Sorry it has been so long since I last posted. I got a little lazy but thanks for the “push” to finish my report. I will be glad when I have it for myself in the future.
When I last left off, it was January 2nd and we had just had a wonderful dinner at Societi Bistro at the V&A Waterfront. We went home directly after dinner since we had to get up very early the next morning.
This day, January 3rd, 2008, was the day I had been anticipating for months! We were going shark cage diving with the great whites! The woman from the company told me on the phone the night before that they would pick us up at “ten past six.” That morning, at 5:45, our phone rang. It was the security official at the front gate. He asked, “Are you ready to go shark cage diving?” Oh, I definitely was but they were twenty-five minutes early! Rob had just gotten into the shower and I was by no means ready. We are never late to things and are always ready a little early, but this was too early! Don’t forget all the trouble we had with the other tours we had taken on this trip showing up on time either. I told the security guard that they were very early and we would hurry. Five minutes later, after running around like chickens with our heads cut off, the guard called again to tell us the pickup van was going to go pick up someone else but that they would be back. Both Rob and I were very happy to hear that!
A little after six o’clock am, the van returned to our apartment complex. When we got in, we immediately noticed that a preteen girl was sitting in the seat with a lot of extra legroom. Our destination was two hours away and I knew Rob would be miserable crammed into the other seats in the van. Rob is too shy and nice to ask people to move, but I’m not! I asked her if she would mind letting him have that seat and she agreed. The van was full but eerily quiet. I guess everyone was really sleepy and did not want to talk but I was so excited, it was hard to keep my mouth shut. As we drove, Rob and I pulled out the motion sickness patches my doctor had prescribed. I read the directions and noticed we had to apply them behind our ears at least four hours before getting onto the boat. I thought I had read somewhere that the boat left at ten o’clock, but we discovered it actually left at nine thirty am. I will reveal more later about the consequences of applying the patch three and a half hours early instead of four.
The drive to Klein Bay was nice, including passage over some small mountains where it drizzled for a little while. The driver had radio on but everyone just slept! Rob and I snoozed a little, but as stated before, excitement kept me awake for the most part. As we passed Hermanus, one of my favorite songs came on the radio, “Home” by Daughtry. I will always have the memory of that beautiful song playing as we drove toward the place that would soon be one of the best memories of my life.
Upon arrival to the company’s headquarters, we entered a house with a nice breakfast buffet set up for all of us. We still had not reached Delta Airlines to confirm our flight the next day, so the two women working agreed to let me use their phone. I tried and tried but the phone call would not connect properly. Frustrated, I sat down to eat a little bit. When Rob finished eating, he agreed to try calling again. He did but without luck. At this point, it was time to go outside on the porch for the safety briefing. The two women agreed to let me try and call again that afternoon when we returned.
Everyone gathered outside with the heavy raincoats supplied to us. We listened to the safety instructions and then gathered onto the boat. I was confused about when we would change into our wetsuits but later discovered you change on the boat since there are not enough for everyone. The name of our brand new boat was the Exes Predator. It is currently the largest in the industry but not a luxury boat by any means. There is not place to change into the wetsuit, so you have to just do it on the deck!
We sat down and proceeded out into the great Indian Ocean. It was a chilly, cloudy day but that was not going to ruin our fun! We set anchor where Brian, the owner of the company, explained how he lured sharks to the boat. He used a big fish head that sunk below the surface of the water and a floating object that looked like a small seal. We all watched with hope that a shark would come to us. About thirty minutes later, a great white appeared! Brian then told his crew to get the first set of experienced divers into wetsuits. I was bummed because I wanted to get in but since I had never dived before, I had to wait. At this point, Rob did not believe he would be getting into the cage because he assumed they would not have a wetsuit to fit him.
The first seven people climbed over the edge of the boat and into the cage. They waited for Brian’s instructions to hold their breath, go down into the water and look in a certain direction. The group did this several times while we watched from the boat, where the view was spectacular! I could tell Rob was really enjoying himself, which humored me since he initially did not want to go.
Several months earlier, when I first mentioned the idea of going shark cage diving, Rob said he would not go. Later, he said he would go on the boat but would not get into the cage. Then, a few months before we left, I said, “You know if you get out there and everyone else is getting into the cage, you will, too.”
He responded, “Yeah, you’re probably right.”
Well, when we arrived in South Africa, he once again declared that he was not going to get into the cage. I know my husband pretty well so I didn’t respond, knowing that once we got out into the water, he would change his mind.
Back to watching the sharks from the boat, Brian told his crew to get the second group ready. I told Rob I was volunteering for this round and asked if he was going to go, too. I could see the excitement in his eyes and KNEW he really wanted to get into the cage. He said he did not know if they would have a wetsuit for him, so he asked and they said they would try. One of the crew members went below the deck and then emerged with a large wetsuit. He looked at Rob and said, “This is the biggest one I’ve got.”
Rob, five other people and I began taking off our clothes (yes, we had swimsuits on underneath) to put on our wetsuits. Let me tell you, putting on a wetsuit is very difficult, especially when you are on a rocking boat with limited space! The crew members had to help us put them on, tugging and pulling until we could zip them. That was a workout in itself! The best part was that the wetsuit fit Rob! I could tell he was ecstatic and that he really wanted to get into the cage. That made me happy, too. Then they put weight belts on us so we could sink more easily and gave us a mask. They put us into the cage where we waited for instructions.
All of a sudden, Brian exclaimed, “Down to your right! Down to your right!” Wow, it was really happening! We held our breath and dove under, where I noticed I had a very difficult time holding myself underwater, and to make it worse, my mask leaked. The shark left momentarily so we came back up to the surface where I told the crew about the mask. They gave me another one and also showed me the correct bar to hold onto so I could stay below the water. Before I knew it, Brian told us to go back underneath, and when we did, we saw a shark right in front of us. It was so cool! This happened a couple more times and then the shark left for a while. We waited in the cage and after a few minutes, Brian told us to sit on the bar behind us since the water was cold. They opened the top of the cage to allow us to do that. This is when the issues with motion sickness subtly began. While waiting, the cage went up and down, up and down, up and down in the water. I could tell a little queasiness was beginning so I tried to look at the horizon. It was difficult to do that, however, since we were at the level of the water’s surface. I was still okay but just trying to prevent it from getting worse, which it didn’t until later.
All of a sudden, Brian yelled, “Shark!” It was time again and I thought I was going to burst with excitement! We slid back into the cage, the crew members closed the top and we all went underneath the water. This was the best sighting of the entire trip! The shark was going right for the bait, which was right in front of us! I cannot explain how close this huge shark was to the cage, and you are going to think I am exaggerating! It was RIGHT in front of me, so close that I was a little worried his fin would accidentally swipe me between the bars of the cage. It was not a scared type of worry, but more of an excited, adrenaline type. It only lasted probably about ten or fifteen seconds but it felt like ten minutes. Today, I can still see the shark’s large belly in my memory and relive the feeling of excitement it gave me.
We all rose our heads above the water and everyone just looked at each other and said, “Whoa!” and “Wow” and “Did you see that?” Everyone was absolutely thrilled. Brian knew that he had given us the experience of a lifetime and announced that it was time for the next group to get into the cage.
We got out of the cage, excited beyond belief, and changed back into our clothing. This is where I really began to feel queasy. A doctor on board from the U.K. suggested I go to the top deck, lie down and try to sleep. I tried but it was so cold that I could not stay for long. Meanwhile, Rob was standing on the lower deck watching the other sharks and having the time of his life. I think sometimes people just need a push to try new and sometimes intimidating things, and once they do it, they love it!
Anyway, I eventually went back down to the lower deck to try and warm up, where I eventually felt a little better. At this point, I decided that if I ate a little something, I might feel completely well. I grabbed a bag of potato chips (referred to as “crisps”in some countries) and ate those. They were really good, too! They tasted like barbeque ribs, not bbq chips, but ribs. It was the deepest mesquite flavor I have ever tasted in a chip.
After eating those, I felt pretty well, when all of a sudden, I didn’t. I ran to the side of the boat where no one was standing and well, vomited. Amazingly, no one saw me, not even Rob! I then got Rob and asked him to get me some water. After that, I felt fine the rest of the day! I was even able to eat a sandwich on board while I watched the sharks. Usually, once you get motion sickness, you have it all day. I guess since I had on the patch all but about thirty minutes ahead of time, it helped suppress the bad feelings. I was glad because it was our last full day in South Africa and I did not want to spend it sick.
We watched a few more sharks and then it was time to return to shore. We disembarked where the company had cookies, coffee and hot tea waiting for us. That was nice because we were really cold and needed to warm up. I tried to call the airline again and finally got through, which really relieved me and took a load off my shoulders.
They showed us the DVD a videographer made on board and we bought a copy. I also bought myself a t-shirt, which I never do, but the excitement of the shark in my face prompted it. We usually don’t buy souvenirs at all, so that was a rare thing for us to do.
We got into the van and took a pleasant ride back to Cape Town. On the van, I had some good discussions with the doctor from the U.K. and also an environmental researcher from the same country. She had some fascinating stories of her recent stay in Botswana and also her unfortunate mugging in Namibia.
After they dropped us off at our apartment, we took a short nap, packed a little, showered and got ready to return to our now favorite restaurant in Cape Town, Societi Bistro. When I continue with Part XIV, I will tell you about yet another great dining experience at this fantastic restaurant.