Shark diving in Korea - add that to your list

by Marie Joubert
Busan Haps Magazine

I haven’t even seen the movie Jaws, and neither have many of my friends, but you only need to start with the soundtrack’s pounding “dahn-dahn-dahn-dahn,” and we all get a shiver down our spines. Still, I couldn’t pass on a chance to take a dip with the marine monsters – if for nothing else than to send my mother the pictures.

When I arrived at Busan Aquarium in Haeundae, I was set up with gear and joined by one of the aquarium interns. I first made sure all my under-water gadgets worked properly.

Any diver knows you can do everything through your regulator under the water, as long as you keep it in your mouth – even scream. And that’s exactly what happened when I poked my head under the water for the first time in the small tank. Little Miss Zebra Shark was curious about me and apparently wanted to know who was invading her personal space. Suddenly we were face to face; eye to eye. Leaving me – actually the bigger of the two – screaming a trail of bubbles in hip-deep water.

On to the big tank, where, with each step, this whole thing felt more and more like an absolutely stupid thing to do. My heart raced, my knees went wobbly and my brain seemed to dissolve into a black hole. The more fear crept in, the louder it whispered: “they can smell fear … ”

The first sight underwater was the alarmed faces of the Busan Aquarium visitors on the other side of the glass. Waves were exchanged, photos were posed for and hopefully a silent prayer said. Within five minutes in the tank, most of the bigger sharks (one around three meters long) came over for a chat … or a bite … or a scare-off. But they weren’t too fond of my bodyguard and his air gun and quickly decided we weren’t worth the trouble.

The longer you are in the same space with these great souls of the big blue, the more respect and awe they gain and you are overtaken with the utmost fascination. Swimming within reach of these creatures makes you feel very small and insignificant. The shark has been around for millions of years with hardly an equal in its underwater world. Yet, there I was, a potential meal for 20 minutes.

Afterward, I stepped out of the water feeling as if I had been stirred from a dream. How could I leave a world where all I can hear is my own breathing, I feel the water currents pushing and pulling me along, and I look a strange, yet wonderful and powerful, fish in the eye without even feeling remotely afraid? I must be nuts.

For more information about booking a dive with the sharks at the Busan Aquarium, you can visit www.aquaticfrontier.com or www.busanaquarium.com, or call the aquarium at 051-740-1700. The dive dates are pre-scheduled but are usually held on Saturdays and Sundays. Price: 150,000 won (includes 70,000 won deposit)

Busan Haps Magazine website

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