark Week icons.
The stakes were upped every visit by the crew being armed with new HD technology. The team used the Phantom camera, a high speed camera shooting at 2,000 frames per second, to capture every detail of a shark’s jump from the water amongst many other gadgets and contraptions.
Many of Seal Island’s now famous landmarks such as the Launch Pad, The Gallery and the infamous Ring of Death got their names during this shark documentary.

Air Jaws Timeline

The first ever helicopter breach, night time feeding and mass feeding on a whale carcass was filmed. During the whale carcass filming the unforgettable scene of Dr Rocky Strong sitting on top of the carcass whilst white sharks fed alongside was a moment many remember.

This show captured the first ever breaching shark footage from Australia as well as Ano Nuevo Island and also for the first time showed Great whites attacking decoys from underwater. One of the biggest headaches for the crew was the wait for sharks in Australia. During the three weeks in South Australia only three sharks were seen.

This show boasted many new contraptions including the seal sled that towed Chris Fallows within a few meters of breaching sharks, the yellow submarine that Chris followed sharks with underwater and aerial shots of multiple Great whites interacting with Chris on a kayak. The main feature was however the super slow motion video footage shot on the Phantom camera by Tony Sacco. This footage of breaching Great white sharks from one second in real time to almost a full minute offered viewer’s unparalleled resolution and so much detail the viewers could literally count every tooth in the shark’s mouth.

Equipped with state of the art cameras specially designed to capture the ocean’s top predator from new perspectives, the team embarked on their latest quest to seek out one shark in particular, a 14-foot Great white known as Colossus. A flat calm Seal Island day, soft golden pink light kissing the Hottentots Holland Mountains as the last rays of sun said goodbye. It was literally seconds before calling it a day and going home and then WHOOSH! a huge Great white launched vertically behind Jeff, it was Colossus, mouth agape and in full hunting mode, what an incredible end to the day and the shoot and a shot that was jawsome.

Colossus is missing in action and Chris Fallows and Jeff Kurr team up in search of the huge male Great white shark. This time Jeff had designed a one-man cage, the WASP which Chris could walk around on the seafloor much the same way Fred Flintstone walked around with a tortoise shell on his back. Another highlight was the manned floatation device called Parthenope that Dickie Chivell and Jeff Kurr designed. It resembled a large 15ft long female white shark and came complete with moving parts that could be steered and moved by Dickie whilst lying on it. The idea was to attract a huge male white shark to come and have a look at the female. We managed to get Dickie in the water on the Parthenope and sure enough we started getting the attention of several sharks.

After battling the elements and conditions in New Zealand, the crew returned to Gansbaai. This was Dickie Chivell’s time to shine as Dickie’s was towed behind the boat, in his craft dubbed the Hornet. The Hornet was for very lack of a better description, a very lightweight cage suspended below two pontoons of air. It allowed Dickie to film backwards but he had to deal with huge water pressure and limited visibility with no warning as to where and when a shark may be coming from. Over 2 hours later, out of the green a huge shark breached. We had two High definition high speed cameras, a drone, my stills and Dickie Chivell’s underwater angle. Dickie as well as all on board had nailed the spectacular breach from every conceivable angle. Amazing!
What we were trying to do had never been attempted before with Great white sharks. That was to film them hunting and breaching at night from a boat. This time we however had the advantage of incredibly low light cameras that made night time look like daytime and ironically this was our shortcoming. People compared all the shots we got with those that were shot during the day and comment “that wasn’t such a big breach” or “I’ve seen higher breaches” were common place. The fact that was missed was that everything you were seeing was shot at night. It is hard to know where a Great white shark is in the day and often difficult to spot their prey, the seals, but I can tell you at night, it is nigh on impossible.

If a Great white shark and an Orca had to do battle, who would win? Three Great white shark carcasses are washed ashore in the Gansbaai area. All three sharks were large animals and had missing livers. In late June a fourth large Great white shark was found on a Gansbaai beach, also with a missing liver. It was now crystal clear that something was intentionally killing Air Jaws…
Chris Fallows and Jeff Kurr follow the path of destruction of the two Orca, Port and Starboard’s dirty work along the Southern Cape beaches. Marine biologist, Alison Towner becomes the centre of the unfolding mystery as she performs dissections on all the deceased sharks. She begins to find clues and disturbing information behind these mysterious events begins to unravel.

With a grand total of 8 different Air Jaws Documentaries produced for Shark Week, the Air Jaws Team gathered in New Zealand to film the latest instalment. The Air Jaws franchise has been the most successful series of shows for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week so in celebration of Shark Week’s 30th Anniversary we would be putting together a highlights package of the greatest moments of Air Jaws.

Three research teams—led by shark expert Chris Fallows,  marine biologists Alison Towner and Dr Enrico Gennari dive to gauge how many Great white sharks are in Mossel Bay. This area became a hot spot for “Air Jaws” after killer orcas decimated their numbers in 2017 and scared them off their traditional hunting grounds in South Africa. With overfishing of their prey (smaller sharks) and climate change presenting additional threats, researchers worry Mossel Bay may be the last place to see sharks fly along the country’s coastline—which was once home to an estimated 1,000 great whites.

The Air Jaws team returns to Seal Rock to capture the highest breach ever recorded. Rocket Shark holds the record at 15-feet.

It’s a great white shark face off!  Sharks are competing for the highest jump, looking at their speed and the all-important hangtime to determine the winner. 

We have to do something to protect these Great white sharks because they are on the brink of annihilation,” says filmmaker Jeff Kurr. “Does Air Jaws have a chance of making a comeback?”

We’ll have to wait and see what 2022 brings…………….

Air Jaws The WASP

Get to Know Colossus

Colossus – Is he the holy grail of sharks? Few things in nature are as awe-inspiring as a fully mature male Great white shark at the peak of hunting prowess. He was first observed in 2011 when he flew over the top of Jeff Kurr who was riding on the Seal Sled. A 3,000-pound shark flying through the air gets your attention. We’d seen Colossus hanging around Seal Island in False Bay for several weeks, killing seals, munching the film crew cameras. Now many of the sharks at Seal Island are regulars. They come back at the same time every year to engage in hunting activities. When Chris and Monique Fallows told Jeff that Colossus did not return to Seal Island the following season, he started asking questions. Why would this dominant shark leave behind a banquet at Seal Island?
The Air Jaws team spent two years looking for him. The mission was simply to re-sight this animal. But finding a single shark, in a region populated by about 1,000 white sharks isn’t easy. They relied on existing data of white shark migrations and their instincts and a single clue that Colossus had left us: a deformed dorsal fin. Colossus has a dorsal like no other shark, so we knew if we spotted that dorsal, even for a second, we could positively ID this fish. Colossus is around 14 to 15 feet and 3,000 pounds He just seems really, really big when he’s flying over the top of you.

Get to Know Chris Fallows

Chris grew up going to game reserves in Africa and developed a love of wildlife from this. When he moved to the coast his love of the sea grew stronger and he started a tag-and-release program with the local fishermen, helping free sharks from nets. One day he caught a young Great White shark, and this sparked a fascination for him for Great Whites. In 1991, a research group offered him a volunteer position working with Great White sharks. In 1996, he started his own company African Shark Eco Charters. In 2000, along with his wife Monique, we split away from this company and formed Apex Shark Expeditions which focuses on the entire spectrum of sharks and wildlife in the area. In 1996 he discovered the unique breaching behaviour of sharks at Seal Island and went on to photographically document it.

In the “Air Jaws” specials, he goes to great extremes to capture footage of sharks breaching. The craziest thing he has done to get the right shot is being towed behind a vessel on a seal sled to get a seal’s view of what it is like to be hunted by a Great White. Chris Fallows has recorded more than 13,000 predatory events, so had a good idea of whether the sled would get hit.
The popularity of the “Air Jaws” series means Chris has practically become the human face of Discovery’s Shark Week.

Get to Know Dickie Chivell

Dickie Chivell doesn’t have a lot of fear when it comes to sharks. But he did have a theory, which is why he ended up on a flimsy-looking homemade decoy while multiple Great white sharks swam under him. His appearance on Shark Week from 2014-2020 has been a life changing experience and especially working with the likes of Chris Fallows, Jeff Kurr and Andy Brandy Casagrande. He is a true ambassador of marine conservation.
Chivell, a young man who grew up in the fishing town of Gansbaai, South Africa, suspected that male Great white sharks could be lured to the surface by a female decoy. So he built a 14-foot contraption, named Parthenope after a siren from Greek mythology, which mimicked the movement of a female Great white shark. Dickiel convinced Jeff Kurr and Chris Fallows, who were working on a documentary for “Shark Week,” to let him test his theory out on camera. As Chivell pilots the decoy across the water surface, the Great white sharks grow in numbers and start to show aggressive behaviour. Dickie was removed from the contraption and thereafter it was investigated by the sharks. This was the start of many hair-raising moments on Shark Week with Dickie Chivell.
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27 June 2023

Next trip 28 June

*Trip status updated daily at 16h00 SAST