CALYPSO STAR CHARTERS – Port Lincoln
From a young age sharks have always been my favourite animals, I used to draw them, base school projects around them and I once even started a Facebook page called “Save the Sharks” back when I was 10. This love for sharks naturally progressed into wanting to see them in real life and the aquarium wasn’t enough, I wanted to be in the water with them. That’s when I discovered something called shark cage diving, you got to be in the water with the sharks face to face. I was only 12 to 13 but that’s when I decided this was something I was going to try one day. Fast forward around 7 years and I’m flying to Port Lincoln, South Australia to go shark cage diving with one of the greatest shark species on earth, The Great White.
Operating out of Port Lincoln’s Marina, Calypso Star Charters (the company responsible for the shark cage dive) is an approximate 20 minute drive from Port Lincoln Airport or a 5 minute drive from Port Lincolns town centre.. The day begins with guests arriving between 6:00-6:20 am, from there you get in one of their boats and head off to Neptune Islands. It’s a long 2-3 hour boat ride to Neptune Islands but along the way we got to take in the coastal views of lower Spencer Gulf and the islands of Thorny Passage whilst also learning about the local area and marine life from the crew. When it comes to animals we only saw some seals relaxing on some rocks and different types of birds, apparently if your lucky you can catch the odd whale or dolphin along the way though. Once we arrived it was straight to business, the staff dropped the fish berely straight into the water to attract the sharks and all us guests started dividing into our cage groups. After 20-30 minutes we got our first glimpse of a Great White and from there the first group made their way into the cage.
I should mention we were all first briefed on how to use the breathing apparatus for “surface diving”. No diving licenses were required because we would only be staying 2-4 feet under the surface of the water, this meant no decompression or altitude issues would occur, thus no diving license required. There really wasn’t much to using the breathing apparatus, it really was easy.
Myself, my mum and my little brother were in the third group so we had to wait a little bit before getting into the cage. This wasn’t really a problem though because you could watch the sharks from the boat. Watching the Great Whites do their thing (eating the fish berley) was pretty spectacular, often the Great Whites would breach the water (pretty much jumping out of the surface), watching this in person was amazing. After little over an hour of watching the sharks from the boat (two sharks came to the boat on our day) it was time to get into the cage. First we put on some thick wetsuits to stay warm, were given another briefing on the safety protocols, what to do and what not do to for example if anyone puts their hands out of the cage we were all out, then it was go time.
I was filled with excitement and anxiousness, excited because hopefully I’d finally be able to see a shark face to face but anxious because theres no guarantee a shark will get close enough to be face to face. We climbed in the cage and the waiting began. I also want to mention I paid extra to hire a Go-Pro so I could capture what I saw in the cage, I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who decides to go shark cage diving. After around 5 minutes we got our first in water Great White sighting, the Great White swam right passed the side of the cage the experience was thrilling. Some time past, I was constantly looking up, down, to the side, to the other side, I was concentrating hard so I could catch another sighting. Something that was making it a little harder to see sharks from a distance was there was lots of little fish hanging around the cage, I have to admit this was both annoying and distracting. Anyway some more time past and I began to get worried, the other two groups before us got a chance to see the sharks coming straight for them. The staff setup the berley fish bait right in front of the cage, this encouraged the sharks to come charging straight towards the groups in the cage. We hadn’t got a chance to see this yet because the sharks had seemed to disappear. It’d been 30 minutes and I was assuming our time would soon be up. But soon as I started to lose hope there it was another shark. The excitement quickly replaced my anxiety and then about 20 seconds later a Great White was heading straight for us, it opened it’s mouth revealing its spectacular set of teeth and then flew right past us. “Yes!!” I thought, that’s what I came to see and just from that I was satisfied. I caught a few more sightings within the next 5 minutes and then our time was up. The thrill was like that of a rollercoaster!
What an experience, sure 30 or so minutes was spent staring into nothingness, but those 5-10 minutes of seeing a great white in the water up close is something I’ll never forget. The rest of the day was spent watching the sharks from the boat as the other two groups after us got their go. A few more hours past and then just before sunrise we started heading back to Port Lincolns Marina. It was an epic day, there was plenty of shark sightings from both in the cage and on the boat, there was great food and the staff was super friendly and filled with knowledge of the area and the animals that lived within the area. Once back at the Calypso Star Charter office I felt the need to buy one of their t-shirts to have something physical to remember the experience by. We also got our USB and SD cards with our Go-Pro footage back, it was so cool to re-watch the experience because in the moment your so caught in what’s happening. Being able to sit back and watch what was experienced on a screen was great because it helped me take in the whole experience in a more relaxed environment, thus why I recommend hiring a Go-Pro or bringing your own).