My Shark Dive

Eye to eye with a Grey Nurse Shark

Fully geared up, I slowly submerge myself in the small diving pool attached to the side of the aquarium. I try my best to ignore the 16 degrees celsius water but it envelopes me and will take some time to adjust, my breathing instantly gets very rapid. It’s been around 2 years since my last dive, so the sensations are again a little unfamiliar, with each rapid exhale a rush of large bubbles push past my face and mask, with a little more force than one might expect. My diving guide makes light of my rapid breathing. I do my best to take deep, slow breaths, you tell yourself you are breathing fine but the body takes over confused by being underwater and gasps for air.

It’s not until after we run through some quick safety exercises and we move out to the main aquarium I start feeling more comfortable and have my breathing down to a slow, comfortable pace and my past dives start coming back to me now. We drop down to the main aquarium floor, I’m configured with negative buoyancy which means instead of controlling depth with air in the vest and moving around by swimming mostly controlled by flippers, I naturally sink and can walk around the floor.

I see some small fish off to the side, when before I realise one of the more friendly sting rays says hello by brushing past my legs. I’m much more relaxed now, and focus on following my guide, it takes a bit to get used to walking, I have to kind of start falling forwards through the water to get the momentum happening. I start seeing some grey nurse sharks in the distance, we are slowly moving our way closer to one of the main routes they swim. We make our way over the glass viewing walkway, everything is distorted but I can see my wife and give her a wave. Standing next to the walkway holding on to the top, we stop and observe some of the sharks swimming past, the larger ones are over 3.5m and weigh over 300kg. I’m not fearful, I know these guys don’t have any interest in things they can’t swallow whole or bony human limbs, but as they swim past I suddenly have a lot of respect for the rows of sharp teeth and powerful mass. I try to keep head movements to a minimum and follow them with my eyes. One of the larger ones swims right past, I could reach out and touch him (I won’t though!), as it gracefully moves past his eye looks right at me the hole time. I suddenly get a sense these guys are very intelligent creatures.

I look up, from my diving mask my field of vision is limited, as I look to my left I see another grey nurse swimming right towards me slowly – I keep very still – he turns and swims past me as he approaches. We’re there maybe 15 minutes or so, at the moment I don’t have much sense of time, but worked this out later. My guide signals to me and we start walking off, occasionally plunged into darkness as some of the larger rays swim above us cutting out the light.

My curious turtle friend

As I’m thinking we didn’t see many turtles, we approach some ocean turtles in the distance as my guide angles for some photo opportunities. One very large turtle in particular starts lumbering towards me for a closer look. I start thinking how cool this is, until he keeps heading directly towards my face and I’m thinking a collision is imminent. I kind of sidestep to one side, but he turns and keeps heading for my face! At that point I just stay still, he pauses directly in front of me, staring right into my eyes before the current slowly drifts him past me (the whole time he rotates so he keeps facing me). An encounter I will never forget, being eyeballed by a turtle.

After this we slowly make our way back to the dive pool, and exit the pool and head for a nice warm shower. I’m reminded of how much of a workout a short dive can be, I’m exhausted!

This dive was a present from my wife for my 30th birthday in 2011 which I didn’t take until July 2012. This was done at Manly Sea Life Sanctuary (formerly Manly Ocean World) in Sydney Australia. I would whole heartily recommend this experience to anyone who wants a unique experience with nature, although I would advise doing this in the warmer months especially if you have not dived before or are not as fit as the cold water and weight from the extra layers take a bit more effort to overcome.


  1. Fanni says:

    I really like this article and pictures! Thanks

    1. Michael Green says:

      Thank you!