Africa Part 3- The Shark Dive

*This was originally part 4 but I accidentally deleted part 3. Pissed off would be an understatement. I will re-write it and post it after this. Fuck you Microsoft and your keyboard shortcuts!

After a couple of booze fueled nights and next to no sleep, me and a mate headed to Gansbai at piss arse O’clock in the morning. We had been staying an hour or 2 down the coast just along from Cape Town. Gansbai is the shark dive capital of the world and has the infamous ‘Shark Alley’ lying just off it’s coast, and that’s where we would be diving.

As a boy I loved Great White Sharks and diving with them was a lifelong dream. Even tired and nursing a mild hangover my enthusiasm and excitement was unquestionable. Face to face with natures most fearsome predator with nothing to divide us by a few inches of steel. Man versus Beast…lets get it on!!!

Little was I to know, stepping onto that boat was going to be one of the best AND worst experiences of my life.

There was maybe around 20 people were booked onto this particular boat, some just to watch, the rest to dive. There were at least half a dozen companies heading out that day but they all offer the same thing and no-one was worried that we would experience anything different.

shark 2 There was a quick induction and simple buffet breakfast at the company head quarters then we were quickly on our way. After settling onto the boat we got talking to some of the other clients and it was apparent most of them were together and had flown all the way from California for a Christian festival. Couldn’t ask for nicer people and there were several children in the group, all of which were going to do the dive. Stellar effort.

It didn’t take long before it became apparent that sea sickness was going to be a factor. The sea was choppy to say the least and there was giant buckets filled with fish blood and guts clogging up the boat. Sadly I have a history of sea sickness and add that to a hangover and no sleep it looked like I was going to be praying side by side with the Christians.

This particular cage could fit 6 people so the crew explained there would likely be three groups one after another at roughly an hour in the sea each. As we were all getting suited and booted the crew also explained that the side of the boat without the cage was the vomit side. A very important thing to remember! It was all looking very ominous and by this point my heart had sunk faster than the boat in Jaws.

Spew wave 1 hit about 5 minutes into the first groups dive. The free breakfast along with the previous nights wine was the first to go. Luckily, due to the hangover I hadn’t ate much at the free buffet breakfast. Unluckily, it wouldn’t matter worth shit.

Wave 2 hit when I turned around at the end of wave 1 and seen the chum bucket. As far as I remember I had threw up a few times before the next person subsided, so yet again in my life, without even trying, I was “that guy”.

By the time wave 982 hit most of the boat was at it. To my relief though I hadn’t one iota of excretable solid left in me and I thought all fluid had gone. However, to my utter despair this mattered none. Every time my liver produced Bile I would throw it up. In case you didn’t know, bile tastes terrible and you will NEVER forget it. I’m talking pure, fresh bile constantly flowing up my throat. (It’s important I paint the correct picture)

By this point though my stomach had squeezed and pulled from every angle so the vomit (bile) would volcanically erupt from my stomach but the projectile function of my throat had disabled. What followed was a hideous, aggressive action followed by the sound of a dying Chewbacca and only a miniscule amount of bile would tepidly dribble out like the climax to a sub-standard wank. Still holding true to my enthusiasm and positive attitude I turned to a group of the Christians who had meekly huddled together at vomit side looking pale and despondent:

“Ahhh. Yikes. Well that’s me just down to bile”

Having witnessed what they just witnessed they did not need me to summarize. They just looked at me with the look of “Why god why is this man doing and saying these things”. I think for a passing moment they questioned their belief in god just by looking at me.

From wave 1000 and onwards I took the strategy of edging my head closer and closer to the water so that a Shark would take pity and kill me in an instant. When I wasn’t throwing up I had procured myself a nice position on the deck to lie down on.(It was next to the chum bucket but that ship had sailed).

The first group had a few gasps of “Shark” and it looked like it was going to be prime cage viewing for the next group. At the end of the first hour about the third of the boat had been sick and many of the rest were waiting. In my favor were the years of alcohol abuse and subsequent hangovers at University. I was well accustomed to putting my fingers down my throat and getting on with it. So when the crew were calling for people in the second group I knew it was the best thing to do. I mean how much worse could it get? I was lying next to a chum bucket in the fetus position with a putrid, viscous bile trickling down my chin. If anything it might help. Or so I thought. I threw up my hand heroically, like I was back from the dead:

“ME. YES. ME. I WILL JOIN GROUP 2!!”

What a fucking hero I was.

I stumbled to my legs in Bambi-esque fashion and jumped straight into the cage. It was true Scottish stoicism if you have ever seen it. “Forget William Wallace! People will shout my name from the Roof tops!! Men will want to be me, woman will want me to be in them! They will write about this for years to come. From chum bucket corner to King of the World.” This is what was going on in my head.

However, in all the furore of my heroism and punch drunk on bile I had forgotten to do up my wet suit. Off the coast of South Africa. At the end of Winter. Fuck.

The wet suits are designed to let water in then hold it there for your body to heat it up and thus acting like a hot water bottle. For me, it was just a constant flow of freezing cold water in and out. And that was the last time I seen my testicles. Na but it was shockingly cold. In fact it was dangerous. None the less, I came to see sharks from a cage. So help me god I will see sharks from inside a cage!!! WALLACE, WALLACE, WALLACE!!!

My courage paid off. I went the longest time without spewing since I stepped foot on the boat. Not only that but there were two Great White Sharks! Once of which was swimming right up to the cage and brushing past it. All the thoughts of Hypothermia and Organ excretion had left and were replaced by wonder and awe at these beautiful creatures. It was only to get better!

shark dive One of the sharks decided to grab the large piece of Tuna that was thrown out by the crew to lure them in. Not only that, it did it like a mother fucking boss!! At pace it swam and grabbed it in its jaws, ferociously shaking it from side to side and careering into the cage. The power of its tale slapping the water and rattling the cage with crushing force, sending vibrations down to the core of my bones. Unbelievable!

It swam off with it’s prize and I lifted my head out of the water to the whole boat up in arms with with the power and guile they just witnessed and I had a front row seat. I looked around at the other cage members, all of us realized it doesn’t get much better than that. Dreams do come true.

The sharks were still lingering but it had definitely peaked. Due to worry that the bubbles were preventing the Sharks from coming close we were literally just holding out breath under water and coming up for air in a small gap between the water and the top of the cage. It was like being in a jail with all the walls, floor and roof being bars.

After the adrenaline began to subside from the Shark crashing into the cage my body began to take umbrage with my new found happiness. Floating around in the water and one step away from Hypothermia I lost the ability to judge an impeding spew. All of a sudden I grabbed the cage and pressed my face against it as I started to rally more bile.

“Oh shit…. bleurghhhhhhh”

The captain heard my horrible Chewbacca death screams and looked down to see me pressed against the cage, vomiting pure bile for the umpteenth million time.

“What the…what are doing??!!”

“I’m so sorry I can’t help…bleu…bleurggggghhhh”

“There are other people in the cage!!!! Get out!!!”

“I can’t mm…move…bleurggghhghh”

Meanwhile, the other people in the cage started to edge towards the shark.

“YOU SHOULDN’T BE SICK IN THE CAGE!”

“bleurgggh. Oh god”

I was now just down to the ‘after spew spits’:

“pugh………. pugh”

“Right, help me get this cage open and get him out of there”

I don’t know what his problem was. They were literally throwing dead fish and buckets of blood and guts into the water. There was barely any Bile coming out and the stuff that was, was going down my chin and into my wetsuit. What was I going to do?? Scare away the shark.

After being hauled out of the cage the spewing had relented.

“Right, go and lie down at the front of the boat. It should be better there!”

I was literally shunned from the rest of the boat. Shunned like yesterdays tuna.

shark

As I lay, basking in the winter sun I started to think…am I dying? I’ve stopped shivering. I’m so cold that I’m now warm. Is that the start of Hypothermia ?? Is it the Bile that I spewed into the suit? Had I pissed myself?? I did plan on pissing in the wet suit.

Just as I was edging towards the cusp of death. The boat start heading for home. I don’t quite remember how long I was lying there but it must have been a while. Apparently the sharks didn’t really do much after I left so maybe I did scare them away. I was also told that some people were too ill so never went into the cage. Well, no-one was as ill as I was so I think I will take the moral victory over every other person on the boat.

When we got back to land and safely into Shark HQ I think there only ended up being 2 or 3 people who were not sick. One if which was the guy I was with. Lucky bastard.

After sitting down and thinking the worst was over I started being sick in Shark HQ. What the fuck?? I was so ill I had made myself ill!!

The office staff started feeding me tablets and running around as I was sloppily drooped over the toilet bowl. They told me I had broke some sort of record as the first man to be sick in the cage. I find that hard to believe but who am I to question such a prestigious honour. I’m proud of it.

I returned from the toilet and sat next to my mate who after expressing initial concern started laughing.

“What you laughing at?”

“I’m just laughing at how you will tell the story. I went cage diving with sharks on my Gap yeaaa. It’s a Beautiful beast but I chundered everwaaa”

I seen the funny side to the whole thing, because you have to really. I spent the rest of the day in bed but it was worth it.

If you are going to do something. Then do it in style!

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