Diving With Sharks In Australia – No Cage Required
I can see them circling in the inky waters below, shadows loitering beneath me as I descend. My heart is pounding in my chest, beating to an unrecognizable rhythm.
Cold oxygen pours into my mouth as I inhale short shallow breaths. I check my computer and fumble in the pockets of my buoyancy control device for my dive knife.
I want to be prepared.
My buddy swims towards me using his hand to mimic a dorsal fin atop his head. Unsurprisingly his comedic efforts are lost on me.
Diving With Sharks
Usually reserved for the adrenaline junkies among us, the familiar format of donning a wetsuit and plunging into deep waters to come face to face with one of the ocean’s most feared predators sounds absurd to some.
So what if I told you I was going into the water without the aid of a metal cage?
As I make my way towards the reef I notice the amphitheater of worn corals forming a ledge, on which I find a spot and attempt to balance. Buoyancy is key during this dive, at no point do you want to find yourself floating to the surface as you may be mistaken for an easy meal.
Shark bait is never a good look for a scuba diver.
The water in front of me is a deep aquamarine, nothing obstructs the ocean for miles around or over a mile below the surface.
The Coral Sea
Deep in the heart of the Coral Sea, 150km from the shores of northern Queensland sits Osprey Reef. A submerged atoll, its coral walls climb to the surface from up to 2000m below, tempting creatures of the deep to visit the warmer waters of the shallows.
Home to a diverse mix of species, there’s one dive site in particular that excites more adventurous scuba divers. Here we mere mortals can watch as the gods of the sea put on a display so hypnotic, it’s likely we’ll forget all notion of fear and pray that tomorrow we will wake up with gills.
As I regulate my breathing, the grey shadows approach, their dorsal fins protruding from their backs: a sobering reminder of their awesome predatory power. I’m transfixed, paralyzed but not with fear. At least fifty sharks are circling in front of me eager to begin the feed.
From the surface, a metal can containing the delicious bait is hauled down to the coral outcrop by the crew of the charter boat. Once fixed into place a float is released sending a chain towards the surface. Tuna heads hang like charms on an oversize bracelet. The sharks dive for the bait mouths open wide in anticipation.
The northern most tip of Osprey Reef is shaped like a Unicorn’s horn and is home to one of the world’s most famous dive sites. North Horn is known for its toothy inhabitants and once a week adrenaline junkies are treated to an intimate display of activity in the solitary waters that surround the reef.
As the trip director releases the feed, the sharks begin to frenzy. One by one their jaws clamp around the fleshy morsels anchored to the glinting metal chain. Their bodies entwined, each shark appears to merge into a singular pulsating ball of grey fins and forked tails.
While it is often thought that all sharks are aggressive, this is definitely not the case.
Many species of shark found living on the world’s coral reefs are rather timid things that are easily spooked by visiting scuba divers. Cat Sharks, Wobbegongs, White and Black Tip reef sharks pose very little threat to an adult diver. Even the more active Grey Reef, Oceanic Silvertip, Tiger and Hammerhead sharks are very rarely seen to exhibit any aggressive behavior, although they have a rather undeserved reputation for being a little unfriendly.
Perched on my coral ledge I am mesmerized for a full 20 minutes as the sharks chip away at their tuna buffet. One by one they have their fill and once the chain is bare most retreat back into the inky darkness.
Just one shark remains, vigorously thrashing its body, mouth firmly grasping the chain.
I was concerned that perhaps its teeth were stuck in the metal links, however I think it was simply releasing some pent up energy, using the chain as a stress reliever of sorts…or maybe to sharpen its teeth??
If you’re a scuba nut keen to experience the exhilaration of diving with sharks then Osprey Reef is the destination of choice. There are two operations that set sail from Cairns and incorporate the shark feed into their Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea excursions.
For more information on how to explore the reefs of the Coral Sea on a budget check out our savvy scuba travel hack.