I booked a scuba dive at Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town (South Africa) so that I could swim with five ragged-tooth sharks, sea turtles, stings rays and plenty of other stunning African fish. It wasn’t something that I had planned to do, it was a decision that I made on the spot when I visited the aquarium and took a shine to all the fish that were inside one of the biggest tanks, including all the sharks. I didn’t need to be convinced much to do this activity, and thoroughly enjoyed the overall experience. Prior to the dive, I was informed about all the different sea creatures inside the tank by an experienced staff member, which I found educational.
Pre Dive Preparation
The whole experience took around 2.5 hours and I enjoyed every minute. To start off with, I was met by my dive instructor, Lance, next to the diving tank and spent a few minutes getting to know him. He was a really nice chap and we clicked instantly; it was almost like meeting up with an old friend that I hadn’t seen for a while. He then gave me a guided tour of all the facilities that I was going to use like the changing area, shower facilities as well as the diving arena. I am a bit of a chatterbox and talked to Lance the whole time about diving and other day to day things, which made me feel totally calm and relaxed, and help me to let go of any anxiety that I had about diving with five meaty sharks. Lance gave me all the instructions that I needed in the briefing room – I was the only diver when I went so it was a really wonderful and personal experience.
Getting into the Tank
My scuba equipment was already prepared for me, therefore all I had to do was get my wet suit on and check that I was happy that the scuba tank was working properly. I felt 100% satisfied and once I changed into my scuba gear it was time to go and face my biggest fear-head on. We both sat on the edge of the dive tank whilst we put on our masks and fins, and I was shown how to lower myself into the tank using my upper body. This is when I felt a little apprehensive because I could see a few shark fins very close to the surface and automatically thought of the jaws movie. However, at no point did I feel under any pressure to do anything quickly as Lance was more than happy to wait for me whilst I lowered myself in gently.
I remembered him telling me that ragged-tooth sharks are curious creatures during our briefing, so I kind of expected them to come close, although it’s a completely different story when it actually happens for real. My mind instantly went into fear mode, but there was no way I was going back after getting this close. I took a few deep breaths and told myself that everything was going to be o.k. Lance gently moved one of the sharks away with a stick when it almost came close enough to touch me. And before I knew it I was floating in the tank and ready to descend. Because I am a newly qualified diver, I stayed next to Lance at all times and sometimes latched on to his arm for a bit of reassurance, which he was totally comfortable with. The tank is only five meters so it did not take long to get to the bottom where we stopped for a brief moment so that he was able to adjust all my gear, and made sure that I was comfortable one more time. I gave him the thumbs up and it was time to start swimming around freely.
Swimming in the Tank
The first thing that I spotted was a Sting Ray; it glided passed me so gracefully and appeared to be really content. I then swam past a female sea turtle, who seemed pleased to see us both. I was informed prior to the dive that she loves being around humans and also liked to show off, which I could clearly see through some of her flamboyant mannerisms. At this point, I had forgotten all about the sharks until I decided to look up and see what else I could find. And guess what I saw about two feet above my head? Two ragged-tooths gently gliding in the opposite direction to each other. I carefully observed them to see if they would come next to me, or even collide with one another. I was also keen to learn about how they interacted. To my surprise, nothing happened, both sharks just swam passed each other without a care in the world. It was incredible to observe their bodies from underneath, and I could clearly see all their sharp teeth, small eyes as well as all other body parts. This is when I realised that I was actually swimming with sharks, and was delighted to be in their presence. I made sure that I looked out for them and vigilantly observed their behaviour all throughout the dive. At one stage, a shark swam right next to me and I was totally oblivious until Lance pointed it out. It was the closest I had ever been, and, much to my surprise, it didn’t really bother me.
We continued to swim in the tank for approximately 45 minutes, and I saw all sorts of creatures like yellow tails, dusky kob and black and white muscle crackers. I also had the opportunity to touch some of the fish during that time, besides the sharks, of course. The Sting Ray felt nice; it was silky smooth. I was incredibly happy and felt at peace with myself inside the tank at all times, despite the sharks swimming above me. I didn’t expect to feel that way, but for some reason I did.
I must give a lot of credit to Lance, who was fantastic the whole time. I felt so comfortable diving with him, and would recommend anyone to buddy up with him during a dive. He is very experienced, which clearly becomes obvious when you meet him. Not only that, he is incredibly patient, which means that you automatically feel calm and safe in his presence. Finally , I have to give praise to all the staff team at the aquarium, they were all lovely, helpful and very encouraging right from the beginning. I would definitely recommend anybody who is contemplating doing this activity to not hesitate and go ahead and do it – you will soon discover how wonderful this experience is for yourself!
Finally, having dived a few times in the ocean in South Africa, I have learned that sharks are not the man eating beasts that they are made out to be. I have had a few very close encounters, and discovered actually how intelligent and peaceful they really are.