Swim and Dine with Sharks at uShaka

11 Nov 2012

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The writer takes a chance and gets into the shark cage for a close-up look of one of the planet's most dreaded predators...

Conquer your fear and get up close and personal with one of the most dreaded predators on earth. Demola Ojo did…

Some experiences are cherished and stay with you forever. Not only do you recall them with nostalgia when you go through pictures and videos, they’re also good conversation material; with friends at a bar, colleagues during lunch break or maybe your kids over dinner. For this writer, one experience that can’t be forgotten is coming within inches of two famous species of shark; the sand tiger shark and the bull shark.

Before going further, let’s get acquainted with the sharks. The sand tiger shark inhabits coastal waters worldwide and lives close to the shorelines and sandy beaches of North America, hence the name sand tiger shark. It also dwells in the waters of Japan, Australia, and South Africa.  Despite its fearsome appearance and strong swimming ability, it is a relatively placid and slow-moving shark. 

The sand tiger’s length can grow to a length of 11 feet and usually swims with its mouth open, displaying three rows of protruding, smooth-edged, sharp-pointed teeth. They are often associated with being vicious or deadly, due to their relatively large size and sharp, protruding teeth that point outward from their jaws. However, they are often quite docile, and aren’t usually a threat to humans. Owing to its size and temperament, the sand tiger is commonly displayed in aquariums around the world.

The bull shark is, however, a different kettle of fish (forgive the pun). The bull shark is known for its aggressive nature, predilection for warm shallow water and the fact that it thrives in both saltwater and freshwater and can travel far up rivers.  According to Wikipedia, they are probably responsible for the majority of near-shore shark attacks, including many attacks attributed to other species.
The name bull shark comes from the shark’s stocky shape, broad, flat snout and aggressive, unpredictable behavior. They are also reputed to have the highest bite force of all sharks, including the great white shark.

Obviously, there are many people who would pass on the opportunity to get in water with these apex predators. For those whose interest has been piqued and would like excite themselves with this one-in-a-lifetime experience, no need to worry. It’s a safe activity as long as you’re not diving unprotected into the Atlantic or the Indian Ocean.

Shark Cage Diving
The uShaka marine world in Durban, South Africa is the largest ocean park in Africa and boasts the largest aquarium in the Southern Hemisphere. Among the several animal encounters that can be undertaken, the shark cage dive takes the cake because of its fear factor.

For a little more than $20, you get a wetsuit and a dive mask to see underwater but no snorkel. The instruction when you get into the cage – a cylinder with an open top and a floor under – is to pull yourself down with the rungs of the ladder on the inside of the cage. It is somewhat counterintuitive. Normally you’re meant to pull yourself up, out of water. But it’s saltwater and very buoyant inside the cage. Once you’re out of breath, let go of the rungs and you’re up in a couple of seconds for a fresh gulp of air.

Once this trick is mastered, the next is to make sure you don’t let your fingers out of the little holes around the cage. Remember there are real sharks circling around you, lots of them.

The creatures are really magnificent up close. From one angle, they are just massive grey walls, from another, a tunnel lined with different shapes and sizes of chainsaws. There’s a bit of apprehension too but it’s no fun without a hint of danger right?
Cargo Hold

After 15 minutes staring down some of the most fearsome animals on earth submerged with them in an aquarium, you can enjoy a clearer, less anxious view from the Cargo Hold, an underground restaurant which doubles as a shark viewing gallery. The Cargo Hold is one of two restaurants in the Phantom Ship, a disused 1950’s cargo steamer ship brought to shore. The other, the Upper Deck, is above ground.

Dining with a shark tank in the backdrop after an exhilarating dive in a shark cage, you can someday include it in your memoirs perhaps, that you swam and dined with sharks without being eaten alive!

A bull shark at the uShaka marine world, Durban...

Tags: Business, Nigeria, Featured, uShaka

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