Swimming With Great Whites Is Easier Than Blogging
From what we noticed, summer was on the verge of beginning below the equator. My bestfriend and I had just made it to what felt like the end of the world. I had never seen a place so magnificent. Cape Town, South Africa is known for stunning landscapes and wildlife that weave in and out of it's tropical nature. The central point of the town is a massive mountain, shaped like a table-top, whose ever so original name was fondly declared as "Table Mountain". The mountain rises up, and looms over what is called "the bowl" of the city. Low lying clouds roll off the top of Table Mountain, reflecting her moods. The weather can change in a heart beat. I personally found it looked like Jurassic Park. I was just waiting for a Velociraptor to pop out from behind me. Cape Town’s streets are packed with cars and shouting vendors trying to sell their goods. The bright sun bursts and dances across the water that surrounds the city, and exotic birds fly across the base of the mountain. I felt like I had somehow stumbled upon a hidden paradise that was a secret to the rest of the world.
Before I left for my backpacking trip that year, my mom had only given me two rules. They were as follows:
Rule #1: Give me a list of emergency contacts for each place you will be staying so that I can find you
“Fair enough mom, of course. No problem!” I told her
Rule #2: No swimming with sharks.
“Wait what”, I exclaimed out loud. “Me? Swim with sharks??”.
:fast forward to me arriving at my hostel:
The first thing I noticed, after we dragged our bags into our Capetonian hostel, was a massive “adventure with us” sign that verbatim read:
“SWIM WITH THE GREAT WHITES? SIGN UP HERE”.
My friend and I looked at each other knowing full well that there was no way that was not going to happen before we left South Africa. Within a couple of days, we had signed our names onto the list of brave souls who were keen on taking the opportunity to have an adrenaline rush. This is also the part where I purposefully tuned my mom’s voice out. I think she had mentioned something about a shark? But I wasn’t 100% exactly sure what she had said.
In the days leading up to our shark adventure, the things coming out of our mouths were completely illogical.
“Do you think the sharks will notice us the second we hit the water, then try to kill us?”
“Will there be blood on their teeth?”
“Will they knock the cage over?”
“But most importantly…...WILL WE DIE?”
Our minds were racing. On the day of the shark dive, I realized I was actually nervous, and had worked myself into complete anxiety. A few hours later we made it to the shark diving center, and sat through an orientation on the do’s and dont’s of diving with the ominous great white sharks.
“Please, please” our sun blazed instructor pleaded “don’t stick your hands out and try to pet the sharks. Contrary to popular belief they don’t want to be pet” he shouted. We all nervously giggled.
The orientation ended, and our group was lead to the motor boat that took us into deeper waters. By the time we anchored and donned our wet suits, my stomach was churning. “What are we even doing!!!” I said outloud. “Don’t worry Z, just act like a seal Then the sharks will really love you!” the Australian guys on our boat shouted. “Yeah, fantastic plan!!” I shouted back. We broke down into groups, and threw the shark bait into the water to have them surround the boat. Clearly I was expecting a Megalodon to come up and tip us over, sinking the boat and ending our lives instantly.
What actually happened was, well, nothing. The sharks took their time to come up to the boat, instinctively checking to see what the commotion was about. I found it startling that the sharks were smart enough to not make a reflex decision. As the minutes ticked by, more & more sharks surrounded us. From above, they looked like massive shadows swimming. The instructor kept calling them babies! “Babies?” I thought to myself.
And then just like that, it was our turn to jump in. We lined up 6 at a time to dive down into one huge cage. As I hopped into the water, it hit me like a ton of ice cubes. That was also the exhilerating moment I learned South African waters are extremely cold. My teeth began to clank and chatter. When a shark would come near, the instructor would yell “NOW”, and we’d dive under with our snorkels to see the shark pass. After spending two weeks dramatically building up my shark dive, I was actually floored by what I saw.
In the stillness of the ocean, Great White Sharks are hands down the most beautiful animals I have ever seen. The momentum and strength they exude as they swim is majestic. Their energy wasn’t heavy at all. Taking a sneak peek into their natural habitat was in the strangest way, grounding. While I’m sure all my South African friends are rolling their eyes and exclaiming “Bloody Americans! You are all always freaking out about absolutely everything!” there was an important lesson for me by breaking one of my mom’s 2 rules.
Going out of your comfort zone is a scary thing, and there are a million ways to do it. The hardest part is simply starting. Staying in the confines of your safety box, where nothing ever changes and routines are welcomed is an easy move to make. But what happens when you muster up that courage to push yourself and open new door is simply magic.
My New Year's resolution from 2010-2016 was to start a blog documenting my life and all of the adventures that I have amassed throughout the years. This time I finally decided to not overthink it, and just put it all out there. For the past few weeks, I have really strived to create an engaging visual space for my stories, inspirations, insights, and daily routines. I find that self growth comes from embracing the pulse around me. The clash between people, culture, and experience brings a sense of vibrancy to each and every day. It keeps my life full. That’s the message I’d like to actively share with you all. The possibilities for each day are limitless. Success is intentional, and by taking just a tiny step forward, anything you’re wildest dreams desire can be manifested. I hope that drives you as much as that drives me.
Besides, now that shark diving is old news……
it’s time to blog.