A Chicks Dive
Contributed by Blaze
What happens when your hubby, the boat driver, and my usual buddy, goes away for a week and you have pre-organised a "chicks" day out with your 3 girlfriends? Well.... read on.....
Hubby throws me the keys of the boat giving explicit instructions on safe diving practices, avoiding depth sounding with the props and not going out if it is too windy!! AS IF!! No worries. Saturday, on Cocos (Keeling) Islands, dawned fine with a light breeze. Four excited ladies, Victoria, my pommie friend and buddy, Linda and Lynnie , all from Christmas Island and me, made ready the gear, the day's food and refreshment supplies before we headed down the coconut lined road to Rumah Baru, our local boat ramp. Launching the boat was easy and as we headed up the channel we chatted about our proposed dive site.
Lynnie had expressed her desire to dive Cabbage Patch and as this was her first "diving" visit to Cocos we agreed this was a great option. Twenty minutes later we were above the dive site, me giving a short brief on the site, what we should expect to see and of course safety practices. With the briefing completed, it was over the side of the boat and let's go diving! Cabbage Patch is an amazing expanse of greeny gold hard coral shaped like lettuce or cabbage. From 5 metres to around 18 metres the coral cascades down the steep drop-off . Thousands of tiny fairy basslets and pullers hover over the corals ready to dart inside for protection as you cruise past. What an amazing site it is!
We happily cruised along checking out nooks and crannies when I heard Victoria call my name. I looked up and she indicated a large shark. I have a love for sharks and a very healthy respect for them as well. Thinking it was one of our normally friendly reef police, a grey reefie, I didn't hurry. However, as I peered around her I saw a very large striped gentleman some 10 metres above us swimming slowly above the coral. By that time, Lynnie and Linda had also spotted Mr Stripey. Our 4 metre tiger shark didn't appear to be aggressive and in fact as we moved into the rocks and corals for a bit of protection, his curiosity got the better of him and he came in for a closer look. What a magnificent sight - the sunlight shone on his stripes as he headed back out in the blue, circling us once then headed off towards the boat. Heart pumping, I asked my buddies if they wished to continue. They elected to carry on.... off we went. mmmmm was that stupid?
Another 10 minutes into the dive brought us to the sand chute, an area approximate 15 metres wide that follows the steep drop-off way down to 50 metres or so. The sand chute is home to hundreds of spotted garden eels which never cease to amuse most divers and they slowly rise out of the sand only to disappear again if you get too close. Linda had decided this was a great photo opportunity so proceeding in taking shots with her trusty digital camera. Me on the other hand was a tad hesitant crossing an area where there was no cover, knowing that we had a tiger shark in the area. However my three buddies started over to the next coral ridge so off I went.
We hadn't even made it to the other side when once again, my buddy Victoria screamed!!! Gee she can speak clearly underwater - wish I had the knack!! Looking up, our now not so friendly tiger shark charged over the top of us heading in a purposeful way up the sand chute. In a flurry of fins, we four managed to squeeze into an area where one would normally fit.... I'm a rock, I'm a rock, I'm just a rock! I think all of us were trying to work out who was going to be on the menu - 25% chance - as he came back down towards us. Once again he turned, charged up the chute like a steam train and then this time came in head on. Imagine four chicks hearts racing, one somewhat stroppy 4 metre tiger shark coming in eyeball-to-eyeball and what the hell do you do?
"Don't Panic" Dieter is always saying "You can't out swim them, you gotta out think them", he always adds. Yeah right - say that now!! All sorts of weird things that go through your head when you are faced with possible death by eating! However self-preservation and a lot of stupid courage found me with only my little digital camera as a weapon go out and stand up to the bugger!! Keeping eye contact with him, balling myself up and flinging arms out and yelling, amazingly saw Mr Stripey turn and head out again into the blue. S**T - better take a photo! No one is going to believe us. Maybe he wasn't that hungry after all - lucky for us!
This time there was no hesitation with my buddies - let's get the hell out of here!! Although we were all terrified not one of us panicked which we praised ourselves for later. Our training had obviously kicked in well even though we were faced with the prospect of being eaten. It took us ten minutes to get back to the boat travelling at a respectable seven metres so we figured no safety stop was warranted. As it was I had to be the bunny to unhook the anchor - not something I was looking forward to. Thankfully the anchor chain freed easily!
Like penguins leaping out of the Antarctic waters onto ice-flows, we jettisoned into the boat, gear flying everywhere! Screaming, shaking, laughing and near to tears we went over our experience again and again. Ten minutes later and somewhat more composed we headed to a Direction Island for a cuppa and well earned relax.
I still have the occasional cold shiver when I remember that huge head and black eye coming straight at me. The tiger shark certainly deserves the respect he has gained throughout the tropical waters. What a truly magnificent fish. We were lucky in more ways than one.
Banner Photo by Victoria