“To freedive in the kitchen of the sharks”
…That’s how she put it, my friend and fellow ocean lover, Hanli Prinsloo. I couldn’t wait to share the kitchen of the sharks together with some of my best friends. That’s exactly how I think about it – I will be a guest in their home. I’ve been wanting to freedive with sharks for a long time. Whenever I’ve tried to dive with sharks they get shy and swim away. But the bus-driver at the airport insured us that here “you don’t have to run to the sharks, they will come to you”.
They did come to me. They loved me, or more specifically – my fins. After a bumpy boat ride over a wavy sea we arrived at the spot where sharks follow the currents along the coast. Hopefully we would see Tigersharks, one of the most beautifully striped creatures of the sea. We were guaranteed to see blacktip sharks, who I’ve met before in other seas. But I’ve never met them like this. The first one came right at me, as if in a chicken race. I didn’t feel afraid because her movements were slow and curious. Her movements were beautiful and I was mesmerised, almost in a hypnosis as I heard a voice in the back of my head wondering “when is she going to turn?” We were face to face for what felt like a long time before she made a slight shift of the fin and slid away next to me, eyeing the full, but short, length of my body. She was so close I could have touched her. But we don’t touch the sharks. We don’t hang on to their fins and ride them like dolphins. Because they have personal space, just like us. And maybe one day, one of them didn’t feel like being touched. We need to respect the animals.
All the time we were keeping an eye out for something bigger, something striped like a tiger. But no tigershark that day. Not that the blacktips wasn’t enough. At most there were more than 15 blacktip sharks around us in the water. I lost the track of time and space. The experience was too big. As if in a dance they swirled around us and the fish, every now and then showing of some of their freediving skills. I was watching their technique and power in awe, thinking I’d like to swim like one of them during my world record attempt in freediving.
After a few minutes, Jessica, the expert at Blue wilderness came up to me and told me that the sharks seemed very interested in my fins. The fins have coloured yellow patches that shine like fish when I swim. She just wanted me to be aware, and reminded me to keep my hands tucked away. Not because sharks like to eat human hands, but because out white fingers shine like sardines in the water. And I don’t tuck my hands away for my own sake. I tuck it away for the sharks sake. If I got bitten no one would blame me, they would blame the sharks, and probably worsen their already bad rumour.
I love sharks. I was not in the water with a bloodthirsty beast, I was in the water with respect, beauty and curiosity.