Cage diving has always interested me. The adrenaline. The element of uncertainty. The opportunity to get face to face with one of natures most perfect killers. I recently traveled to Port Lincoln, SA Australia where I was able to secure a one day shark diving charter to the Neptune Islands.
We arrived at the boat dock early in the morning. The sun was still down. It was a relatively cool morning. It seemed like the perfect setting for an adventure out to the middle of the ocean to encounter some sharks.
We immediately spotted the large steel cage hanging from the back of the boat. It looked as I expected. A small metal cage with a partially opened top. I had been warned of the possibility of the shark jumping into the cage but from what I saw that would have been highly unlikely.
We were greeted by the crew who offered us breakfast and then proceed to inform of us of the “Rules of the cage. “Keep your hands and feet inside the cage”, “don’t touch the shark”, “don’t go swimming outside of the cage” and so on. Common sense really however I had been toying with the idea of trying to touch the side of one if they got close enough. That fantasy was crushed by the story of a man who reached out of the cage to touch a passing shark. Unbeknownst to him there was a second shark in the water who proceeded to relieve the rule breaker of his arm.
The ride out to the Neptune Islands was rough. The air was getting cooler as we traveled further south. By the time we arrived most of the adventuresome divers were huddled in the boats cabin or were outside taking advantage of one of the many nausea bags the crew had laid out for us.
As the boat slowed we realized we were amongst the Neptune Islands New Zealand Fur Seal colony. Hopefully one of these tasty seals would lure a big shark out of the water to satisfy the secret blood lust of everyone on board.
Finally we had arrived. The sun was now up and the crew was beginning to prepare the cage for the water. As two of the crew were lowering the cage into the water a third member emerged from the cabin carrying a white bucket. He then proceeded to empty the contents of the container into the water. A bloody mess of what was once a fish. The process referred to as chumming or “chumming up” the water is supposed to entice the sharks out of their hiding spots by offering the scent of fresh blood.
Finally the moment came when the dive master assembled the first group of four. We climbed down into the cage and stared out through the blood filled water hoping a shark would arrive to inspect the area. …..
Two hours passed. I had long since exited the cage. The water was cold and in my adrenaline filled state I had opted to enter the ice cold water as any good Canadian boy should. Wearing only a pair of board shorts…. I was now half frozen, embracing a cup of hot coffee and trying to keep my hopes up that a shark would eventually arrive.
Four hours passed. We were served lunch. Still no sharks.
Six hours passed. Still no sharks. Crew moral is at an all time low. Divers are beginning to begrudge the charters $500 price tag. Mutiny is being considered.
8 hours passed. The cage is now out of the water. We are heading back to the main land without even the slightest glimpse of anything resembling a shark.
During the boat ride home we are presented with a complimentary beer and a coupon for a discount on our next charter.
An extremely disappointing end to an extremely disappointing day. I didn’t personally hold the crew accountable for the day. Sharks are wild creatures. They can’t be expected to arrive on cue everyday to satisfy the expectations of groups of eager tourists. Having said that the price tag on the charter was quite high. The majority of the patrons of the charter had traveled a great distance to get to Port Lincoln and most of us had no intentions ( or even the means ) to return to Port Lincoln. A partial discount of any kind would have taken some of the sting out.
If you’re considering taking a shark dive charter be sure to prepare yourself for the event that a shark may not show up. I have talked to people who have had incredible experiences with shark dive charters. It will be up to you in the end to decide if you are willing to gamble the money.