Insert ominous “Jaws” music here…

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Insert ominous “Jaws” music here…

As previously mentioned, I managed to tick off another item while on holidays in Cairns!

I should apologise here for the lack of posts. Blogging from one’s iPhone is neither desirable nor advisable. Had I been set to any other mode than “Holiday” I might have attempted it, but it really was too much for my UV-addled brain.

Anyway, when I was about 10 years old, my parents took my three siblings and I to Disneyland. Now that I’m a bit older, I can appreciate what a financial sacrifice this must have been for them (although I can only imagine the payoff they must’ve felt from the looks on our then-cute faces). What an amazing life gift to give to your children!

I hope I’m fortunate enough to do the same for my children one day before they’re too old to appreciate Goofy’s blow-up house (although I suggest with 50% my genes they should enjoy it well into their fifties).

Apart from Disneyland itself, my parents also took us to Universal Studios. If you’ve watched ‘Back to the Future’, and enjoyed it as much as I did (I did vote it a 10 after all), then you’d be similarly impressed at being faced with an electrified clock tower as part of the “behind the scenes” tour. If you hated ‘Jaws’ as much as I did then you would be equally horrified at the ‘Amityville’ portion of the tour, which memorably includes Jaws jumping up into my grandmother’s face (thankfully, she was prepared for it and didn’t lose too many years off her life as a result).

I wouldn’t say I have a “phobia” of sharks (I save that privilege for the wax statues of the world), but I’m certainly not their number one fan. I would passionately dispute any call to “cull” a shark population simply because they mistook a human for a baby seal, but then I’ve also never lost a loved one to the horror of a shark attack.

The thing is… they all have such cold. dead. dark, black eyes.

Perhaps I’ve watched enough cartoons to convince my subconcious that black eyes equate to an evil spirit, or perhaps they’re just plain freaky. Either way, it’s the eyes (rather than the teeth) that frighten me when it comes to sharks.

At this point, it will probably come as little surprise to you that I unexpectedly ticked off item number 11 from my Top 30 list, that is – “Swim with sharks”. I had planned to turn up at Manly Ocean World and jump in the tank with the giant beasts… but that was before I encountered one in the wild!

On Saturday, Andy and I went snorkeling with ‘Tusa Dive’ on the Great Barrier Reef. Sadly, despite the fact that Andy has his diver’s licence, I am still without mine (refer list item number 3!) As a result, we were restricted to snorkeling.

Given that we went all the way out to the outer reef, it was a whole day adventure. We enjoyed two seperate snorkeling experiences, and I pretty much maxed out my lung capacity in the process (my singing teacher will tell you I have a beyond sub-par lung capacity!)

In any event, we had a great time. The reef looks nothing like what Disney would have you believe in ‘The Little Mermaid’. Unless, of course, the cartoonist got a little “blue ink happy” and stayed that way until the end of the film. It’s much more of a ‘Hamptons-style’ experience, with blue and white everywhere. We saw plenty of colourful fish of course but, at (almost) 30, I am pretty hard to impress these days. I’ve seen some pretty awesome animals in the wild! I’ve seen boxing kangaroos at the snow near Perisher. I’ve come across a koala on the side of the road and a shy echidna during a bushwalk. I’ve seen wild camels, whales and dolphins in their natural habitat. I was even once fortunate enough to see a beached Sea Lion! Fruit bats are also pretty cool to see (as long as they’re hanging from a tree and not your car’s windscreen wipers à la my mother on the way to basketball training).

Until Saturday, however, I had never seen a shark up close and personal.

Snorkel

After a full day of snorkeling, I was reluctant to admit it (given the expense of the adventure) but I was almost disappointed. Our hosts had talked of nothing but sea turtles since the boat disembraked, and I wanted to see one!

We didn’t see any turtles, but with about 2 minutes of our snorkel left to go, I felt Andy grab my arm and point under water. I turned to the deeper section only to be faced by a White Tip Reef Shark! It was bigger than I would have thought (1.5 – 2 metres long) and it was pretty close! In all honestly, I would have been frightened had it been facing (and swimming) in our direction. Thankfully, they are distinctively shy beasts, and it retreated to the depths before I had a chance to do much more than be impressed.

The beauty of Reef Sharks is that their eyes are slightly less “cold and dead” than their Great White counterparts. It helps that their bites are slightly less fatal as well, although the potential lethality of a bite has never stopped me freaking out over a tiny spider or mouse in the past.

The experience was more thrilling than frightening, and I feel so fortunate to have experienced a shark in it’s natural habitat and not some tank. I couldn’t have planned it any better if I had tried!

I’m looking forward to finishing my scuba course (list item number 3), and swimming with dolphins as well. I guess it’s not until you try something that you realise how amazing it can be. I don’t want to set my expectations too high though… All I’m saying is, if I go diving and I uncover the Titanic gem, the “Heart of the Ocean”, I’ll be satisfied.

What unique animals have you encountered in the wild? Would you be willing to get face-to-face with a shark?

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9 responses »

  1. Is there such a thing as “unique” animal? Only that Galapago turtle that died recently. But how about an okapi? That’s unusual.

    Have been face to face to a shark also. Much better than in a tank I would think

    • Pretty impressive for someone who used to avoid swimming pools at night for fear of sharks that may have made their way through the pipes under the cover of darkness!

  2. ..becuase I’m ‘slow, ay’ I just realised the pic was of you & Andy…what tipped me of was Andy’s ‘thumbs up’ – classic Andy photo move!

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