Great White Shark Cage Diving Experience with Calypso Star Charters

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No day will ever compare to the day I did a Great White shark cage dive.  I haven’t written much on my time spent in Australia, my wild tales from China were more out of the ordinary and seemed more pressing to tell (read them here China Short Stories), but I realise it’s not every day you’re metres away from one of nature’s deadliest predators.

I arrived in Sydney the day after New Year’s day and I noticed right away the city’s pace was slower than that of Singapore’s (where I’d been previously), making it harder to tell if this place was trying to catch up after a New Year hangover, or if it was just laid-back.

Initially I was with my boyfriend when we arrived, we went on to travel down the south/south east coast, but when he left to attend a school friend’s Wedding (and the much anticipated stag do beforehand) I decided to stay and work.

We had an airport goodbye, where I inevitably cried and which regrettably wasn’t the tearful and touching Hollywood there-well I was hoping it to be, instead the more sobbing red-eyed, make-up smudged mess instead.  (We’re still together so I didn’t put him off too much.)

After returning to Sydney and working for $23 an hour filing paperwork all day, every day Monday to Friday, I’d saved up enough to buy my ticket home and a place on a Great White shark cage diving tour!

To cut short a long story of I’ve always found sharks fascinating blah blah blah… the real truth is; I watched Jaws as a kid, and have found sharks bloody incredible ever since.  I hope they’ve got a BIG boat!

Yep...  This is me.

Yep… This is me.

There are two main players who can take you on this tours in Port Lincoln – ‘the Great White shark capital of the world’ – Calypso Star Charters or Adventure Bay Charters.  The former use the attractively named ‘chum’ (dead fish blood and guts) to coax in the sharks, whereas the latter stands by the eco-friendly approach by sending vibrations through the water, making sharks believe it’s another fish in stress, or another fish ready to eat!  I was all for Adventure Bay Charters and not contributing money to sharks associating food (the chum) with humans (me!), but when you read over the Trip Advisor reviews and see who has the most shark viewings then you’ll understand why I sold out and went with Calypso Star.

I’m pretty glad I did too, because on my already fateful day that I’ll be jumping into the water with an animal able to swallow me whole; there was also a thunderstorm forecast.  Oh yes, predicted to be so rough it was at first uncertain if the tour was going ahead – it did, for Calypso Star Charters, but not for Adventure Bay.

My alarm went off for the grim wake-up of 5am, a coach shortly after taking me and other shark goers down to the harbour. Feeling very apprehensive, as I get seasick and have a reasonable fear of the sea (then why/how did I go on this tour?  Sharks, bloody Great White sharks, that’s why), me and a boat full of other tourists settled down to listen to the captain’s health and safety spiel – “it’s 3 hours to the dive spot” he says, with a thick Australian accent “2 hours we’ll still be near land, so, we won’t get much trouble there.  An hour after that we’ll be in open ocean…which err, it’s gonna get a bit rough…but, we’ll be alright.

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A bit rough, we’ll be alright he’d said – it was the worst bloody boat journey of my entire life.  The storm started when we’d hit the open ocean, forcing the boat to smash against and through the thick curl of the waves.  I thought I was in The Perfect Storm.  I couldn’t go outside for fear of being swept off deck, I couldn’t sit down because I needed fresh air.  I settled, crouching and all colour draining from my face, sitting between the door to the deck and inside the boat.  I threw up five times, in total.  And when we got to the dive spot I was still passed out from exhaustion from being sick so many times, my head in my arms.  Time to wake up and get in the water though, the sharks were already here – 3 of them!

Putting on scuba gear, another thing I’d never done before, didn’t make me feel much better, worse if anything.  But I had to, had to, soldier through in order to see those beasts of the deep.

The lovely people I shared the cage with.

The lovely people I shared the cage with (I’m fourth to the right, third one in from the left.)

And see them I did.  Despite the sickening sensation of the cage rocking in the water and sharing it with five other people, recovering from my severe sea sickness and claustrophobia from wearing the scuba gear which I couldn’t breathe properly in; the experience was incredible.  Everything I expected it to be and more.

The most striking thing for me was seeing them cruising, slow and sinister to suddenly opening their jaws, aiming for the prey (chum) and seizing it so quickly, slicing through the water to make a quick exit, all in the space of a few seconds.  Bloody hell, no-one could pay me to go in the water with one of them, yet here I am paying someone to let me do it behind a flimsy metal cage!

They’d glide past the cage a few times, as if peering in, seeing what’s behind the metal cage wire, but could disappear without a trace too.  When they’d come back you’d see them swimming back in, appearing through the watery shadows, becoming more clear the closer they came, an entrance which wasn’t just created for the movies.

We didn’t get to shore many hours later and I was truly shattered before even placing both my feet on solid ground again.  I came back with my fear of the sea increased, not only of its power but the monsters it can breed, but my awe and wonder of this amazing animal heightened also.  An unforgettable experience and a must-do opportunity if you find yourself in South Australia, here are some of my best pics.

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