02 April 2012

Diving with sharks at the Two Oceans Aquarium

Stuart Dickinson
Iain leads us to the roof of the I&J Predator Exhibit. All photos by Ingrid Sinclair

I’ve always loved watching the ragged-tooth sharks glide through the I&J Predator Exhibit, as elegant as they are imposing, with unblinking eyes that seem to watch your every move. So, when the opportunity arose to get on the other side of the glass with them, I practically had my dive gear at the ready.

I met the Aquarium’s resident divemaster Iain Robertson in front of the exhibit for the brief, joined by Todd Weedon, a young diver from Canada who was touring South Africa. Iain took us through the plan of action and educated us on each fish species we would encounter during the dive.

Nerves blended with rising excitement as I wriggled into my wetsuit, geared up and followed Iain to the roof of the I&J Predator Exhibit, fully encumbered.

We entered the crystal-clear water and drifted slowly to the floor, dodging a few slightly confused fish along the way. I began to wonder how effective Iain’s baton might be in fending off an over-enthusiastic shark, but soon realised that any doubt I may have had was unnecessary.

Yoshi the loggerhead turtle comes to say hello

These peaceful predators are far more interested in getting out of your way than they are of spontaneously chewing off a limb. Of course, as with any sea creature, it helps if you don’t provoke them.

Natural light made the water’s reflection shimmer around us as we circled the tank, and were it not for the fact that I had to breathe underwater, my mouth would have been agape. Yellowtail, giant kob, black and white musselcracker, sting rays, garrick and, of course, the five ragged tooth sharks swum around us in perfect clarity.

Yoshi, the resident loggerhead turtle, has a reputation for being an attention seeker (for good reason – she is beautiful) and visited us while we rested at the main display area. She was the size of a dinner plate when the Aquarium brought her in, and these days is closer to the size of a dinner table.

Suddenly, a dull boom echoed through the tank. It sounded as if someone threw sticks of dynamite into the water kilometres away, had the tank been bigger.

Iain later told me that when two raggies accidentally bump into each other, they get a fright and swim away in opposite directions. In doing so, their tails whip together so hard that it creates a mini underwater sonic boom.

The other fish in the tank were also spooked, if only for a moment. I looked at the closest shark swimming overhead after it did a sharp 180 degree turn. It stared at me.

Checking out a ragged-tooth shark as it swims overhead

“I didn’t give you that fright, dude. I swear…”

With cylinders running empty after about 40 minutes, it was time for us to surface. I reluctantly hoisted myself out of the water and soon found myself excitedly recounting every detail with Todd in the dive room.

The experience is incredible, and one that you’ll remember for many years to come. I strongly recommend taking this dive.

You can find out more about pricing and requirements here. 

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Todd before the dive: Keen!
Iain's expert eyes tracked down a few discarded shark teeth for us to take home
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