The salty sea overwhelmed my olfactory senses. The waters were choppy. We passed Seal Island: a rank-smelling land home to a multitude of Cape fur seals. There, great white sharks would forage for food.
The boat was anchored just a stone’s throw away from the island. After giving a brief introduction, the crew went to work. Our steely bastion was released. The first batch of prey suited up, went into the water, and lamented the biting cold of it.
Just minutes later, the fins of the Great White Shark protruded above water, giving away her position. Up went the cameras, and the children on board craned their necks to see her. Very calmly she swam, every twist of her gargantuan body a graceful glide. She headed for the bait, but stopped short of taking it.
Before long, it was my turn to be imprisoned. “Hands off the outer cage at all times” came the instructions. “What outer cage? There’s only one cage here! Help!!!” my inner voice screamed. But I kept my bravado and chose instead to ready my GoPro. Into the cage I went, and for the first time in my life, I treaded seawater.
“Right!” the crew operator yelled. Like puppets on strings, all of us instantly took a huge gulp of air, and pulled ourselves down. My eyes, now bleared, and I could only see a dark turquoise colour and not very far. Wiggly chunks of meat torn off the bait swam about me. I frantically scanned my surrounding for the mammoth creature. Nothing in sight. My lungs tightened, and I immediately came up for air.
A huge gasp I let out, as if I had just sprinted a kilometre. “Left!” shouted the disembodied voice again.
And then I came face-to-face with her. Encircling my side of the cage, advancing very slowly, but advancing she was. She regarded me, and her row of razor-sharp teeth was in full glory. The bait plopped once again, and she went for it. Something stirred in her. She champed the bait. She fought against her opponent’s wishes, refusing to relent her gnash. In a rage and probably sick of this tug of war, she careened towards us, body-slamming us with sheer might. The entire cage quaked and all of us fell back.
Momentarily all was quiet. The Great White Shark then retreated to calmer waters.
It’s hubris to think we have outsmarted her. No, I think she’s simply tired of us.