I stared down into the pool-blue water wondering if this was going to be the end of me. A couple of feet away a dorsal fin skimmed the water before returning to the depths. I was supposed to catch a flight home later today, and I wonder if work would take the excuse of dying as a reason for not showing up.
Somehow I doubt it.
“Are you sure about this,” I asked my best friend.
“I’m sure,” she said. The look wasn’t convincing.
“You know a bunch of Marines back out of this.”
“Marines are chickens,” she laughed not meaning it.
“Well, at least I’ll have a good story about how I died once I get into heaven.”
I willingly and knowingly jumped into the chum water with a bunch of sharks. And I also paid about $100 for this experience.
I took a final look, adjusted my mask and scissor dove into the water to meet the creatures of the deep.
When Aimee had picked me up at the Honolulu Airport at 8 pm a week ago. She excitedly told me that she had made reservations for us to go shark diving with a bunch of Marines, my jet-lagged brained thought this would be cool.
Now I am not too sure about it.
Halfway through the week, when the Marines started to back out, I should have thought this over.
But it was too late now. We were two miles from North Shore and I had already paid for this.
I opened my eyes to see hundreds of bubbles rushed past me to escape what was coming up from below. Raising from the abyss, was at least 20 sand and white tip sharks. Each one of them comes close to see what this strange device that has entered their world and if it is edible.
They aren’t that big, maybe 4ft, but they still sent my heart racing and the adrenaline flowing each time one of them gets close enough to pet.
On the boat (the cage wasn’t far from it), the captain yelled for us to see this. Out of garbage bag that had been sitting close to him, he produced a giant tail of sword fish he had caught yesterday and threw it into the water.
A couple of seconds later, I could hear the Jaws theme music play as a 12-foot female tiger shark rose from the abyss, ignoring us and headed towards the fin.
“Hey boss, Smiley’s here,” yelled our guide who was bobbing inside the cage with us. His job was to make sure we don’t try to pet the sharks and takes the occasional picture of us with our cameras. Turns out sharks don’t like being petted.
“Smiley,” you named a shark, Smiley,” I said. He pointed to a smiley face tattoo/scar on the right side, just below the dorsal fin. Wondered what the story was behind that scar was.
Smiley, the tiger shark, was happily chewing on the tail, as a couple of sand sharks tried to grab it from her. At some point, she decided to stretch out underneath the boat… and holy crap, she was bigger than the boat.
Turns out Smiley loves sail fish tail and usually waits just below the ability to see line, just to see if the crew had brought her one. She only makes an appearance if she gets her favorite treat.
“They get to know the boats,” said our guide. “We don’t have to chum the water, they show up before we even start,” he said. “They know the vibrations and come.”
“Yet you still chum it,” I said, thinking how excited the captain was about the sail fish tail. Not that I was too crazy about swimming in the water with fish guts.
“Respect,” our guide told us. “The ancient Hawaiian believed that sharks were the guardians, they protected them. If you were a warrior and died protecting the chief, then you would be reborn as a shark. It’s all about respect, they come visit us, we should bring them presents.”
Under the water, we are up to 30 of them, and for some reason my body is not getting the adrenaline pump as before. I am calm and peaceful as I watched them play tag in the water. Maybe the afraid has turned into fascination because they aren’t here because they want to eat me, they are just as curious about us as we are of them.
About 30 minutes go by before we get back into the boat, the cage is lifted out of the water, and the motors start. By then most of the sharks, including Smiley have returned to the great abyss. We head back, Aimee talks about shrimp carts and food. We can’t decide between shrimp or dumplings.
The wind is blowing and a rainbow stretches across the land. What a way to end an incredible visit, and as a reminder of the Aloha spirit, the gods not only let the warriors of the past visit us, but gave us a beautiful rainbow.
What amazes me the most is the respect. Even though our captain and guide are natives Hawaii (or have some connections), and they make their money off of letting tourist have a not so cheap thrill. They still see these creatures as guardians and not cold-blooded killers. To them, they bring the fish guts and a favorite treat, not to get the attention for the tourist (there were only two of us), but because they respect them enough to bring gifts.
I have other stories from that amazing week out there, but going shark diving (as crazy as it sounds) was epic.