Photos by John Miller
With or without the cage? Tis the question, as a dozen or so shark fins swirl around the boat, slicing through the gleaming glassy ocean under a sky of vibrant sunrise. Earlier on land, John Muller, owner of Shark Cage Diving KZN asked me if I’d like to snorkel with the sharks outside the cage. Intrigued, and slightly shocked by the decision, I replied “Will think about it…”
With my body in shivers from the cold gusts of wind rolling off the ocean, my mind is busy constructing a complex web of thoughts in a tangled series of events, imagining how things would play out shall I enter the ocean beyond the safety of the metal barred cage… I could see it now, the death scenting blacktips swarming around me, dashing ferociously, then one or maybe two, corkscrew vertically through the water with their lipless jaws wide open, launching me into the air, and tearing me apart from limb to limb.
I decide to try the cage. Before I knew it I was enclosed above, before, beside and behind in metal bars of uncertainty. I take a breath and sink down into a surround of swift, energetic sharks and their parameter of hunger, as they leap and spin in and out of the water, attacking bits of bait thrown overboard. With eyes that stare at nothing, 15 rows of glistening teeth and shining skin covered in patches of kaleidoscope sunrise reflections, the primitive creatures take turns, one, two or three at a time, gliding silently up to the cage, seemingly curious. A cluster of intertwined remoras, twirl together like an underwater wind chime next to us, and wait persistently to snatch-up a scrap. I ascend for a speedy breath and return to a chaos enacted frenzy, of lashing tails and snapping teeth. Amazed and captivated while witnessing one of the earth’s most mysterious predators, I’ve forgotten all about the bars of steel that separate us.