Indian Ocean, South Africa – March 18 – 31, 2010
March was that time of the year where the Ocean Encounters team took a group of enthusiastic freedivers to experience the freedom and awe to dive bubble-free in the company of sharks, in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of South Africa.
Naturally, these kinds of expeditions are weather-dependent and conditional on the level of available visibility. While a long boat ride on heavy seas only upsets the stomachs, lack of visibility usually means no diving. Firstly, because there is really nothing to see and secondly, because there is really no need to chance having a shark mistake one of us for dinner. Another factor which influences the chances to see these animals is simply the fact the ocean is not a confined aquarium. Sharks are wild animals, thus we cannot guarantee their presence.
And so, our participants all arrived with a smile on their face, ready for their 2-week expedition, knowing full well that they may or may not see the animals they signed up for: namely Great White sharks and Tiger sharks.
The first week was supposed to be held near Struisbaai, a launch site for areas where Great White Sharks can usually be found in great numbers. Alas, the weather and visibility did not cooperate and we found ourselves obligated to relocate to another dive site. No Whites there, but lots of a prehistoric species called Cow Sharks (Notorynchus cepedianus) (a.k.a. Seven-gilled or Spotted Cow Sharks) One of the oldest known species of sharks, usually a very deep water species, we were lucky to be able to frolic amongst them.
After we arrived further up the coast, in Durban, we went on daily trips to dive with the Tiger Sharks. The weather was quite rough on the participants who were real troopers for sticking it out and making it to the dive site after such challenging boat rides. Of course, as soon as they would see the Tigers and dive around them, the tough boat ride was quickly forgotten.
All in all, our participants spent so much time diving that they were quite happy to take the last day off. Instead, they took the boat out to a ….… … surfing spot. And so, they got to do another kind of sightseeing, that of William riding a long board, which he had not done in over four years. Somehow, it’s like riding a bicycle, once you know how, you can never forget how.