In the South African winter great white sharks patrol the seal covered islands that lie off Cape Town. When the sun is low they hunt the seals by stealth, attacking them from below with such force they sometimes leap clean into the air – a behaviour known as breaching.
From the air we could see the dark outline of the sharks as they swam under the surface, waiting for the seals
It is probably the best known behaviour of any shark – and the most spectacular.
But as it lasts less than a second and can happen anywhere, it is a real challenge to capture on camera.
We had a boat out from first light with both a high speed camera and an ultra HD camera trained on the seals in the hope of catching it. But we also wanted to film this hunt from the air, as it is a perspective that has never been seen before.
For an hour every morning a helicopter with a gyro-stabilised camera scoured the sea, looking for groups of seals returning to the islands after feeding in the open ocean. From the air we could also see the dark outline of the sharks as they swam under the surface, waiting for the seals.
They did look very ominous.
If the shark missed on the first breach then the odds moved in favour of the seal. From the helicopter we could see that the seal’s strategy was to stay near the tail of the shark and then at the last minute make a dash for safety.
The seal was more agile – but the shark more powerful. They made for a well matched pair and it was the most incredible hunt I had ever witnessed.
Steve Greenwood is the series producer for 'Shark', a new three-part BBC/Discovery coproduction series that begins airing in the UK on BBC One on Thursday 7 May at 20:55 BST. It will be broadcast in other countries at a later date.