As my time on exchange in Australia is drawing to a close, there’s one more animal I’d really like to mention, which has a huge presence in Western Australia as well as in South Africa.
The great white shark.
Last year (August-November time) there were, sadly, 3 fatal shark attacks in Perth involving, firstly a 21 year old student killed while body boarding with friends at Bunker Bay, the second involved a 64 year old Perth businessman who disappeared at Cottesloe Beach while taking a morning swim; only his speedos were retrieved. Then the final fatally for that period a 32 year old American citizen was solo diving and spear fishing off a 25m boat when the attack occurred.
More recently the student newspaper I have been working on out here (The Western Independent) covered a story about surf life savers using helicopter monitoring systems to spot sharks off the coastline of Western Australia.
In South Africa last year there were 5 shark attacks and globally there were 75 shark attacks in 2011. Despite their power and ferocity, I couldn’t resist getting up close to these creatures to learn more about them. I journeyed from Shamwari Game Reserve, where I was staying, to Mossel Bay which was about an 8/9 hour drive away to take the rare opportunity to go diving with them.
Whilst it isn’t always guaranteed that there will be a close shark encounter on the cage dives, I was fortunate enough to go on day where 3 sharks all over 6 foot were in the waters! And they were lured in close enough to be biting at the cage!
If I’m honest it wasn’t an overly enjoyable experience. I remember at the time feeling completely uneasy and wanting it to be over! It was only afterwards when I was back on shore did the other divers and I reflect on how tremendous and exciting it was! And I certainly left with a new found respect for these beautiful terrifying animals. Needless to say, during my time in Australia I stayed well clear of shark waters – with or without a cage!