I’ve never snorkeled before – why I decided to dive with sharks

The closest I’ve been to a shark on this little adventure was seeing them through glass in the aquarium. And while I like swimming, I’ve never snorkeled before, so diving wasn’t exactly high on my list of things to try, let alone shark diving. I like being able to keep my head above water, and the closest thing to a close up interaction with marine life was feeding stingrays in Orlando and that was many years ago. Yet here I stood, with the prospect of stepping into a tank of sharks with an oxygen tank on my back. I’m all for trying new things! So, here’s how my first shark experience went.

My partner turned 40

The truth is, it wasn’t really my choice to do this. It was my partner’s birthday and he wanted to do something memorable to celebrate the occasion. He wanted to dive with sharks. So we went online and looked for a place nearby where we could do this. We found an option that was only a few hours away from where we live, which seemed perfect.

How did we approach the journey?

We were due to bring my partner’s two daughters so we made sure they understood what we were doing and that they were comfortable with it, then we watched some videos of visitors who had already done the shark dive for us. We mainly saw young people on the videos, which was a bit off-putting for me. Then we filled out the medical form, and I immediately ran into a problem. The form states that if you tick yes to any of the questions, you will need a doctor to sign the form to say you are eligible to undertake the experience. One of the checkboxes stated the statement: You are older than 45. I had to tick it. Forty-five seems quite young, but what do I know about diving? There was a doctor attached to the experience who told me I could email him, but when I did, he promptly replied that he was no longer working for the adventure company. So I emailed the team directly and they told me it was all right and I didn’t need a doctor’s signature. It was confusing, but I put my faith in the team.

Sometimes things don’t go the way you hoped

We made our way to the adventure experience on a windy day. From the moment we walked into the activity center we realized this place was not what we expected. There was an adventure playground with a few climbing walls, the advertised IFly experience was closed and then there was the shark tank. It was quite small and we peered inside, wondering what this would be like. We were directed to a waiting area where our instructor picked us up. We went to another room where our instructor started going through the safety procedure. It soon became apparent that he needed a lot of time and he continued to emphasize the need to rattle through the safety points as quickly as possible. I said I was over 45 and he waved the point away. I can’t say I felt confident. From there he showed us the showers and the lockers and gave us our wetsuits. We got ready and got ready to enter the pool.

Which surprised me in a good way

I liked wearing a wetsuit. I imagined it would be awkward, but it wasn’t. I was also pleased with the oxygen tank and respirator, which I found easy to use. We got into the pool and practiced going underwater. I actually quite liked this, which was a surprise to me because I expected to feel anxious. The sharks themselves were quite docile and not intimidating at all, and I didn’t feel at all afraid to be around them.

Which surprised me in a bad way

Unfortunately, our instructor continued to seem stressed and rushed, and lost his temper when my partner’s kids didn’t pick things up the first time. I expected a little more time to get the hang of everything as we had never done this before. I also expected a nicer atmosphere, but instead it was very tense, and I got the feeling that our instructor was under a lot of pressure to rush so they could get the next group in. Our time in the tank with the sharks was just the blink of an eye. One of the sharks was asleep, so we actually walked around the tank and then came out again.

How would I do it differently

I’d do a little more research on the facility and maybe read a few more reviews from people who’ve done an activity I’ve been considering before. When we checked the reviews afterwards we found many people with similar experiences to us who said it was way too rushed and not the experience they expected or paid for. I would also bring up my concerns there and then. The rushed atmosphere kept me from doing this as I felt like I was going to hold everyone up even more, but if I could do it again I’d be more daring and open my mouth.

Tips for someone on the fence about a new experience or adventure

Do your research. If early indications, like my experience with the doctor, give you food for thought and make you feel like something isn’t right, research that a little more. Make sure you understand what you will be doing and what the facility is really like. Don’t just rely on a few photos from their website and a few lines of uplifting text. Look for others to verify this and read the experiences of people who have already done this. Enter your experience fully prepared, well informed, and with an open mind to learn something new. If it doesn’t work properly, hit a refund. We did this and got most of our money back. Above all, don’t let one bad experience completely put you off the activity. If I ever go shark diving again, I’ll have some experience to take with me, and I’ll make sure the facility we choose is a good one.

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