What is on your Bucket List? Within the space of a week, I managed to cross the two biggest critters off mine: mixing with the magnificent manta rays at Stradbroke Island and playing peek-a-boo with a Great White Shark called Bubbles and his sharkey friends in the Neptune Islands, South Australia. (Even terminal illness has its silver linings 🙂 )
I’m not sure when I first became fascinated by sharks, but over the past few years I’ve been privileged to do some of the best shark dives in the world. In recent months, my biggest fear in life had been about sharks. While I loved the intimacy of reef sharks feeding just 3 metres from where I sat at Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea and close encounters with bull sharks, lemon sharks, nurse sharks and more at Beqa in Fiji, I had become completely petrified by the idea of some day lying on my death bed without having ever had a close encounter with a great white shark.
Usually I share my underwater adventures with Spunky Abe or LP, but being recently ‘retired’ due to my significant health challenges means that now I’m pretty much in a position to board a plane for a solo adventure at insanely short notice. In this instance, I flew home from mantas on Monday, hit the internet on Tuesday to look for an opportunity to dive with Great Whites, and flew to Port Lincoln on Friday to make it happen! On this trip, I was in excellent company, as can be seen above with fellow adventurer Chad and shark expert Andrew Fox, and with Predapix shark photographer extraordinaire Sam Cahir (photobombing me – holding the camera that underwater film maker Chris Selman kindly let me borrow after mine flooded *groan* – in Andrew’s photo below):
Despite being chronically seasick for the first forty eight hours of the expedition, Dives 290-295 (one with the sea lions, one surface cage dive and three ocean floor dives with the infamous great whites) reminded me of stories about women who forget their labour pains immediately after first laying eyes upon the tiny fingers of their newborn child. Every time I feel the endless rocking of a boat on the ocean’s constantly unsettled surface, I promise myself that I will never subject my body to such vile seasickness again. But one look into the face of some Gorgeous Big Ocean Critter and all bets are off. How could anyone resist those deep, dark eyes? Those dorsal fins? Those sharp rows of teeth? And within minutes of being back on dry land, I’m already scouring the world for my next underwater adventure.
Yes, I’m aware of the debates surrounding cage diving, but I would not at this stage of life risk whatever time I have remaining swimming in the open water with Great Whites. As I was editing this video today, I had documentaries from ‘Shark Week’ running constantly in the background. I was not at all surprised to learn that the Great Whites of New Zealand are considered to be more aggressive than elsewhere in the world. I can only think that cage diving in South Australia and South Africa facilitates some sort of controlled familiarity between the two species that allows both to benefit from mutual curiosity. I was privileged to film one shark having its tumour biopsied which I will share with you in a future post, and I am so encouraged that the adventure company I dived with demonstrates genuine concern and conducts valuable research in the interests of the sharks it helps eco-tourists to interact with.
Until recently, the next big creature encounter on my Bucket List was to pat a tiger, but the following video (posted on Facebook yesterday by my friend Debbie) has challenged my conscience and compelled me to cross this off my list without doing it at all:
Of all encounters that people can have with animals, at least in visiting the Great White Sharks, it is the human who briefly occupies the cage while the wild beast roams free in its natural environment. If we wish to see these magnificent creatures in the wild, cage diving is the only sensible way for most people to achieve this, and it is an experience that I would recommend for divers and non-divers alike. Whenever we enter the water, we accept the risks and we respect the creatures we meet in all their exquisite diversity and fierce majesty. For me, cage diving is the underwater equivalent of an African safari, and one that I feel enormously privileged to have taken.
Once again, my sincere thanks to Andrew Fox for every one of the incredible photos attached to this post, and for making it possible for me to come up-close-and-personal with these beautiful wild animals in their underwater world. For these and all sharks, I am in awe without fear, and my heart overflows with undying love and absolute respect.
Love and a great white shark named Bubbles,
ps Tanks so much for taking the time to read through this post. Please check out some more of the underwater adventures on my blog while you are here …
pps And don’t forget to follow Pink Tank Scuba on Facebook! 😀