‘Look at the size of that fin!’
These are words that most people probably wouldn’t want to hear. Especially when they’re anywhere near the ocean. Even more so when they’re just about to jump in.
The follow up didn’t inspire much confidence either…
‘That’s a Tiger shark for sure…and a big one!’
I was on a dive boat on the Great Barrier Reef finishing off my PADI Rescue Diver course. We’d all been having a great time swimming with the fishies, trying to find Nemo and his aquatic chums and basically just enjoying some general underwater awesomeness.
There’s a serious side to the Rescue Diver course as well though as the name suggests. So some of our time was spent practicing various skills to help out a diver in distress. The climax to the week was a full-on scenario where our group would have to take watch on the boat and then Dougie, one of the dive team, would all of a sudden pop up somewhere shouting ‘diver in distress’. At this point our action plan would kick in and we would perform a complete recovery, score full marks with gold stars all round and celebrate our new qualification with some well earned cans of VB.
Or so we thought…
Because it was while we were on deck keenly keeping watch for our ‘distressed’ diver to appear that we heard those fateful words ‘look at the size of that fin’. And so I did look, and it was massive. A huge, dark triangle sliding through the water just off the bow. We all stood there transfixed watching it glide past and could clearly see the stripes on the shark’s back. ‘That’s a Tiger shark’ – yep it sure was.
We must have only seen it for a few seconds but it seemed like much longer, as if time slowed down. And then all of a sudden it disappeared from view and in that same second, in exactly the same place, Dougie’s head appeared (fortunately still attached to his body). He gave us a wave, shouted ‘diver in distress’ and then sank back beneath the surface, totally unaware of the fact that Jaws the giant was basically right behind him.
It was my job in the scenario to immediately jump overboard and tread water right above where our diver was so the rest of the group could kit up and perform the rescue. In a moment I will never forget one of the other lads turned to me and said ‘go on then, in you go’.
Jump in the sea and bob around on the surface while a 4 metre shark cruises around beneath me. Erm no thanks, I’ll pass.
‘No mate – it’s ok, you go in. I’ll go and get my gear on’
Unsurprisingly none of us really fancied it. In fact our whole plan pretty much fell apart as we all stood around for a minute contemplating what to do next. Eventually we decided that strength would be in numbers so the four of us grabbed our wetsuits and dive kit and all jumped in off the back of the boat.
I love diving, absolutely love it and everything about the life aquatic. One of my favourite parts is just the sense of relaxation, moving slowly through the water without a care in the world. But believe me when I say that there was nothing relaxing about this dive – we were in and out of that water as quick as a flash. We grabbed Dougie, brought him up to the surface, told him in no uncertain terms that there was a rather large man eating beast in the vicinity and then we should proceed with some alacrity to the safety of the boat. Unsurprisingly he agreed!
Once we were all back aboard there was a huge sense of relief amongst the British lads in our group, although we did have to endure a fair amount of stick from the Aussie instructors, some of whom seemed to think they would have wrestled the little rascal with their bare hands. Perhaps, but it’s pretty easy to big up the bravado from the warmth and safety of a barstool, I was pretty happy just to have my arms and legs intact.
We did finish our course the next day and managed to avoid any further shark encounters. It didn’t put me off diving at all, in fact looking back now we were pretty lucky to see a shark like that as I’ve never seen one like it since (although I’m not complaining too much!)
If you fancy getting wet and wild in the underwater world then check out our scuba diving trips. You can choose to go diving in some of the world’s most incredible destinations including Thailand, Mozambique, Belize and Fiji. Oh and yes Australia too, and if you’re lucky maybe you’ll go toe to toe with your own tiger!
Written by David Holloway
Tiger Shark image by Albert Kok, used under the Creative Commons licence.