I can see the gorgeous ocean from where I’m sitting at Starbucks this morning. I adore the ocean and have a great respect for it. Of course there are a lot of scary things in the ocean, just like on land. Sharks, of course, being one of the things the people of this earth are frightened of almost as much as public speaking. And, yes, I am someone who fears sharks. Especially as I spend so much of my time in the ocean off the coast of South Maui where it is no question Tiger Sharks are in abundance. But, it’s a bit like my philosophy with this blog – just because something is scary and holds risk, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it anyway.
I love the ocean so I can’t be kept away from it, but I’m also bright enough to follow most of the rules. Rules like, don’t go in the ocean after heavy rains, if the water is murky or if it’s near dusk or dawn. If you google shark bite history they always state whether the water was turbid/murky or not. However, I’ve also said to many people on multiple occasions, that if I experience ‘death by shark’ – to understand that I died happy. I was in the ocean doing one of my favorite things and I probably had lethal amounts of adrenaline in my system from seeing a gigantic shark anyway. A bit morbid, but admit it, we’re all a bit morbid.
So anyway, after about a year of working as an activity concierge on Maui I got very curious about shark adventures and getting in a cage to see sharks in the ocean up close. When I finally had another reason to make the trip over to O’ahu, (The Cure were coming to Hawai’i for the first time in forever for a concert) I booked the cage snorkel and the flight! Sure, I was afraid – not about the sharks – but about the other details. Was it possible for me to get in in out of the cage at my size? Would they take one look at me and tell me I couldn’t even get on the boat? All of the crazy things that poison our minds of course.
The morning I landed, I rented an SUV and made my way to Haleiwa on the North Shore of the island. Its a gorgeous drive – way more gorgeous than I thought it’d be as I only remember O’ahu as being very city like from my one previous visit. I was letting my nerves get the better of me, but eventually I calmed down enough to check in at the boat harbor. Turns out I was on the boat with a big family from New Jersey with about 8 daughters, so it was a ton of fun listening to them get excited. I was also on the boat with a few people who had severe motion sickness issues, who spent the trip miserable and vomiting. Pro tip – these are single hull boats you’re going out on, which translates to a rocky boat. If you’re determined to do this and have motion sickness issues, think about taking bonine and going on the earliest trip of the day. Also, your doctor can give you something more suited to your needs.
When we got out to the cage, it didn’t take long for the sharks to find us. Whether it’s true or not, the crew told us that the sharks are attracted to boat motors because they indicate free food. Apparently, the area is used a lot for fishing and crab collecting and the sharks got used to free meals being thrown overboard as the fisherpeople came back to shore and were cleaning their catch and throwing carcasses over.
It was so thrilling seeing actual sharks in the water around the boat!! All of the sharks were Galapagos sharks – but apparently other variety come by once in a while. The New Jersey family and the sick people went first and I waited rather impatiently watching the sharks from the boat. I watched how each person got in to get an idea of how I would do it. Once it was my turn I had methodically already figured it out where my feet and hands would go and felt comfortable.
Getting from boat to cage was a big step, but doable. It was the backwards descent into the water that I got a bit shaky with as there are areas you cannot put your hands lest they slam back into the boat. However, once in the water all of my fear melted away as it does in the ocean, and I ducked my head underwater to see the sharks. There were about 8-10 of them and one of them had a huge hook in his nose. It was a little difficult to keep under the water as it was some pretty rough seas, but it was nonetheless amazing! It doesn’t take long to realize that these sharks have absolutely no interest in us folks in the cage and after that, you’re just calm and focused on enjoying the moment. You get about 10-15 minutes in the water and eventually you start to recognize the individual sharks as you stare into their dead eyes.
It wasn’t hard at all getting back on board and aside from realizing that one of the sick folks had vomited in the water next to the cage while I was inside, I enjoyed the ride back. After a hot shower, I was off to have lunch with a friend in Honolulu and then out to see The Cure at the Blaisdell in Waikiki.
These are the experiences I am done allowing myself to pass up because I’m a super fluff! For too many years I said, “I’ll do that after I lose the weight” or “That’ll be a treat to myself if I manage to get some pounds off”. The time to do these things is NOW. Not, ‘when’ or ‘if’ — do them! When people at my desk here in Maui see an ad about a shark adventure, I tell them, “I DID THAT!” and they all seem to look at me differently. I know I look at myself differently after I try something scary for the first time. I have a bit more self respect when I smile at myself in the mirror and remind myself, “I did that!”
PSG Rating – 4-5