SPORT & OUTDOOR
Shark diving Not one to scare easily, our man Matt pulls on his flippers and squares up to a tank full of sharks
rawl through any of the countless online bucket lists or classic ‘things to do before you die’ magazine features, and one activity is always near the top spot – diving with sharks. It’s all well and good dreaming away your time at work [eh? – Ed], but most of us are put off by the logistical chaos that comes with jetting off to the Great Barrier Reef, learning to dive and then mustering up the guts to actually jump into the water with Jaws and his buddies. That lad’s huge! If only there was an easier way… Hang on a mo – didn’t Dubai go through an ‘aquarium phase’ not so long ago? There must be more sharks here in the UAE than you could shake a snorkel at. So, one quick phone call to The Atlantis Hotel’s Lost Chambers later, and I was set – keep your Barrier Reef, I was on
my way to become willing (ish), and live (for now), shark bait right here in the Emirates. DIVING LICENCE With a nervous smile on my face and a slight tremble in my knees, I’m led to the 11.5 millionlitre tank, where my gear was waiting for me. Seconds later, an enormous stingray swim inches away from the edge where my mask and flippers are perched – instantly my smile turns into a full on quivering upper lip, and the tremble in the knees becomes a churning sense of dread in the pit of my stomach. It’s important to note that to be eligible to dive with the big fish you have to be a qualified diver. Luckily, I am, but if you are not then worry not, you can do a basic PADI Open Water course at the Atlantis Dive Centre (from Dhs1,550), as well as a number of other places in the UAE.
was, a feeling seemingly shared by the fish themselves. Immediately the fear is replaced by wonder, as you can’t stop yourself turning every which way trying to take all of it in. We follow the current clockwise and swim with everything from friendly electric blue fish to beasts the size of shopping trolleys, even stopping to wave at the people on the other side of the glass watching us in awe. I turn to look at my diving buddy, who is looking directly at me with his hand on his head, simulating a fin. I think back to my diving lessons all those years ago, and the penny drops – that is the symbol for ‘shark’. This is it – the pay off. I slowly turn around and there it is, swimming no more than a metre from my face, a six-foot Grey Reef shark. I like to imagine that it thought twice about messing with me and swam away – the truth is, it probably didn’t even notice I was there. I could have taken him. Turns out sharks aren’t scary at all.
“Swimming no more than a metre from my face is a six-foot Reef shark” THE DESCENT Suited up, I sign a form that essentially gives the sharks free reign to use me as an underwater volleyball, before I offer myself up as an all-you-can-eat buffet. We’re lowered into the water, run through the necessary safety hand signals, and do a final check that the equipment is working – I wouldn’t have even noticed the school of fish the size of my head swimming past me if I hadn’t clocked the wide-eyed looks from tourists looking on. And down we go… UNDERWATER Sinking into a tank shared by 65,000 marine animals may sound intimidating, but I was generally shocked at how at ease I
VERDICT Well, that’s my bucket list started, and straight in at the top. And having dived with over 65,000 different species and come faceto-face with a shark, I now see why it’s on there – it’s easily one of the most eye-opening days out I’ve ever had. What’s next? Ultimate Dive Experience, The Lost Chambers, Atlantis Hotel, The Palm, Dubai, 5.45pm to 10pm, Dhs2,500. Tel: (04) 4261030. atlantisthepalm.com
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