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Close Encounters of the Shark Kind: Shark Cage Diving In Oahu

Shark Cage Dving Oahu

What better way to kick off a trip in Hawaii than going shark cage diving in Oahu?

Everyone’s all settled in and still not over the fact that less than 24 hours ago, we were just in Alaska. But no time for rest. I made it known to them that bright and early tomorrow morning, we have to head towards the North Shore for Event #4. I didn’t tell them anything about the event, except to wear swim gear and bring waterproof cameras if they had them. We packed the rental car and took off early in the morning to the North Shore of Oahu. Our destination? Haleiwa, HI.

Haleiwa, Hawaii, the location of Event #4.
Haleiwa, Hawaii, the location of Event #4.

Event #4 of 5 – Shark Cage Diving Oahu

Before we left, I woke up Veronica around 6am to take a couple motion sickness tablets. She gets as sick as I do so we both took them early in preparation. She didn’t know yet why she needed them, but she didn’t hesitate to take them. Once we pulled into the Haleiwa park and saw the sign for “Hawaii Shark Encounters” she then knew exactly why she needed the tablets. “We’re going shark cage diving!”

Courtesy of Chris O'Sullivan
Courtesy of Chris O’Sullivan
The boat for our dive came about 15 minutes after we arrived and we got on board with seven other divers along with two instructors. One of the instructors let us know that the type of sharks we would be seeing were Galapagos sharks, which can grow up to 3.3 meters (11 feet) in length.

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We rode the boat about 20 minutes out into the sea where we found our cage attached to a buoy. Thankfully, the weather was especially welcoming and the waters were of a comfortable temperature, unlike my previous shark cage diving experience in South Africa. Already we could see sharks swimming below our boat, much to the elation of everyone. Once anchored, we put on our wet suits and snorkels masks and climbed down into the cage which was now securely attached to the boat.

Galapagos Sharks

I was feeling a tad sick from the boat ride–just a tad, but going underwater made it feel a little better. Just in time, as I was able to concentrate and focus on capturing awesome footage with my GoPro.

Shark Cage Diving Oahu

Shark Cage Diving Oahu

The Galapagos sharks look vicious, but are actually mild in comparison to Great Whites. These sharks aren’t fond of humans as a meal, but instead will let you swim freely around them once they grow comfortable and realize that you are not a threat. If I’d known that this was a thing, I would of had all of us free dive with them instead of cage dive, but baby steps. I wasn’t sure how Veronica, Katelin, and Sean would fare but they ended up loving it! As far as Chris goes, per usual, he is game for literally anything at anytime.

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The cage was big enough to fit six people comfortably, but still we would bump into each other. No one paid mind though. The sharks captured all of our attention as the crew members baited them and we watched them chomp all around us. They swam so close to our cage that you could touch them. In fact, I think my GoPro caressed one as it swam by with little reaction from the shark. Without notice, my camera-free arm and feet would dangle outside of the cage at times. That’s how comfortable I was in that cage and how comfortable I was with those sharks, to not mind my limbs dangling freely (sometimes). Now if these were Great Whites, that would be another story.

Oahu Shark Cage Diving

Galapagos Sharks

After awhile of nonstop shark action, I began to feel nauseous again. I felt like I could vomit in the coming moments, so I exited the cage early. But just a couple minutes after I climbed out, the crew decided that we were in long enough anyways and they had everyone climb out.

“Look out into the horizon,” said one of the crew members to me, knowing that I was feeling sick. “You’ll start to feel better.”

And so I did. I’m not sure if it was just a mind game or what but I actually did begin to feel better by just staring out into the distant shore of Haleiwa. Veronica was feeling sick to so I told her to look out into the horizon as well.

On the way back to the dock, a pod of dolphins swam in sync to the waves our boats’ engine created behind us. This is the first time I’ve seen dolphins in the wild and so many of them at the same time! The cherry on top of this neat excursion.

Dolphins in Oahu

That’s half of The League of Eight Extraordinary Events down, another four to go!

What next could I possibly have in store for my crew of clueless globetrotters?

Shark Cage Diving Oahu

 

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We Run This Town

Today was going to be a fantastic day. I could feel it in my bones! Instead of taking the train back to Stellenbosch, I called up my old friend Abdullah to see if he could take me back there. It was good to see him again. He gave me an update on what’s been going on around town since I left. On an interesting note, there were so many great white sharks in the ocean near us! It’s scary to think that we actually surf there. On the way home, I was hoping none of the boys weren’t at Mama Zulu’s waiting for me. I had bought birthday party supplies I wanted to set up before they got there. And thankfully, none of them were there yet.

Literally, two minutes after I got home there was a knock at my door. I could tell it wasn’t Buscha. Whenever Buscha knocks at my door, the knocks are very light and faint. I cracked it open and peeked out to see who it was. It was Avele, Mawande, and Mawande’s little brother Onge. Shoot! I don’t care if Avele sees but not Mawande, because it’s his birthday. I didn’t set anything up yet so I let them in but locked Mawande and Onge in my room with my iPad while Avele and I set up the sitting area with balloons, streamers, and party hats. Avele even brought over a chocolate cake. After about ten minutes, I let them out. At the same time, the rest of the boys and Aphiwe’s sister showed up. I was hoping Aphiwe wouldn’t bring his sister, only because we were going into town all day today and she’s a big liability. She was fine to stay for now but unfortunately I had to tell Aphiwe we had to take her home before we went into Stellenbosch. It was a great time at Mama Zulu’s! Avele made some cards and put a welcome sign on my door greeting the birthday boys. It was Onge’sbirthday a few days ago as well. They told me a couple of days ago that it was Chris’ birthday on Sunday. (How do they remember these things!) So they put his name on the door too, even though it was spelled incorrectly haha! I told them if they wanted to make a happy birthday video for him, I would show it to him later. Needless to say, they were very, VERY excited about that.

The guests of honor.

Around noon, we made our way into town. There were nine of them, so periodically I would do a quick head-count to make sure I didn’t lose anyone. I thought I lost RiRi at one point but he was way, way behind taking his sweet time. So what was the first thing on our agenda? Ribs! The boys wanted Ribs from a place called Spurs. I never heard of Spurs but it’s a restaurant where the kids can play video games and chow down on great food afterwards. Spurs is located on the top floor of the mall in town, so we made our way there. Then suddenly, as we went through the mall, I froze. My nose caught a whiff of something. It was a pleasant, familiar scent that I haven’t smelled in months. I looked around to see where it was coming from but I didn’t see anything. I followed the scent trail as the boys stopped and looked at me very confused. “Where are you going Dan? Spurs is up here!” they shouted. I told them one sec, and finally found the source of that delicious smell. Never in a million years did I expect to see a Cinnabon in Africa! My friends at home know that I would do anything for just one of those delicious pastries. I had to stop and get one! Unfortunately, they didn’t have anymore ready and it would take twenty minutes to bake. No worries, I would get one later :).

At Spurs, I ordered up three of the biggest slabs of ribs they offered, a platter of buffalo wings, chips, and onions rings. It was more than enough to cater to my little friends and we had a feast! I ordered a burger with chips for myself.

Toy Toy and Atha.

Next on the agenda: the cinema. The choices of movies we could see were very limited. It was between The Dark Knight Rises and Brave. I never heard of Brave but it’s a Disney/Pixar film. Usually Pixar films are pretty good. I took a vote and to my surprise Brave is what won out, probably because it was in 3-D. There was this lady who has been giving me the evil eye since I entered the movie complex, which I don’t know why. When we entered the theater, the boys were very chatty towards one another. “Are you responsible for these kids?” asked the evil lady. “Yeah” I replied. “You need to tell them to be quiet. My daughter is getting upset!” “You need to relax” I told her. “The previews haven’t even came on yet.” It was an almost empty theater and nothing was on the screen yet. I told them when the previews start, they had to be quiet though. In which they were.I bought everyone popcorn and enjoyed the movie. Well… at least they did; I fell asleep when it began. I tend to always do that haha! The evil lady gave me a death glare as we exited the theater. So I just smiled and waved back :).

My boys. We were pretty much the only ones in the theater.

Next up: football! We went into the park in the middle of town and split into teams. These kids have an infinite amount of energy which was good because I needed to work off my five-day splurge at McDonald’s! At one point I sat on the grass to take a quick break and out of pure coincidence, a lady walks up to me. It turns out to be Aphiwe’s mother. She was very nice and I was happy to meet her. We talked for bit as they boys ran around. She asked me to come by and visit her house whenever I got a chance. That would be cool.

I’m wearing Atha’s hat and Chester’s glasses. They decided I should wear them for this shot haha.

After working up a severe appetite, I took the boys across the street to The Dros, an italian pizza restaurant and ordered up two family size pizzas. Mawande said to me that this is the fanciest restaurant he’s ever been to. Some of the others said the same thing. Toy Toy, RiRi, Ski, and Atha thought this was the perfect setting to take more pictures of themselves. As a matter of fact, they have been taking pictures everywhere we went so far! I have to buy another memory card later just for their use. These guys are not camera-shy at all.

Ski, Toy Toy, Mawande, and Atha goofing around.

We walked towards the minibus station and went to the McDonalds on the corner. They all ordered chocolate shakes. A great way to top off those delicious pizzas! But by then we were beat. We walked all over town and were stuffed with food. It was also getting cold outside, so after that we headed back towards Kayamandi. We hung out the rest of the night at my place. I downloaded some new games on my iPad yesterday that they played all night. It got so late that I fell asleep for a bit in my room while some of them were still there. I woke up and told them it was getting late and I needed to go to bed. It was a solid day today. By far my favorite Friday in Africa, or even period.

Kings of the Seas

Do you recall the international headline about 17 volunteers in South Africa who decided to go shark diving one morning and it ended with their boat sinking and then each one being ripped apart by an army of great white sharks? No?

That’s what played through my head during the three-hour bus ride to Gansbaai at four in the morning. What if something like that were to happen? I can’t even imagine. That, however, was the least of my worries. The rocking motion of the ocean is what concerned me. I took one motion tablet before I left because every other excursion I went on, one tablet did the trick. Now that everything is said and done, I should have took two. Probably three.

After the bus ride, we finally made it to Gansbaai, the site of our shark cage diving adventure. The captain introduced himself and his crew members while we stuffed ourselves with breakfast. That was my first mistake. I was about to go on a boat for several hours with a full belly, knowing full well I succumb to motion sickness all too easy. I liked to look at it as, we’re fattening ourselves up for the sharks. My unselfish contribution to the food chain.

On our way to the diving spot. This crew member fed our flying visitors some chips.

The ocean was wavy and I was fine on the way to the middle of it. And then we stopped and set anchor. That’s when I started to feel it. That’s when a handful of us started to feel it. But I was too excited to think about it. Especially when I saw a crew member throw chum into the water to lure the beasts. Their chum consisted of the biggest heads of fish I have ever seen. After about fifteen minutes give or take, we finally spotted a huge behemoth lurking beneath our boat. I underestimated the size of the Great White. I knew they were big, but to actually see them in their wild state is something else.

I was in the first group to go into the cage. The cage went about a meter or two in the water and could fit about five divers. I got in. And I started to feel it even more. Since we were the first group, it took awhile before the sharks started to come. And as I waited in the rocking cage, I became nauseous. I needed to see some sharks now before I puked all over my diving partners! And then finally they came!

They crept by directly in front of us looking all rugged and beastly. They had the look. The look like they knew they ruled the ocean. And they do. I knew it. They knew it. It was fascinating. Overtime, the sharks other shark buddies would come and swim around, underneath, and right in front of us. My sickness went out the window and I was mesmerized…

…But then my sickness came back through the window and said “Dan, time to get out before you puke all over yourself.” I got out and immediately took off my wetsuit, took a seat, and shut my eyes. You know that feeling where you don’t have to vomit, but you know you’ll have to eventually? That’s how I felt. But I wasn’t the only one. On the opposite side of the boat there was a row of sick people already vomiting overboard.

I eventually joined them…

Some didn’t even go into the cage because they were so ill the whole time. After awhile, the sharks started to grow more aggressive and would even leap out of the water. I had to ignore my motion weakness and pull out my camera to get some shots. It’s not everyday you get to do this. I managed to get some decent photos for a few minutes.

It got a hold of the chum!
Great White Shark
Jawsome!

Eventually I went to the others hanging over the boat to join them in a simultaneous puke session. I hope the other healthy volunteers enjoyed our contribution of “chum” to attract the sharks. My other unselfish contribution. Immediately afterwards, I felt fine. I learned my lesson…boats are the worst! Take three tablets next time 🙂

On our way back to the dock we passed Geyser Island, a haven full of seals.

Hey!… Hey!… Hey!… Hey!…

There were hundreds upon hundreds of seals! It sounded like they were all shouting “Hey! Hey!” as we slowly passed by. It did smell pretty bad though. We finally made it to dock and were treated to a nice lunch with complimentary wine and beer. I was in no mood to drink after being on that boat, but I did however manage to snag a bottle of red wine for later on.

What? It was complimentary. 🙂