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Where are you going next?

 Africa86 votes
76.11%
 South America3 votes
2.65%
 Europe3 votes
2.65%
 Eastern Asia5 votes
4.42%
 Carribean9 votes
7.96%
 Safeway5 votes
4.42%
 Australia2 votes
1.77%
total votes: 113
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WheresCherie.COM Quote
"It's a good idea to obey all the rules when you're young just so you'll have the strength to break them when you're old." -- Mark Twain

153--South Africa: Great White Shark Diving
@ CherieSpotting     Sep 24 2003 - 11:16 PST
cherie writes: “You are perfect shark bait!” Brian, the captain, screamed as he welcomed me on his boat. “Most ladies these days are too skinny. You’re a bit squishy, which is just what the sharks love.”

I’m okay with being called a scuba diver, or even an underwater photographer. But I’m not so sure I like the bi-line, shark bait.

Kristi, Carter, Renee, Dom and I jumped aboard Predator II to spend the day searching for Great White sharks. We stayed at Moby’s Backpackers in Hermanus, a charming South African town known worldwide for its shark diving. We wanted get up close and personal with the ocean’s largest carnivore—the Great White Shark. For $120 dollars you get a full day of shark diving, including breakfast, lunch and hotel.

Kristi, Carter, Renee and I would be first to go in the cage. As they say, ladies first. “Why don’t you beautiful ladies get undressed.” Brian offered. Brian is a shark operator by day, but an operating shark at night. At his command, we scampered out of our clothes and struggled into our wetsuits.

Brain began a debriefing where he tried to explain “how to dive with sharks.” Those information sessions are normally so boring. It’s like reading the “intro” of a book for me, I just want to skip to the good part. I tuned him out and played with the new disposable camera I just bought. Then my eyes wandered and focused on a jagged scar on Brain’s hand. I heard him saying “blah blah blah SHARK, blah blah blah Shark,” when I rudely interrupted him.

“What’s that scar?” I asked.

He stopped his diatribe and answered me. “I was putting my hand inside a shark’s mouth and then I slipped.” Brian said nonchalantly. “The tooth caught my skin and ripped my palm open.” Clearly it was Brian’s fault, not the shark’s. My eyes bulged like a Japanese fish. Then Captain Brian yelled to the first mate of a boat anchored nearby. The guy waved back with the nub of his elbow. Most of the man’s arm was missing. “George wasn’t as lucky as me,” Brian conceded. I made a mental note not to put my hand inside the shark’s mouth. (Perhaps that was when Kristi decided she would seek revenge and poke the shark’s eye out.)

Kristi, Carter, Renee, Dom and I claim temporary insanity for wanting to lower ourselves inside the crunchy shark cage. “Sharks DON’T want to eat you,” Brian assured us, “they just want to taste you. As soon as they’ve sampled you and figured out that you’re not a seal, they spit you right out.”

“Yes, but then you are filled with holes!” I claimed zipping up my wetsuit so I could look as much like a seal as possible. I reconsidered the idea of dressing up like a shark’s favorite food and then going inside a cage with holes to be circled by the most deadly shark in the world.

“Cherie, stop over-reacting. Only one person every two years in the entire world dies from a shark attack.” Brain assured me. “Sharks are not just man-eaters.”

“Yeah, they are women and children eaters, too!”

Brian anchored Predator II and threw out the bait—bloody shark livers and nasty tuna heads. Swarms of savaging seagulls came first. They squawked and cawed and picked apart the smelly dead fish parts.

At anchor, the boat lurched from side to side which separated the sailors from the non-sailors. Brian actually encouraged people to throw up. “Just make sure the vomit goes overboard. It helps with the chum.” Renee was the only one who took Brian’s advice. She donated her breakfast to help out the ocean’s food chain.

Carter and I got in the cage first. I’m not sure what was more shocking to our system, the freezing cold water or the twelve foot shark circling us. Renee still had some concerns before she went overboard. When they picked her up to drop her in the cage she screamed: “I have four questions before you put me in there!”

The deck hands put her down. Renee pulled at her restrictive mask and cross-examined one of the helpers: “How am I supposed to breathe?”

“You are not a fish. Breath through your mouth!” Mark advised. Renee kept pulling the mask up. It was her first time snorkeling.

“Question two: How deep does this cage go?” Renee demanded with her hands on her hips.

“The cage floats on the top of the water. Great White sharks are surface feeders.” Mark replied completely un-phased.

“Question three: If I want to get out, will you pull me right out?” Renee was still propping her mask open so she could breathe through her nose. If I wasn’t busy taking pictures of scary sharks, I would have been laughing at her.

“We’ll get you out as fast as possible.”

Renee pumped out her final question. “What’s your name?”

“Mark” he said as he lowered Renee’s squirming body into the cage.

Even with the wetsuits, the frosty water made my bones ache with cold. Still I snapped away, taking photos with my cheap disposable camera, as the sharks attacked the bait in front of us.

I was sitting on top of the cage, when I saw another fin break the water. Then I did what any normal person does when they see a shark--I scrambled under water.

The shark glided by nonchalantly at first, as if the bait didn’t interest him. Then he made another approach with his lips slightly parted. A female shark might have thought it was sexy, but his serrated teeth really turned me off. Before the big chomp, his eyes rolled back and his jaws unhinged. The tuna head was crushed under the weight of the shark’s immense jaws.

I watched it all just inches away, holding my breath, safe in the cage. Then the shark flopped out of the water and entertained the spectators on the boat with a dramatic display of squirting blood and splashing water.

But back inside the shark cage, Renee was writhing as if she was miserable. “Are you ok?” I asked her after I had run out of film.

“This is amazing!” she shouted.

After Carter, Kristi, Renee and I caught our breath, we saw what was left of the bait. The floating buoy sat there listing in the sea with the tattered remains of the disfigured tuna still attached.

Brian reeled in the bait and attached another stinky fish head to the line. We saw nine sharks that day.

It was incredible to be so close, and yet feel so safe. Some people even jabbed their hands through the cage to pet the Great Whites as they swam past. Kristi, doped up on her own adrenaline, reached out to touch one shark and practically poked its eye out. She claims she wanted to feel the black glassy eye, but we know the truth. She’s insane. Luckily, Kristi escaped with all her delectable fingers. Later, Carter, Renee, Dom and I decided to contribute to a few sessions of therapy to our deranged friend.

The ladies stayed in the cage as long as we could stand the cold, and then decided to get out and give other people a chance to see the sharks. Dom and I stayed in our wetsuits all day, hoping in and out of the shark cage every moment we could.

Brian, who has dove with the Great Whites without a cage, offered us some advice if we ever encounter a Great White while diving without steel protection.

Before he imparted me with his wisdom, I asked: “Do you punch the shark in the nose?”
He silently held up his scarred hand. “No, you swim towards it. Everything fears the Great White and swims away. If you swim towards it, it gets confused, frightened, and leaves.”

I didn’t believe Brian, so he proved it. When a Great White swam around the boat Brian pulled in Gladis (the foam seal decoy) and the shark chased it and then attacked it. Nothing fears this awesome predator, so it’s not used to anything approaching it. But when Brian made Gladis chase the shark, sure enough, the shark swam away.

You heard it here first. If you don’t want to be the one person who dies from a shark attack every two years, chase the shark. If I’m wrong, you won’t be around to contradict my story.

Click on each picture to see it full size.

read comments (0) | write comment| views: 10582    | rated: 0.0    printer-friendly version
 

I took this photo of a Great White Shark with a cheap disposable underwater camera.

I took this photo of a Great White Shark with a cheap disposable underwater camera.

Predator II, the shark diving catamaran.

Predator II, the shark diving catamaran.

Four ladies with Brian, Predator II's captain.

Four ladies with Brian, Predator II's captain.

We're all dressed up like seals and ready to see the sharks.  *Photo by Dom.

We're all dressed up like seals and ready to see the sharks. *Photo by Dom.

Dom gives his suit a final zip, and then he's ready to jump in.

Dom gives his suit a final zip, and then he's ready to jump in.

Brian throws Gladis, the foam decoy seal, into the water.

Brian throws Gladis, the foam decoy seal, into the water.

Brian gives Cherie one last hug before he lowers her into the shark cage.

Brian gives Cherie one last hug before he lowers her into the shark cage.

The cage is lowered into the ocean.

The cage is lowered into the ocean.

Brian lowers Cherie into the cage of death (just kidding!) *Photo by Dom.

Brian lowers Cherie into the cage of death (just kidding!) *Photo by Dom.

A fin breaks the water.  I can hear the jaws music in my head.

A fin breaks the water. I can hear the jaws music in my head.

I'm a little startled at first, I didn't know the sharks would be so close.

I'm a little startled at first, I didn't know the sharks would be so close.

The first shark comes right up to the cage.

The first shark comes right up to the cage.

Another Great White attacks the bait only a few feet away from my delicious fingers.

Another Great White attacks the bait only a few feet away from my delicious fingers.

The seal decoy lures more sharks towards the boat.  I wish I wasn't dressed like a seal.

The seal decoy lures more sharks towards the boat. I wish I wasn't dressed like a seal.

The folks who decide to stay on the boat, see the sharks as well.

The folks who decide to stay on the boat, see the sharks as well.

Everyone is mesmerized as another Great White circles the boat.

Everyone is mesmerized as another Great White circles the boat.

The shark smells the bait.

The shark smells the bait.

Captain Brian tries to lure the shark right up to the cage.

Captain Brian tries to lure the shark right up to the cage.

When the shark attacks, its eyelids roll back.

When the shark attacks, its eyelids roll back.

Renee, who has never worn a scuba mask before, is ready to go in.  *Photo by Dom.

Renee, who has never worn a scuba mask before, is ready to go in. *Photo by Dom.

Cherie and Carter in the cage.  *Photo by Dom.

Cherie and Carter in the cage. *Photo by Dom.

Kristi gives it one last thought before she jumps ship.  *Photo by Dom.

Kristi gives it one last thought before she jumps ship. *Photo by Dom.

Cherie, Kristi, Carter & Renee in the shark cage.  *Photo by Dom.

Cherie, Kristi, Carter & Renee in the shark cage. *Photo by Dom.

The ladies underwater.

The ladies underwater.

Cherie in the cage.

Cherie in the cage.

Look at that disgusting bait.  *Photo by Kristi.

Look at that disgusting bait. *Photo by Kristi.

A group of guys are so excited to see the sharks, they jump in without wetsuits!

A group of guys are so excited to see the sharks, they jump in without wetsuits!

They can only handle the cold a few minutes.  Are they crazy?

They can only handle the cold a few minutes. Are they crazy?

The shark bait, seems to attrack seagulls, too.

The shark bait, seems to attrack seagulls, too.

Soon there is a bird frenzy.

Soon there is a bird frenzy.

A tasty snack for a Great White.

A tasty snack for a Great White.

A diver from a nearby boat is spooked.  He practically jumps out of the water.

A diver from a nearby boat is spooked. He practically jumps out of the water.

We saw 14 Great White sharks over two days of diving.

We saw 14 Great White sharks over two days of diving.

Dom gives a thumbs up.

Dom gives a thumbs up.

The sharks are so close to the cage, you can touch them as they swim by.

The sharks are so close to the cage, you can touch them as they swim by.

Sharks breath with their mouths open, so they look terribly scary underwater.

Sharks breath with their mouths open, so they look terribly scary underwater.

If you want to see the sharks really close, hold the bait right over your head.

If you want to see the sharks really close, hold the bait right over your head.

A shark practically jumps out of the water, tearing apart the bait.

A shark practically jumps out of the water, tearing apart the bait.

The idea that sharks are only man-eaters is a misconception.  They are women and children eaters, too.

The idea that sharks are only man-eaters is a misconception. They are women and children eaters, too.

Cherie's fingers would make a delectable mid-day snack for a shark.

Cherie's fingers would make a delectable mid-day snack for a shark.

Carter is all smiles in the shark cage.  *Photo by Dom.

Carter is all smiles in the shark cage. *Photo by Dom.

The motion of the ocean is a little too much for Renee.  Luckily, Dom captured this photo.

The motion of the ocean is a little too much for Renee. Luckily, Dom captured this photo.

The ladies are pumped full of adrenaline after diving with the Great Whites.  *Photo by Dom.

The ladies are pumped full of adrenaline after diving with the Great Whites. *Photo by Dom.

Kristi drinks soup to keep her warm on the boat ride home.  *Photo by Dom.

Kristi drinks soup to keep her warm on the boat ride home. *Photo by Dom.

Cherie poses in front of seal island, which we pass on the way back to shore.

Cherie poses in front of seal island, which we pass on the way back to shore.

Thousands of seals jump in to visit our boat!

Thousands of seals jump in to visit our boat!

The island is a blanket of seals.

The island is a blanket of seals.

Cherie and Dom try to blend in with the seals.

Cherie and Dom try to blend in with the seals.

The seals are curious.  With our wetsuits on, we look just like them.

The seals are curious. With our wetsuits on, we look just like them.

Dom on the way back to shore.  We arrive safely, with all of our apendages still attached.

Dom on the way back to shore. We arrive safely, with all of our apendages still attached.

So that's how Brian got the jagged scar on his hand.

So that's how Brian got the jagged scar on his hand.