Fellow travelers; can you tell which beach is in Australia and which beach is in England?
Score extra points by naming the exact beach and location! Both pictures taken by me of course.
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!
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.”
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.
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.
Unclean, Disrespectful Love-Making Roommates in an Old and Rotting Building
I was expecting Billabong Gardens to be a quiet, very clean hostel with their rooms filled with working holiday makers, so I felt lucky there was availability when I called. I booked for one week.
What I did find on arrival was a dingy, old, crumbling poorly lit building complete with a rat-sized hole in the wall in the corridor outside my room. My room was an explosion of the other guest’s belongings and the wifi promised to be in every room throughout the hostel did not reach mine. My bag was soon moved by another girl because she didn’t want it there.
After choosing a bottom bunk a girl soon came in without introducing herself and asked if she could swap beds, she was on a top bunk and worked full-time and found it difficult to climb from the top bunk in the dark every morning. I felt I couldn’t say no and agreed to swap.
Later that evening, on the top bunk I heard the girl beneath me brag to another girl in the room that she had taken a girl back on a night out and had sex with her in the room. She apologised for waking some of the other girls up, “but” she said “I really needed to get laid.”
Not a good first night. And I can see now why that other girl wanted to swap beds with me. Great.
The beds were okay, although mine had one of those hellish dips which prevents any comfortable sleeping position and just feels like I just slept on a lumpy sofa. I had to fight for a place in the fridges to put my stuff where there’s not enough room accommodate the amount of people staying here. The hostel doesn’t leave cups/plates in the kitchen and you do have to ask for these at reception where you are given your own set you’re responsible for.
The toilets and showers were quite frankly dire. The shower had little power so washing my hair took a long time and it didn’t feel clean. I regularly walk round bare feet indoors but found the bottom of my feet would be as black as soot if I did this walking around the hostel.
The second night I was woken up by the girl beneath me who had brought back a girl again. Without beating around the bush, pun unintended, they inevitably got down to business keeping me awake for the next few hours and moving the bed with their passion.
Still awake around 3am a girl had come back from work and turned her reading light on to pack her stuff. During the break in their lovemaking, one of the girls opened her makeshift curtain and called out to the other girl “nice day at work?!”, as you do, when you’re totally naked post-sex.
There was no contact at reception to resolve this nightmare situation so I wasn’t able to complain until the morning.
And when I did, the reception guy came and told both of the girls to get out of the building immediately.
The pair was confused on how reception knew, so I owned up and told the girls it was me. The girl who had been brought back to the hostel instantly flipped out at me, swearing at me and saying I came from a stupid country – which was funny, because the girl she came back with was actually from the same country as me.
She then told me it was normal in Australia for couples to shag in dorm rooms and that I needed to grow up. (Is this normal?) I’d been in Australia for other a month and never encountered this before which I told her but she fell back onto calling me a ‘wanker’ again.
I left the room for a little while and came to the decision to leave the hostel as no other feature was making me want to stay there. I asked the same reception guy if I could get a refund from that day and he rudely replied telling me I would have to get my stuff and leave within the next 10 minutes – without giving a reason for this.
I gladly got my stuff together and noticed although the girls weren’t in the room their stuff still was, so she clearly wasn’t making an attempt to leave.
I got my stuff and made my exit and wrapped myself in the relief of leaving this hellhole.
DISCLAMER: I know a lot of these problems with the roommates are not the fault of the hostel. This is a review which does include my opinion of the facilities but also a helpful insider tip that if you’re thinking of staying here then you could be sharing a room with the kind of people above. I am not homophobic and I would still have a problem with a heterosexual couple having sex in the same room I am trying to sleep in. Additionally, if you still decide you want to come here but then change your mind and want to leave, like I did, then prepare for a swift exit, I may as well have been kicked out.