Sunday, 29 September 2013

Swimming with the Fishes...

Maybe not scuba diving with THIS shark...
 There's much to be said for vanishing. Escaping  our helter-skelter lives to disappear below the waves; down, deep into the depths of the aquatic jungle encompassing two thirds of the surface of the earth. Encountering awe-inspiring creatures big and small, like aliens from another planet. This is why, before I'm pushing daisies, I'd like to go scuba diving...with sharks.

I've always been fascinated by the ocean. Even when I was a kid it was my number one summer destination: running across the sand bars, watching the waves ever so slightly tickle my toes as I stood and stared: nothing but blue as far as the eye could see. There's just something so enticing about having a wholly different world millimetres away from your fingertips, yet completely unreachable. It's mother nature's greatest tease: You can look, but you can't touch!

Now don't get me wrong, I don't plan on throwing a slick of blood into the water and just jumping. I've got a plan, formulated from many summers spent watching nothing but "Shark Week" on Discovery Channel.

So here it is, my 12-step plan to crossing swimming with the fishes off my bucket list:

Shark Week Logo...My what pretty teeth you have...

1)Research. Re-watch Shark Week 2013. If I'm going to be swimming with these beasts, best to get as much information as possible, naturally from a reliable source. I also plan on perusing my local library's assortment of non-fiction titles such as: "Shark-Diving for Dummies", "How to not be fish bait" and "Surviving Jaws". For example, did you know most shark attacks occur around both sunset and sunrise? This is because sharks are more active hunters at these times of day.

2) Location, Location, Location. Finding the ideal dive location to see your intended species is crucial. For me, I want to see the big 5: Great White, Tiger shark, Whale Shark, Black-tipped Reef Shark and, of course, the Bull Shark. To see all these sharks, the only place to go is due south: South Bay, Southern Gulf of Mexico, South Africa, Southern Australia...well you get the point.

3) Finances. Since this is more of a long-term goal, as opposed to a "right here right now" goal, I'll hopefully have lots of time to save for my trips. Flights, hotels, meals, and the actual dives themselves don't come cheap, and range from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars CAD.

4) Equipment. Under-water cameras, scuba gear, a boat, a guide...all these things and more are a must if I want to have any hope of meeting these giants face-to-face.

5) Scuba Lessons. I can't possibly expect to go diving with some of the world's most dangerous animals if I don't know my flipper from my face mask! Scuba lessons are a must before my first dive, safety first!

6)A Cage Dive. Easing slowly into my scuba adventure, the safest way to meet these giants of the deep up close is through cage-diving. Most every resort or ocean town will have a cave diving company, where you go depends on how close you want to get! (If by some sudden act of god, this terrifies me more than I thought, this may be the end of my journey. But just in case, lets continue on with the planning!)

7) Starting Slow. For my first dive, I plan on swimming with the docile gentle giant, the whale shark, a.k.a the largest member of the order of sharks known as Orectolobiformes. These filter-feeding sharks average 32 feet long (or the length of 6 average humans!), but don't eat large prey. A fairly safe first encounter as I work my way up to the man-eaters.

8) In the Reef. Next stop: Black Tip Reef sharks. These sharks are known for their lightning fast bolts, aggressiveness and, as their name indicates, the black tips of their fins. Although not the largest or most dangerous shark to swim with, these guys certainly pack a punch! My goal with the Reef shark, is to build confidence and, if I'm lucky, find a company that will take me out to feed them by hand!

9) In a River. Fun Fact: Bull Sharks are the only sharks that can live in both fresh, and salt water! So my next stop on my shark-swimming journey, is to meet one of these monster sharks on my own home turf: a fresh water river or estuary. Humans have been invading this species turf for years, I for one would like to know how it has affected these creatures first-hand.

10) Open Ocean. One of the most aggressive species on my list of shark-to-see's is the Tiger shark, named for the apparent tiger stripes on its back. Consistently in the top 3 most dangerous species of sharks, the predators travel the open ocean, and are notoriously hard to find, unless you know where to look! Hopefully I can find a guide, willing and able to take me to meet this elegant species.

11) Jaws. Saving the best for last: The Great White. For this terror of the high seas, I plan on pulling out all the stops. A chum-slick to attract them, and a seal decoy to hopefully see the skill that made them famous: the full-body out of water breach.

12) Blog about it. C'mon, you had to see that coming! When I actually do tick swimming with sharks off my bucket list, I hope that through my experiences I can raise some awareness about the conservation of these beautiful creatures, and un-do some of the fear-mongering that Jaws  brought upon these creatures.

Until next time: live life to the fullest, and don't forget to seize each day because who knows when it will be your last?


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