Sharks have never scared me. Cancer scares me. My dad died of cancer when I was seven. My mum died of cancer when I was fourteen and I was raised by my Aunty Jill and the extended family of Shark Bay.
The ocean is always the place that I feel closest to Mum. She taught me to read the wind and the stars and the tides and the seasons and how to catch and cook the creatures that lived there. She also taught me to only ever kill to eat and that there is a balance in nature that we never see but are always a part of… she was kind of like Yoda! 🙂
Mum took me out on a boat for the first time when I was about two weeks old. She would row out to the deep, where the black sea grass meadows began, put me in the bassinet with a sheet over my head and let the waves rock me to sleep. She would fish for snapper and squid and blue manner crabs for our dinner.
When I turned six, I was finally allowed my first boat and used to take it up the coast with my best mate Christy. We would take a tin of beans and a blanket, light a fire and camp on the beach under the stars. On the journeys across the mirror calm waters, the shallows would often explode in a spray of white water as we startled a sleeping bay whaler, tiger shark or fiddler ray, sometimes almost bigger than our boat. The local Aboriginal (Malgana) word for a shark is “Thaarka”..which gave rise to the joke when a big one exploded from the shallows or swam quietly past you whilst you were waist deep with a school full of thrashing fish in your net, “Would you look at the size of that mother Thaarka”.
I have been fascinated and drawn to sharks ever since childhood. They were as big a mystery then to me as they still are after countless dives. Every time I dive with one I learn something new.
Since starting my Shark safaris five years ago I have had no shortage of interactions with various species of sharks. The interaction with Tigers, have all been remarkable in one way. It is the sedateness of their actions, and the lack of background music, which makes the experience so incredibly calming! There are literally thousands of divers now, who every year realise that diving with sharks is one of the most amazing and attitude changing experiences you can have. In the Bahamas, a single female Tiger shark, Emma Tigershark (you can find her on Facebook)
has become perhaps her species greatest ambassador to date by supporting a dive industry focused on sustainable and educational diving interactions with the oceans most misunderstood creature.
In years to come as we understand more we will look at Shark diving much the way we look at Whale shark diving today. It’s about respect, education and understanding. Thirty years ago we feared Whale sharks and manta rays as well, calling them Devil rays, now we all dive with them both regularly, much to the delight of adventure seekers the world over. It is our dream that our future children will one day look back and laugh at our fear and pity us for the joy we deprived ourselves of as they come closer to perceiving and interacting with that balance my Mum spoke of all those years ago. I hope some day, you and your kids can come and share Shark Bay with us all!