‘Call me immediately’, my mother had texted after seeing a picture of Great white shark, that I had posted on Facebook. I had forgotten that my mother was on my Facebook friends list.
Angrily my mother had asked, “Are you going there to see a fish?” Fortunately, she had thought I was only going on a boat trip that would take me to a place to see the Great White Shark a.k.a ‘Bruce‘ from the movie ‘Finding Nemo’.
Great White Sharks
Great White Shark is a species of shark found in the coastal waters of all major oceans. They are noted for their size and are generally around 3 to 5 feet in length. They are the biggest and powerful predators of the Ocean.
Cage diving with Great White Sharks
- Tour Company: Calypso Star Charters
- Booking website: http://www.sharkcagediving.com.au
- Tour Name: One day Great White Shark tour
- Cost: AUD 495 (USD 371)
A night before the boat trip
I had reached Port Lincoln in South Australia and was staying at YHA Port Lincoln, which is a pretty cool place to stay. I had come down with a fever and running nose, so I had gone to bed very early.
My friend Saira, back in Sydney, was at a Karaoke event that night. She was constantly messaging me with all the updates and the fun she was having. In turn, I had sent her a YouTube video of Bruce from the movie Nemo. Even though on one side I had thought that I had missed out on the fun of being at Karaoke, I had consoled myself thinking about my crazy adventure the following day.
On the day of the boat trip
We were picked up very early, at about 6:20 AM, from the YHA and were driven to a Wharf. There were other people who had reached before us and were waiting for the boat. It was still dark and the sun had not risen. I was irritated as I still had a bit of fever but still managed to take a picture.
After a systematic check of all the participants by the crew of Calypso Star Charters, we boarded the boat. The staff and crew were extremely friendly and warm. We were welcomed with hot coffee and tea with some cookies.
Since I speculated the sea sickness, I decided to head up to the open deck. The morning skyscape was spectacular. The wind blowing from the Southern Ocean were freezing and the cold pierced through the skin. But I stay put.
One of the crew members came upstairs to the deck with the shark jaws and provided the opportunities to the participants to take photographs.
We were all asked to finish the paperwork and were briefed with what was expected throughout the day and the security aspects of the trip. The participants who were doing the cage dive were divided into 6 groups with at least 6-8 people in each group. I was in the 6th group which was the last one. Yes, I had been greedy and I was one of the participants who was doing the cage dive.
After driving for about 2 hours from the Wharf, the boat was stopped in the middle of nowhere and the crew members (precisely three of them) prepared themselves. On the way we had spotted some dolphins.
The huge massive cage that could hold about 10 people was dropped into the ocean. The cage was still attached to the boat. There was a ladder that went down from the deck to the bottom of the cage. The top of the cage had the oxygen regulators attached. The cage had vertical and horizontal bars around, except the middle portion of the cage. It had no vertical bars and we were briefed that sometimes the sharks do come close to that empty portions and we were not allowed to put any part of our bodies outside the cage.
Group 1 had gotten ready and had gone into the cage one by one with oxygen regulators in their mouths. The first crew member helped every participant getting into the cage. The second crew member hooked dead raw tunas (which was pretty disgusting to see) to a large fishing hook and threw it into the ocean. The third crew member took pictures of the participants.
All the preps were done. It was time for the Great Whites to arrive. We waited. There was pin drop silence. The excitement was building up. Where are these guys! I thought. My fever was nowhere near me by then. All I knew was this was the moment. There was nothing more in the World that I wanted than these guys to arrive at that time.
But there was no action.
After about 20 minutes, the second crew member pulled the fishing hook back from the ocean and threw it back again making a big splash on the water. There was silence again. Another 15 minutes passed by. And every one of us were getting impatient.
Suddenly we saw a fin, pop out of water (Wooohooo!). Everyone screamed with joy – the joy of seeing the Ocean’s biggest predator. That was the first time.
Two more minutes passed by.
The shark took a leap at the tuna and the jaws of the shark was above the water, exposed for all the photographers on board. Click click click! I had heard in the background.
Oh-my-God! What a sight that was! I was overwhelmed. This was the moment I had been waiting for so long. A moment which I had planned to experience from the time I had landed in Australia.
Group 1 spent about 30 to 40 more minutes under water and it was Group 2’s turn to go in. All the groups took turns and went into the cage. This took the entire day till late afternoon. And about 3 to 4 Great whites had joined the show. I took lots of pictures from above the water and I loved each one of them. I was obsessed with the pictures.
Finally, it was my time to go inside the cage. I wore the wet suits, excited stood right in the front. People from the earlier groups had advised me to go first to get the best views of the action. The third crew member flashed her camera and took a picture of the group. I had my Go-Pro tied to my wrist. I wanted to record all the action under water.
The first crew member called out and asked me to get down the ladder inside the cage. Yaay, it was perfect. I have done many scuba dives and I am not scared of water or going into the ocean. And this was in a cage, so we were protected from the Great Whites. What could have gone wrong? Nothing-absolutely nothing.
I took the two or three steps into water and as the water rose my waist I panicked. I panicked because I was getting inside a closed small enclosure. It was a cage. I am a bit claustrophobic and that explains why. I couldn’t go any further and could not fight my fear, I was almost in tears.
Well seeing my panic, the first crew member asked me to step out so other participants could go in. Frustrated with myself, I stepped out. Others went in one by one without any problems. How could this happen? I cursed myself. I reiterated to myself – This is it! This was the moment where I had to take a decision – fight against my fear. After some reassurances, I said out loud ‘No, I was not giving up.’ I went up to the first crew member and said I was ready to try again.
My heart was beating fast as I went down the ladder. I took my time and I went down slowly – very slowly. I could hear my heart beats, they were so loud. Stepping inside the cage, I had slowly descended and taken the last step of the ladder. I was still in shock and I had forgotten about the Great Whites. After my body accustomed to the cold freezing water and I regained my consciousness, I realised that my left hand was out of the cage – for good 30 to 40 seconds. How stupid of me! Well, I immediately pulled my hand inside and was grateful that the Shark had not found my hand and taken a bite of it (Don’t tell my mother about it, please!).
Once I was settled in the cage, there was no looking back. The Great Whites under water looked massive and beautiful. They swam around the cage casually and did not bother much about the people in the cage. What an experience that was! I took lots of videos – all bad ones as I was too spellbound.
This experience will always be very close to my heart. I had tried my best to fight my fear and had done the dive. There was no friend or any known person around me to have held me at the time of panic. I had held my own self and I had overcome my fear. So this will always be a special experience.