Kimon “Kiki” Bisogno, 39, was a restauranteur, yoga teacher, and activist for homeless people.
She and her family had travelled 300 miles from their home in Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay to recharge over the bank holiday weekend.
Shortly before 8am on Sunday (25 September), she entered the water for a swim.
She was attacked by a shark about 50 metres from the shore after she drifted into a two-metre-deep channel of water, according to Bruce Noble, a former NSRI lifeboatman on the Plett Shark Action Committee.
The attack happened in sight of her husband Diego Milesi and five-year-old daughter, The Telegraph reports.
Witnesses said the water surrounding the attack “turned red” and that people on the beach had begun screaming.
Her body, which was found by rescuers about 50 yards away from the location of the attack, will undergo a post-mortem examination ahead of an inquest into her death.
Ms Bisogno and her husband met on holiday in Ibiza 13 years ago, and had opened up Ferdinando’s Pizza restaurant and takeaway in Cape Town.
They cooked meals for homeless people every week through their scheme Obs Pasta Kitchen.
Mr Milesi said in a video posted on Facebook: “Our love story goes back 13 years. I couldn’t speak English. You couldn’t speak Italian. But we connected through cooking”.
Gabriela Pena wrote: “My beautiful cousin Kimon Bisogno. Your light and laughter was infectious and contagious.
“We will never forget your kindness and unfailing spirit. Rest with the angels incredible woman.
“Our hearts go out to all of our family and friends who had the honour of loving her. We â¤ï¸ you.”
Close friend Carmin Commins wrote: “I have scrolled through your page over and over again and hoping that it is a mistake.
“... The world truly lost a bright shining light and pure soul who left happiness, laughter, glitter and kindness where ever you went. You were so genuine with so much love in your heart.”
Another friend, Gabrielle Alberts, wrote: “Such sad news. I will remember your joyous, infectious laugh forever. RIP Kimon – too good for this earth”.
Activist group Ndifuna Ukwazi tweeted: “Kiki was passionate & on the ground in working with people experiencing homelessness.
“She sought real solutions to homelessness so that their feeding scheme Obs Pasta would no longer be needed and actively supported Rainbow House (long-term housing) to establish and sustain itself.”
The fatal shark attack was the second of its kind in three months at the resort and the third in 11 years.
The Bitou Municipality, which manages the beach, has shut down the bay for several days and instructed lifeguards to keep tourists out of the water.