Shark Bait

It is ironic how you feel most alive when your heart skips a few beats.

Thursday was a long day filled with back to back meetings and the late flight from Cape Town to Durban. Our destination was the Shoal. There is nothing quite like arriving at a sea view room with Ouma beskuit after such a long day. It was bliss.

(Disclaimer, my camera broke thus all the shark photos has been taken by Aliwal Shoal Dive Center).

Aliwal dive center is known for its hospitality and reefs, but most of all for their shark dives amidst tiger, bull, ragged-tooth or oceanic blacktip sharks. My family was setting out for a reef dive while I was getting ready for my baited shark dive. My dad’s logic was that he free dive with enough sharks when he goes spearfishing that he doesn’t need to seek them out while scuba diving. For the first time since I’ve booked the dive, I felt the slightest bit of fear.

We jumped onto a bumpy 20-minute boat ride after launching in the river mouth. I quite enjoyed it, but a few divers were hanging over the rails. There were already sharks circling due to bait that has been set out prior to our arrival.

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I am well aware that Blacktip sharks are deep-sea fish living further away from shore. Although these baited dives attract them and influencing their natural behavior I honestly believe that it’s for the best because it protects them from the Chinese fishing boats further offshore catching everything in their wake. Since the Shoal became a marine protected area with scuba divers looking out for the marine life the population of black tips actually increased noticeably.

Colbie, one of our self-proclaimed diving angels, asked us: “Can you hear the song – Duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum duh-dum duh-dum!”

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After Colbie finished the Jaws-song he reminded us why we are diving among sharks without cages, some known for being dangerously unpredictable like tigers and bull sharks; “We dive without cages among these creatures to convey the message that they are not to be feared and killed just because they are not understood. As we enter their territory we are respectful of their space, we are after all in their territory. We keep our hands close to our chests as to not draw unwanted attention to flickering movements that can be mistaken for fish. We are not on the menu.”

The countdown down started three, two, – my heart skipped a few beats – one – not out of fear but out of excitement. On the word “go” I rolled backward and sunk into the fins breaking the surface beneath me. Fear is overrated and only as deep as the mind allows.

As I sank into the depths all I could think was how beautiful these magnificent creatures are. It looked like they were painted there as they moved gracefully through the water and started circling us. At one-point, Tristen signaled me to turn around. I did so slowly and just in time for a 2m black tip to swim over me, its belly grazing my mask. We also saw a black tip covered in gut and it broke my heart. Our diving angels tried to free it off as much of the gut as possible, but he was to fast for them to free him of all of it. If we don’t protect out reefs there will soon be no reefs left to protect.

Among some manoras and kings, there was also a humongous Potato bass that came out to play. I was so amused by this big curious fellow that I lost sight of my group. The one thing you probably don’t want to do is find yourself all alone in shark-infested water. I swam in a slow circle to see if I could spot any divers – nothing. Luckily I heard the boat. Not ready for my dive to be over I swam in the general direction of the boat and almost immediately saw bubbles in the distance. It was Tristen, one of our other diving angels, swimming towards me. My biggest regret is that my camera broke. This was truly an experience and adventure I would have liked to capture on video.

“You guys are crazy! Swimming in shark-infested water. Totally crazy!” But Colby, my diving angel, all the best people are 😉

XOXO

A Dive Addict

P.S. Sharks aren’t so bad… If a stranger comes into my house wearing a speedo I would probably attack him too.

 

 

4 thoughts on “Shark Bait

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