(Ngarumoava Village, Raroia, Tuamotus, French Polynesia)
Screw walking between me and the passing traffic, be a gentleman and swim between me and the stalking shark! This is the predominant thought that was going through my head at the end of today’s dive.
At the very first hint of light this morning we started the engines and headed for the pass. We didn’t end up waiting for slack tide – the tide was actually rushing out – but Oceanna had the jam to power against the current and there were no big scary standing waves to manoeuver about. Once through the pass we easily weaved our way through the reef-littered lagoon and anchored up outside Ngarumoava Village. Happy and safe.
It wasn’t long before our new neighbours had our interests peaked with their on board air compressor, that we loaded up Marie and followed them out to the pass for a dive.
Now there’s a lot of things I don’t know, but one thing I do know for certain is that I lack the language skills to come anywhere near describing how epic the underwater world was out there. I’ve seen coral before sure, but this reef was on a whole new level. It was like looking out on the endless fields of my homeland prairies, though instead of swaying stalks of wheat there were vibrant, living arrays of coral. And if I stopped screaming “wow!” through my snorkel and calmed down long enough to focus, I realized the entire underwater valley I was looking at was alive and moving. Fish of every size and colour were busy going about their regular lives. Darting to and fro, breezily gliding about, or stalking around in that scare-your-pants-off way sharks come by so easily.
I can’t say any of the sharks were particularly terrifying, or that any one of them made any sort of move I could deem personal, it was more just their being there. I truly believe I’ve come a long way with my acceptance of sharks, though highly doubt I’ll ever entirely shake that spine-chilling feeling that comes when their sleek form comes across my line of sight.
The sharks on today’s dive were mostly 3-4 foot Blacktip Reef sharks. A pretty safe bet if you’re picking toothy friends to swim around with. That being said, although they may not be large, man-eating Great Whites the sinister way they creep through the water, seemingly expending no energy as they stare you down with their soulless black eyes really brings to mind who the king of this jungle is.
So yes, by the end of the dive when the number of sharks easily surpassed the amount I can comfortably keep tabs on, I was looking for Greg to act as my human shield. Not that he cared, or cares, sharks are just another fish in the water to him. They may be dark, and pointy, and elicit conditioned fear but that’s basically just the price of doing business when it comes to diving in the Tuamotus. You’re going to see some of the most mind-blowing, breath-taking, underwater worlds Earth has to offer, just know that’s going to be served up with a side of shark.