Sunday, January 31, 2010


Funny that the only dives I've done outside of my diving certification course have been in Australia. My first two were off the Great Barrier Reef when I first traveled through Queensland in college, though neither was as exciting and terrifying as my latest dive with grey nurses. It definitely wasn't my idea as I hadn't been diving in 8 years. Full of anxiety and a bit panic stricken, I had more nerves about diving again given the time lapse than I did about the sharks. It still takes me a while to get used to the thought of breathing underwater and I was feeling pretty clueless about the equipment and the whole process of preparing to dive (had to put together my equipment when we arrived and it was a bit precarious). After hearing the low rates of attacks with these sharks (a meager 2 deaths in AU), some internal debate, and assurance from our dive coordinator 'Rotten Ronnie' I finally agreed to dive with the guys.

Amazing, exhilarating, surreal! We dived in two locations, Latitude Rock and a place called the Baitgrounds that were teeming with sharks. During the first dive I was just starting to get my bearings when I saw a shark about 6 feet long swim by nonchalantly. Soon after, we were holding on to a wall of coral to prevent from being thrown in the current where there were 4-5 sharks swimming around -- what I've been calling the shark pit. These grey nurses were so chill and kept to themselves, gracefully maneuvering through the current. The second dive produced some more anxiety as we had to swim along the kelp at the bottom of the ocean floor where numerous hefty sharks swam above us, shooting menacing stares now and then but swimming independently above. There's safety in numbers (or so it seems) so it wasn't until I was hanging out soley with my dive buddy that a shark swam 10 feet away from him and I made the executive decision to go back to the boat. There was so much to see underwater -- sea turtle, jellyfish, eagle ray, blue groper but the sharks provided the real rush. The underwater pics are taken from the net but are very similar to the greys we saw.

Australia Day

I joined the ranks of over 500,000 people that called in a 'sickie' earlier this week to take advantage of the Australia Day long weekend. Australia Day celebrates the colonisation of Australia, which first occurred in Sydney with the arrival of 11 ships full of convicts in 1788. The impression I've gotten so far is that Aussies are just now starting to embrace their convict past and it was a source of embarrassment for a long time.

It was my first national holiday in Australia, a great day filled with meat on the barbie, beer and the beach. With 4 days free, I went to Blueys Beach north of Sydney with a handful of friends. We rented a beach house with a gorgeous view and had a wonderful getaway.

So there are lots of beaches in the area we stayed and it was a nice change from the hordes of people you find on Sydney beaches like Bondi. But the true highlight -- diving with sharks! More to come but let me just note there was no cage, there were grey nurse sharks 6-9 feet long and I definitely was stared down by more than one shark.