Author: Mrs A
Location: Port Lincoln & the North Neptune Islands
Distance: 60km as the crow flies – about 2.5 hours by boat
The day began early with a 5.45am alarm. Of course it had begun multiple times throughout the night, as is often the case when you’re excited and don’t want to miss waking up in time! Today Mr A and I went separate ways for the day as I was ticking off a bucket list item – cage diving with Great White Sharks.
A bus collected me from the campground at 6.15am and took me to the harbour where I met my fellow divers. We were provided with tea, juice and breakfast before boarding the Shark Warrier at 7am and heading off on our adventure.
Our wildlife spotting began early, as we were invited up on deck to see a pair of ospreys nesting on a barge in the harbour. This barge cannot be used now until the chicks have flown:
From here, it was a 2.5 hour journey out to the Neptune Islands – a group of islands at the entrance to the Spencer Gulf…
We were soon joined by dolphins which abandoned their fishing to ride the bow wave of our boat. A couple of hours later, we arrived at the islands, and selected a spot beside one where we could see plenty of fur seals (shark food) and also see some Great Whites on the radar, settled on the sea bed. The cage was lowered into the water, and we got changed in to our 7mm wetsuits, hoods, boots and gloves in anticipation of the 16 degrees centigrade water.
The company I had chosen to dive with was Adventure Bay Charters. Unlike their competition, they do not entice the sharks with blood and fish berley (chopped up fish), rather they use vibrations from music and the slapping of ropes and rattles to mimic the sound of a distressed animal, piquing the shark’s curiosity. This has the result of keeping the interaction more natural, and doesn’t send the sharks into a frenzy – associating humans with food.
We jumped in to the water…16 degrees is rather fresh (much like the English Channel I am guessing!), and given you are moving very little in the cage, you can only last in there for about 20 minutes before you begin to feel numb. On my first dive, I saw lots of silver trevally fish, but unfortunately no sharks. We could still see the sharks on the radar, but clearly they had already filled up on a seal pup and were not feeling peckish.
The afternoon warmed up and it got quite steamy in the wetsuit. I decided to go in for another dive in anticipation of success. Just as I was climbing into the cage, the cry went out – ‘shark!’. Usually this means get out of the water, but I sped up and climbed on in. And there he was. A three metre male, many nicks and scars, gracefully cruising around the cage, wondering how he could reach the tasty looking morsels inside. He was soon joined by a female. Incredible. Swimming along with their mouth open teeth always ready to chomp, they do look strangely serene and peaceful. You half forget they have the power to tear off a limb and end a life in seconds.
I lost track of how long I was under water this time, but was ready for a hot shower by the time I climbed back out on to the boat. What a fantastic view of some incredible creatures. Apparently they have very poor eyesight and their only way of testing their food is with their teeth. They don’t actually eat humans once they have attacked. We are much too bony. They far prefer the fat and blubber of a seal.
Research has shown that the majority of taste-tests on humans have occurred when the light is weak – when it is overcast, at dawn and dusk. Few happen when the sun is bright and the water clear. So don’t go in the water at the high risk times, I say!
Once dry, everything was packed up and we set off on our way back to Port Lincoln, with a few diversions on the way. First of all, to Memory Bay in the Lincoln National Park where we called in on a New Zealand fur seal colony, their fur blending in nicely with the granite rock:
The bus dropped me off at around 8pm – the end of a long but incredible day – Definitely worth doing if you are out this way.
Mr A had kindly prepared dinner for me too after his day of exploring the Port Lincoln area on bike. It doesn’t get much better than this! Awesome!