Diving With Great White Sharks
You're on a boat, out at sea.
The sweet sea breeze tickling your nose, as the swell gently seesaws the deck beneath your feet. You rise, you fall, rise and fall... like being cradled to sleep by the sympathetic arms of the tide.
You can hear seagulls singing in the distance and the calming beat of the waves rhythmically kissing the side of the vessel. The ocean top is glistening; reflecting rays of sunshine and turning it into golden fairy dust. The sky put on his best blue shirt and is flaunting it with confidence.
You take a second to close your eyes and embrace the moment; the scents, the sounds, the movement, the peace and the calm.
It truly is a perfect day to be out on the water.
You're making new friends, chatting away with a lovely couple from somewhere half-way across the world and suddenly your delightful exchange of wanderlusts is disrupted by that pulse-pinching five letter word.
"S H A R K !"
Normally that would frighten me and I'd be frozen still as steel. However, this time was a little different. this time I was instead filled with a rush of excitement... adrenaline bubbling out as a nervous smile and light giggle as I frantically looked around with growing curiosity.
I'd never even seen a shark in real life before. Well, that's a lie. I'd been to the aquarium with my school when I was younger, and I'd seen small reef sharks on my adventures before, and we even stumbled across a washed-up juvenile nurse shark while 4WD-ing along the shoreline one time when I was little. But I'd never seen a full sized, alive, moving, WILD shark. A Great White! Like the kind that you imagine when you think of a freaky fish nightmare. And the kind you certainly don't want to casually bump into while swimming alone. Without a cage that is.
This time we had a cage though. We had a cage and thick wetsuits (complete with sexy hoods) and warm booties and dive masks. We were equipped with our GoPros and waterproof cameras and were actually HOPING to see a shark! And today, we'd hit the jackpot!
Here's a little story for you.
When I was younger, I HATED the beach.
I don't say that lightly. I hated everything about it. I would cry and kick and scream and throw tantrums because I hated it so much. IF my parents could ever get me on the sand, I would sit there and not move the entire time. Hours on hours I would sit there being a grumpy, ungrateful child and impatiently wait for my brothers and Dad to finish playing happily in the surf so we could leave that dreaded place.
I hated the sand and the way it sneakily found its way into every hole, crack and crevice in my body. I hated the salt and the way it made everything thick and sticky. I hated the smell, the taste, the feel — all of it! But most of all, the things that I despised and feared more than anything else in the world, was the waves and the SHARKS!
My fear was so irrational and unwarranted that I wouldn't even be able to put my toes in the water! It must've been SO embarrassing for my family because I remember some of the weird, (clearly imagined) things I would believe and say/scream; all the things that could go wrong and all the reasons why I SHOULDN'T go in the ocean.
We are blessed enough to have always lived very close to the beach, and to have been involved in outdoor sports such as Surf Life Saving. But my fear and irrational thinking got to the point where it was so debilitating, my parents were so concerned and worried, that I actually had hypnotherapy as a kid to combat my fear.
Thankfully it worked! Because nowadays I find complete peace, calm and solace in the salt, sand and sea! There really is no place I feel safer or more comfortable or most at home! And I seem to appreciate the ocean more and more each day! My love grows the more I learn, not just about the ocean but also about the creatures that live within it ... including sharks!
So yes, I used to be TERRIFIED of sharks. I had an unhealthy and irrational fear of them to say the least! But nowadays I find them so intriguing and beautiful. (I feel like they are very misunderstood creatures about whom we commonly hold false fears and beliefs. Fact and myth can get so intertwined in movies and even mainstream media.) So of course I wanted to dive with them if, or when, I was given the opportunity! I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
Were they really as horrible and hair-raising as they are made out to be?
We were in South Africa (Gansbaai to be precise), the Great White Shark capital of the world!
We had booked a caged shark dive, ate breakfast and had a cup of something warm and soul soothing, then headed out to sea. We were told the water was 12℃ and (I'm not sure if it we were being brave or stupid or just too excited to care) we got changed into swimmers and wetsuits.
We were group number three of three (about five in each group).
Group one had a playful juvenile GW (Great White) shark approach in a cool manner and then withdraw, seemingly unconcerned by the boat, the people or anything really. He was just being him. I felt like yelling "You go, Glen Coco!", but decided it was definitely not the right time. Nor the place....
The second group had a HUGE GW hanging about. He was curious and didn't hesitate to come in close for a better view. He hung about for a while, swimming around the boat a few times, disappearing and then coming back for another look around every now and then. This shark was swimming around with some fish beneath the cage for ages so the crew helped swap group two out and drop us group three people in.
It was freezing to say the least. And every single bit of my body and mind was telling me not to get in the freezing cold water because only someone crazy would do that. But I rejected my instincts, slipped my mask over my eyes, slid feet first into the water and held onto the cage to await further instruction. It didn't take long, maybe a second or two which I used to adjust my breathing and to comprehend what I was actually doing! And the crew master yelled out to look under the water (which sounds easy, but it is so much harder than you think!). However, once your head disappears below the surface; once fully submerge, you see things in a whole new perspective. You see things from THEIR position. And you gain a whole new admiration and understanding for such an impressive animal.
Yes, they are wild, incredibly powerful and impressively large (with teeth to match!) but they are also beautiful, agile and free. They are in their element, they move with force and confidence and truly seem like the kings of the ocean. Being a wild animal, this one decided to show us just how temperamental and unpredictable sharks can be. He put on a bit of a show, showed us his speed and impressive skills, and we hopped out after a few minutes because we'd probably outstayed our welcome.
I don't condone animal abuse or cruelty, I don't think animals should be kept in cages or captivity for others' entertainment and I certainly would never do anything to intentionally hurt another being. Which is actually why we chose the company we did. Because they are all about the protection, care and education of these animals. Not only is the dive an eye-opening experience, but it is also very informative and educational. The guides tell you lots of facts and information that you probably previously didn't know, and ensure that the procedures they follow are as safe and non-disruptive to the sharks as possible. They don't feed the sharks or intentionally irritate them, but they do throw things like inflatable buoys attached to rope off the buoy to encourage the shark to come in for a closer look (apparently the shadows the buoys create intrigue them). This may seem wrong to some people, and that's okay! I was a little questioning and unsure at first too. But after doing the dive, and experiencing what I did, I would highly recommend it to anyone and everyone! It is such a great way to gain a new appreciation for sharks, and definitely eliminates some of the unrealistic and unwarranted fear attached through media and television these days.
Without a doubt, it was one of the best experiences of my life! And I definitely recommend it to anyone who is considering it or gets the opportunity!
However, DEFINITELY do your research first! I was told that there are some very dodgy companies out there. Some who are unsafe and others who don't necessarily have the sharks' best interests at heart. Just be sure to keep that in mind when selecting a company or boat :)
Oh, and DEFINITELY take a warm jacket!
P.S. The company served up hot vegetable soup afterwards and I need to give the chef a shout out because it was DEEEEE-LICIOUS!!
Love and Light,
* Results from BAM may vary. Strict adherence to the program is required for best results.