I’m not inherently afraid of sharks, I’m just a bit cautious. I’ll be that person at the beach who goes far out into the ocean (in between the flags of course) as long as there’s at least one person who’s further out than me because, as logic dictates, they’ll be the ones who’ll get eaten first…right?
But I didn’t have to worry about that at Shark Dive Xtreme in the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary; these grey nurse sharks are known as the labradors of the sea for goodness sake! Still, when you see their pointy teeth and realize that they’re double your size, it’s hard not to get even a little bit nervous when they’re swimming right towards you.
The experience started off with a short tour of the bottom level tunnels which zigzagged through the shark-infested tank we were minutes away from entering. Our instructor, Ben, pointed out all the curious marine creatures that were swimming about and explained the aquarium’s Breed, Rescue, Protect program which has ensured the survival of many sea turtles, penguins and sharks; some of with whom we would be getting a VIP meet and greet.
After looking in awe at the various animals, it was time to watch a short instructional video fully equipped with the Jaws theme song explaining the different hand signals (talking was not exactly an option under the watery depths) and then we were ready to suit up. With three layers of clothing keeping me warm and an oxygen tank to keep me breathing underwater, I was ready to get into the training pool and practice those important scuba skills alongside a turtle who had just decided to have a nap there no less.
For anyone who hasn’t been scuba diving or snorkelling, breathing through your mouth for long periods of time kind of feels like you’ve gotten a badly blocked nose so you start sounding like Darth Vadar. As a first-time diver, I found myself concentrating on keeping my breath steady and not drowning during the dive – since I’m writing this, we can call the whole escapade a success.
All joking aside, as soon as we entered the tank and started exploring, it was much easier to relax and take a look at the curious creatures swimming past. Within five minutes, we had already seen the highly anticipated grey nurse shark up close and personal while schools of fish drifted above our heads. It felt amazing to swim so close to these animals and it only got better when we jumped over the tunnel to the other side of the tank.
We were instructed (through body movements of course) to stay on the ledge connected to the tank where we would spend a few minutes watching the animals pass through – it can be quite a surprise when you turn your head only to find a shark swimming mere centimetres from your face. My group was even lucky enough to pet Myrtle the photo-bombing turtle who seemed to be best pals with our diving instructor.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end so we enjoyed our last few minutes in the water and headed back to the training pool. This is definitely an experience for the bucket list and you don’t even need to be a professional diver to do it! So grab your swimmers, forget about any fear of sharks, and head over to Manly for an experience you’ll never forget.
For more information on the Shark Dive Xtreme experience, head over to their official website.