Aha! Yes, the shark. Nightmare to some, delicacy to others, and to just a few of us, a creature of sleek and silent beauty that has become the elusive goal of almost every dive. Six months ago, the thought of sharing water with a shark was enough to make me shiver and head for the nearest ladder out of the pool. But I can tell you truthfully that being close to a shark is a wonderful experience.
In 300 million years of geological record- that is, the time of the Jurassic dinosaurs- sharks have barely changed. They are perfectly adapted to their environment, streamlined and efficient and possessing a quiet and unassuming aura of awe.
I angled slowly towards this one, and with the laziest flick of its tail it began to slide away from me again. If you’d told me earlier this year that not only would I be in the water with a shark without scrambling for the boat in a blind panic, but actually swimming towards one, I’d have suggested you check your medication. But there wasn’t the slightest bit of fear involved. A quiet respect, yes, but not a scrap of concern.
I’m not nutty about this, mind. You won’t find me surfing around seal colonies or getting into wire cages in chummy water. This one was a four-foot black-tip reef shark. A tiddler, really. But I am thrilled that the fear I once held for sharks has been replaced by a genuine desire to encounter more of these graceful, elusive creatures.