Sunday, October 10, 2010
Mossel Bay, Western Cape, South Africa
**** update for those that are actually reading these.. these are the final blog entries from my summer trip that never got published .. trip experiences written from notes but I am at home and comfy in front of my Christmas tree as we speak writing these out in full ***
So today starts early and I am TIRED from being up all night. The upside is that I am indeed feeling better this morning so I am not too worried about needing a bathroom during my shark diving experience. Yes you heard it, today I dive with the Great Whites! I am crazy excited so up I am and out the door for an early morning drive all the way back to Moosel Bay and at this time in the morning without the traffic and knowing my way there it is simply beautiful and peaceful for the hour and a half drive.
Arriving in Moosel Bay I am actually early which is good because I’m feeling a little hungry again and need to find some food. So it turns out there is a grocery store open this early and I spend about 45 minutes wandering the aisles looking for snack food. I think I end up with a chocolate muffin, some pringles, my new favorite Laughing Cow soft cheese, a large hunk of fresh baked asiago cheese bread and several diet cokes… I’m probably most excited by the diet coke as I have had a jones’in for the longest time now!
Finally its time to head into the dive shop, fork over my dough and turn my hands over to the sharks.. or the dive instructors more accurately and more hopefully 🙂 The pre-dive brief, complete with tea and doughnuts is the typical dive brief but I find out we don’t actually dive. It is a surface cage that you simply breath dive down in the cage when the sharks come around to see them underwater.
Well the weather today is kinda so so.. looks like it might rain but really just kind of cool and overcast with a bit of wind but not too much. So a short walk down to the boat and we are on the way out. We’ve been told that the group the day before (which by the way, I was trying hard to get on that boat but missed it!) saw NO sharks at all.. nada.. nothing. We’re told that the sharks are in the midst of their migration OUT of the bay so it may be that they are just not around anymore… encouraging I know!
Well on the way out the trip takes an encouraging turn in that I have not completely wasted my money.. why? Well we spot a humpback whale off the starboard side of the boat. Having seen the right whale the day before, seeing the humpback was a special experience as they are decidedly larger and absolutely the image of a whale that I grew up thinking about.
Finally we arrive at the location for our first stab at finding sharks. The current seems to be perpendicular to shore which is a good thing since the sharks tend to patrol the length of the shore and if they cross our chum they will follow it out to see where it is coming from.
The process of making the chum is something similar to making a bouillabaisse but with rancid day old fish. Mixing with water and storing to make a lovely concoction and then dumping over the side of the boat. Its a really good thing I don’t get sea sick as this would most surely induce vomiting if I were susceptible.
And then we wait and wait. wait..oh and did I mention wait.. This leaves little ole inquisitive me plenty of time to pepper the shark research team on board with questions questions questions. Of most interest is does this tourist activity encourage shark attacks, desensitize them to humans, etc. Based on the very solid answers and statistics I received from this team I am convinced in fact that this does NOT either harm the sharks, encourage them to come to this area (they are territorial and were there already), desensitize them (if they wanted humans as food we are so easy for them there would be attacks every day) or in any way disrupt normal behavior.
And then I hear the sounds that jolts my little adrenal gland into action…SHARK! There it is over the port side, a beautiful and graceful white shark. We’re told its a female juvenile in that it is only about 2.5-3 meters long, where full female adults range 4.5-5 meters long. Big enough for me is what I think.. but with that thought its time to suit up in our wet suits. Activity at the back of the boat is frantic with researchers recording data, the cage getting prepped and dropped over and secured to the gunwale of the boat. Dashing by them I’m the first to the wet suit storage locker and the first one on and in the water to wait for the next shark sighting.
Ok we’re all in and .. wait for it .. wait for it.. umm.. wait for it.. yeah.. no shark anymore 🙁
But then one of our fellow wet suited friends decided the seasickness was too much to handle and she chummed the waters some more 😉 BAZINGA! That did the trick and finally the shark is there..
As we are in the cage floating on the surface, we hear a holler from the shark spotters on teh boat “FROM THE FRONT.. divers down” A quick deep breath and shoving myself under the water there it is.. my first encounter with a great white! Grey and white and HUGE with yes the sharp teeth you have all seen on the Discovery Channel shark week! (which by the way was filmed in this bay).
And so the rest of the encounter goes.. “FROM THE LEFT”… “FROM THE BOTTOM” … “STRAIGHT AHEAD”.. divers down down down.. at one point we have a shark approach directly to the cage just to the right of me and chomp down on the cage twice .. I’ll admit I ended up giggling like a little kid after that encounter. Such a raw experience of excitement and fear and natural strength and beauty was amazing! What beautiful creatures paired with the ability for such amazing damage!
Well I’d like to say my day was over after this experience but after packing up and getting in to view our (unfortunately) disappointing video, I have to drive up to Kangoo Caves about 3.5 hours away to pick up Colm and Catiln. However as I start out I definitely cannot complain as the drive turns out to be simply STUNNING! driving up and over the pass of the mountains just off the coast was a drive to remember for sure. Finally achieving the rendezvous with Caitlin and Colm we are off for a marathon drive to Simons Town down on the Cape just south of Cape Town.
Well for me I am having no problems with the drive but we are on a 5 hour drive to Simons town and every minute that goes by, especially after night time, is driving Colm over the edge. He simply cannot handle not being in the drivers seat. Feeling that I am incapable of driving on the left side of the road is too much starts telling me that if I don’t let him drive that he’s getting out. Not a problem with me, I’m quite annoyed by this time and ready to let him and Caitlin out at the next town and let them figure out their own transportation. Rather frustrating to be second guessed by someone who was probably in kindergarten when I was graduating high school But try to behave and eventually, the tension melts a bit. And I eventually got tired and needed to trade of driving duties and that simply relaxed Colm but stressed me out as I’m not comfortable having others drive my rental car .. particularly when they don’t drive the speed limit and risk getting tickets on my car. But such is life and we make it to Simons Town eventually.
The drive down the cape looks like we have some great exploring to do tomorrow as it looks like a lovely seaside string of towns and the backpackers hostel we end up at is very nice and our room has a lovely long balcony just outside the room that overlooks the harbor. Feeling a little better this evening and only need 45 minutes in the toilet at the end of the day!