Here Sharky Shark!
Trip Start May 20, 2010
195Trip End Sep 05, 2011
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Where I stayed
Umkomaas Dive Lodge
Day : 416
Temperature : 16 degrees, brrrrr!
Weather : Mostly clear and sunny
Instructions for the Baited Shark Dive :
1. Stay vertical in the water to avoid looking like prey.
2. Never turn your back on a shark and swim away from it as sharks may mistake this for fleeing prey.
4. Keep your arms and hands close to your body and always maintain eye contact.
5. If a shark approaches with his eyes closed and mouth open beware. Push down on his nose and he will swim below you and you will be pushed above him. If he goes for you shout very loudly through your regulator and punch him on the nose.
6. When on the surface exit the water asap.
Yes, we were feeling a tad nervous doing a baited shark dive on Aliwal Shoal only days after a shark attack on an American diver on the very same reef.
And so early morning, in freezing temperatures, we piled into the zodiac with Cobey our divemaster, Brian the owner of the dive school and Micky, our skipper. The waves were pounding the reef and as we headed towards the surf Micky declared, "hold on tight, we're gonna have to punch a few foamies!"
As Micky safely manoeuvred us over the waves we ventured out towards Aliwal Shoal, our zodiac laden with barrels full of the stinkiest, most disgusting concoction of rotting fish and blood…..this, is known as “chum”….and sharks love it
We dropped the bait over the appropriate point, taking into account the currents so the pungent aroma would waft over the reef in such a way as to attract the sharks. We then headed off to a different part of the reef to do another dive whilst the bait was stewing.
The water here is absolutely freezing! Having been used to diving in 28 degree water, 20 degrees was positively Baltic!!! Jeez, we were physically trembling with cold only minutes upon entering the water. The viz was absolutely pants, less than 5 metres and there was considerable surge which meant having to equalise every 10 seconds as we were continually swept up and down….I guess matters weren’t helped by the fact that I still had a stinking cold as was fairly congested.
We eventually reached a large overhang and out of the murky waters we saw the shapes of the Ragged Toothed Sharks…or Raggies. Aliwal Shoal is famous for it’s Raggies, and these gentle creatures seemed oblivious to our presence, slowly drifting around with surge, just as we were.
Once back on the surface we headed back to our bait which had now had sufficient time stewing under the water
The first couple of sharks were quick to appear, circling the bait. But Cobey, not content with three sharks continued to shake the bait and pull out pieces of fish into the water. Soon, we were encompassed by two dozen Black Tipped Sharks! Now these are BIG sharks. Big, bulky, strong looking sharks, and they swim close to you, in fact they touch your heads and feet as they swim past and you can even stroke them!
At one point Brian alerted Cobey to one particular shark that was becoming a problem as it repeatedly swam towards Cobey in an intimidating manner. But Cobey bravely kept eye contact with the shark, keeping calm and continually pushed the shark away every time it challenged him! Can you believe it? I was about wetting myself underwater!
After an hour watching the sharks we ended the dive just as a Tiger Shark appeared below us. We couldn’t get out of the water fast enough with over 20 black tips and a tiger below us! Ha! Once safely on the zodiac the rest of the chum was thrown over the side to attract the sharks to the surface, where we each touched a dorsal fin for good luck. What an incredible experience!