So you’re looking for a new hobby? Already decided that collecting stamps isn’t exciting enough and collecting coins simply doesn’t give you the thrill that you’re after? You’ve finally decided that you want to learn more about shark diving and take it up as a hobby. Great! Why not jump start the adrenaline by reading more about shark diving below, but remember, it’s not exactly collecting stamps; it’s swimming with one of earth’s most powerful predators.
While diving in shark infested waters was an activity limited to science researchers in the past, it’s quickly becoming a popular hobby amongst sea diving enthusiasts and adrenalin junkies. In fact, diving with sharks over the years has evolved and turned into one of the hottest hobbies to have. Businesses across the globe are booming thanks to shark diving; South Africa the best example of such: it’s become the number 1 go-to spot for shark-diving. And as a result, the country enjoys over $30 million EVERY YEAR from tourists who are looking to nab a glance of the wild sharks and divers who are looking for some action underwater with some cage-less diving. Now, add to that list the increasing hobbyists who are excited to get their thrills from swimming with the underwater beasts.
Understanding Cage Diving
There are numerous ways to actually dive with sharks, but two of the more popular methods are cage diving and cage-less diving. Cage diving is by far the safest method which, contrary to popular belief does not restrict your view or make the experience any less fun. On the contrary, with cage diving, you’ll still be close enough to get in a shark’s face, only without the dangers of doing so! The cage that you hop into with usually no more than 4 other divers is rectangular in shape and can usually be found off the side or back of a boat. It’s made of reinforced aluminum and remains attached to the side of the boat at all times, so you won’t drift off into sea by mistake.
A shark proof cage is an extremely strong metal cage used to safely see sharks up close. The cages are built to survive repeated attacks by large and very powerful sharks.
While it is safe to dive near sharks of most species, diving with great whites requires great care. The most common approach is for divers to stay within their steel cage.
Equipment, gear and guts.
If you’re thinking of taking up cage diving with the kings of the seas as a hobby, there are a few things you will need. The absolute first thing you’ll need to get a rip on before taking the plunge is fear. You have to grab fear by the neck and wrestle it to the ground before diving. Leave it behind, it won’t do anything but get in the way of the awesome experience to be had.
Once you shed that fear, some of the basic equipment you will need consist of:
• Wetsuit: A wetsuit is very useful in areas where the water temperature is low.
• Snorkel or alternatively scuba gear: this allows you to breath under water and get a better view.
• Lead Belt or a weighted one: Used to stay below water.
Yes, that’s it. That’s all you’ll need to get close and personal with the kings of the sea. You might not need the snorkel gear if the boat you’re on is equipped with its own on-boat snorkel function which is known as a hookah air system. Basically, it’s a mask with a hose that extends into the boat, you wear the mask and the hose that remains attached on the boat which pumps air through to you. This pretty much rids you of having to carry an air tank and it’ll regulate air intake for you and do all the work, you just have to remember to breath when you see those sharks coming your way!
You want to record video instead of a camera and if you do take a camera, it goes without saying that keeping the flash on is not the smartest move. The last thing you want to do is intimidate or provoke the sharks. Plus, using video to capture everything, High Definition for best impact, will capture every second of the thrill and you can then easily edit the High Def video for single perfect shots. If you don’t own a waterproof camcorder get a diving case for the camera, they’re sold at most diving shops and come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes.
The cage you’ll be in as mentioned before is important since it is the only thing between you and a group of sharks. Here’s a list of some interesting facts you might want to know about the cage you’ll be in:
• Almost all cages are made out of aluminum and steel that’s melded for extra reinforcement.
• Most cages are about 10feet in length and 3 in width.
• Cages are rectangular in shape, this means you’re never too far away from the boat, and as there will be about 4 of you in there, more than enough room to stand side by side and still have space to move around and follow the sharks as they circle the cage.
You’re in the water, now what?
You’re in the cage, you’re ready and you wait wondering how the sharks know you’re there and when you’ll see them. They don’t sniff you out, if that’s what you’re thinking. That’s not how it works, you’re not in the cage as bait, even though it might ‘look’ that way. You just wait for them to stroll by and the boat you’re on, the charter, they make sure the sharks follow them and know they’re around. They simply do this by trailing a fish blood/oil scent behind the boat till the sharks sniff it out. It smells delicious to sharks and with their amazing sense of smell they’ll follow the scent to the boat.
Most sharks usually appear further away from the boat, slowly moving and circling. You’ll start to see shadows being cast and then a large form will appear and the shark will come into view. Usually you’ll see several at the same time, so don’t be alarmed.
Once the sharks are there for you to see, a box with a beautiful fish aroma is held off the back of the boat to keep the sharks roaming around the boat looking for the fish, long enough for you to get your thrills! You’ll watch them go round the boat, circle back and forth while safely within the cage. Usually the dive lasts anywhere from 15minutes to half an hour and that’s more than enough time for you to take photos, and just capture the moment, really let it sink in.
Cage-less Diving with Sharks
For the more extreme hobbyists, you might be looking to really get that adrenalin flowing and there’s no better way to do that than diving with the sharks, minus the big safe cage we discussed above. That’s right, it’ll be just like swimming with the dolphins, only these are sharks we’re talking about. There’s nothing more exciting, breath taking and truly mind blowing than swimming with the sharks in their own domain. No reinforced steel diving cage, nothing to bait them with, it’s only the sharks and you in their backyard, the ocean. Some sharks are so welcoming and friendly they’ll touch you as the swim by but remember, patting a shark on the back is a little like patting an unaware tiger, even a tame one at the zoo, you’ll spook them!
While all this may sound like a dream come true for some of you, this activity is only available in a few locations around the world. Then again, this isn’t a hobby for the faint of heart so the excitement you’ll experience alone may justify booking a trip for this.
Some important points you need to keep in mind when you go diving with sharks in the open sea without a cage. Remember, you’re not in a cage, so you just can’t dive into a pool of circling sharks and expect them to welcome you with open...fins. Most resorts and companies that take you open sea shark diving require you to be certified to scuba dive in the open sea. It’s not as big a deal as you think, it’s just about proving to the authorities at be that you can scuba dive and take care of yourself in the big blue ocean.
Now you’ll need some equipment:
• Air Tank
• Air Regulator
• Blunt object or stick, keep that harpoon at home you won’t need it.
Yes, you’re looking at that last requirement and wondering why on Earth you would need a blunt stick of sorts if thousands of people dive with sharks in the open waters. It’s safe, but you can’t simply put aside the fact that sharks are wild animals. Any wild animal, be it a shark, or bear, or even a wild horse, is unpredictable and dangerous.
It’s all about how you act around the sharks, how you move, what you wear and how you react and even how you swim around them. Think about it, you’re in their home, you’re the guest, take that and ask yourself a few questions.
• Would you be happy if someone dropped by uninvited and started jumping around in your living room? No. So when you’re around sharks, in their living room, don’t make any sudden movements. Let them question you, swim around you, they’ll be more at ease.
• Would you be more threatened by a human being or a bird? This question is a confusing one but what’s meant by it is sharks don’t give much thought to lower taller creatures. If you’re floating horizontally and the sharks mistake you for a species of fish then they’ll consider you an intruder in their domain. So stay as low to the ground as you can by using belt weights and standing up right.
• Are you threatened more by a single person walking towards you or a group of people you don’t know? When diving with other divers in a group, try to remain in sight but keep a distance from each other. Don’t overwhelm the sharks that way they’ll become nervous.
Last but not least, enjoy yourself; you’re rubbing shoulders with one of the most feared, misunderstood, powerful creatures on earth. Sharks are just curious creatures, they’re friendly and as long as you don’t spook them, they’ll be welcoming. Being so close to them in open water will give you a truly new opinion about these sharks.
There are over 370 different species of sharks so you’ll meet plenty. It’s important to read up on the sharks in the area you plan to dive just to be in the know how. Some sharks accept colourful clothing while others consider it food so remember to always wear dark wetsuits, just to be on the safe side. While all these sharks are safe to swim with, even the great white, it’s important to remember one main point: Sharks are Predators. Sure, they’ll let you swim with them but sharks aren’t as harmless as goldfish or salmons, or any other innocent fish. They’re sharks; respect them, they’ll show you respect back but always stay vigilant!
Now remember there are ways to stay safe in case a shark is provoked and you find yourself in a dangerous position. The main point to keep in mind is that you have to fight the shark off. Playing dead as many tell you about bear attacks won’t work with sharks, don’t make it easy for the shark to bite you. If you have a spear, blunt object or something in hand then use that on either the shark’s nose or eyes. Aiming for the gills will do the trick too.
The nose, eyes, gills are the three spots are where the shark is most sensitive. By hitting the shark in one of these three areas will disorient the shark long enough for you to get away. Now if the shark does leave make your way up to the surface slowly all the while remaining vigilant. Keep scouting the area around you as you head to the surface in case the shark decides to turn back.
Scary as all that may seem, cage diving is of course safer than open sea diving without a cage. It’s like anything in life, traveling by plane, boat or walking across the street, nothing is 100% safe. So if it’s diving with sharks you’re after to take up as a new hobby, you’re prepared to go at it now, enjoy yourself, take in the moment and thrill.