Ah, yes, where were we? SHARK DIVING! YES!
On Day 8, we woke up bright and early to go shark diving with Calypso Tours. Calypso arranged for us to be picked up at our hostel, which was FANTASTIC, since it was so early! We boarded the boat around 6:30 AM.
On the boat, we had breakfast, got a safety briefing, and then pushed off for the Neptune Islands. The ride out there was about 3 hours, so we had quite awhile to hang out on the boat.
The weather was not a bit gloomy when we pushed off. The sky was clouded over and threatening rain, and the water was rough. This did not make for the most pleasant boating experience. The boat was not very large, and it rocked over the waves. A few people got sick. The Calypso crew sold medicine for seasickness on the boat, but, really, it needs to be taken the night before, so it didn’t do much for those that were suffering, including Rusty. He did not enjoy the first part of our trip very much!
The Calypso crew uses tuna to bait the sharks, and while they did have some on board, we stopped a couple times to top off our supplies when there was a school nearby.
The crew caught some huge fish!
(The pictures with the Calypso watermark were purchased from Calypso Tours at the end of our trip.)
As you can tell in the photographs, the sky stayed pretty murky for awhile, even through our fishing stop, which was more than half-way to the Neptune Islands. I was so worried that the whole day was going to be gross, but the weather thankfully cleared up later!
When we arrived at the Neptune Islands, we dropped anchor and divided into groups. There were quite a few of us, and only 6 people could go down in the cage at a time.
Oh, yes, the cage.
The cage was attached to the back of the boat when we were going out to the Neptunes and back. It’s a metal cage with thick piping for structure and then a kind of mesh casing. After we dropped the anchor, the crew pushed the cage off of the back of the boat, but it was still attached. We entered the cage through a hole in the top, like so:
Yes, that is Jessica, rocking the SCUBA gear! What did we dive in, you ask? We wore full wetsuits and booties because the water was really freakin’ cold. We also wore weighted belts so that we could sort of “stand” in the cage instead of all floating at the top. We also wore face masks, like you would wear for snorkeling or diving.
Of course, we were under water the whole time, so we needed a way to breathe. There was an air tank on the boat, connected to six regulators. If you’ve never been diving before, a regulator is the piece of SCUBA gear that goes in your mouth, through which you breathe. You both inhale and exhale through the piece. The air you inhale comes in through the tube connected to the air tank, and the air you exhale bubbles out into the water through holes in the mouth piece.
Good. Now that you know how it works, let’s get back to what happened!
We were in the sixth group, so we had awhile to wait. Thankfully, watching from the deck is just as fun because you can see the sharks come and circle the boat and the cage. When we weren’t diving, we were usually watching from the deck.
Here’s a bit of what we saw before it was our turn:
When it was our turn, we were so excited and ready to go! Woohoo!
Rusty still wasn’t feeling well, but…SHARK DIVING! How can you not be excited for shark diving?
The inside of the cage looked like this…
…and the sharks looked like this!
We had a pretty terrifying moment while we were down in the cage. A shark lunged at a chunk of bait and its nose came through the cage!
Do you see in the picture above how some of the links are a little broken? The shark’s nose came through one of these weakened spots in the cage and punched a hole about maybe 8 inches in diameter! It was right in the corner where Jessica and I were standing. Honestly, we were pretty terrified and confused–we didn’t know what to do! Eventually, one of the crew members came down and kicked the bent cage piece back into place. It wasn’t the first time a shark had punched a hole in the cage, so they weren’t too concerned. Apparently, the mesh part of the cage is more to protect the sharks from us than to protect us from the sharks–the sharks can’t fit through the thick metal piping, but they don’t want us to reach our hands out and try to touch the sharks!
We were a little shaken, but it was AWESOME! What fun is diving with sharks if there isn’t an element (or two or three) of danger?
Curious about how the crew baited the sharks? I already told you that they used tuna. To bait the sharks, they tied the insides of the tuna to a rope and then threw the rope out over the cage. When a shark came and looked interested, the crew member would jerk the bait and drag it closer to the boat to draw the shark in closer to the cage.
After all the groups finished diving, we picked up the anchor and started sailing home. The sun set as we were cruising back. Rusty was feeling much better, and all was well.
An absolutely epic day.