Tip-toeing with Sharks and Tap Dancing with Dolphins

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Wed 13 Apr 2011 09:07
At anchor off Reporepo Island, Rangiroa Atoll
Wind: East, F3 gentle breeze
Weather: mostly sunny, warm

I am a little tired after an exhilarating day.

This morning I went for a dive in the pass to the lagoon. We started outside and were swept into and along it, I followed my dive buddy closely and was led into a dish shaped chasm. We dove to its bottom to escape the worst of the current and pulled ourselves along some thick cables which lay across it, presumably power or telecommunications cables, and into a crevice off to one side. Olivier had the carcase of a small shark with him which he tied off to some coral and then joined us in the cleft in the coral where we anchored ourselves and peered over the edge to watch what happened next. Soon a large school of fish gathered for a communal feast, then a couple of smallish sharks appeared, lemon sharks I was later told, and then I felt Olivier tugging at my buoyancy vest and pointing over to my right. Now a very large shark had a appeared to claim its share of the prize. Surprisingly none of the fish seemed at all fussed by its presence. Eventually after lazily swishing back and forth surveying the scene like some tolerant but arrogant ruler it simply swum in to the taste the meal. Then came another shark, I could tell they were both tiger sharks, but this one was much bigger, once again Olivier was tugging and pointing excitedly. Being a relative novice I don't think I was fully appreciating the significance of what we were seeing. I have to admit it all seemed a bit surreal, peering out through my face mask, sort of like watching television in 3D but somewhere lurking in my mind was the idea that these guys could leap through my screen if they so desired. At one point this huge fellow swam straight towards us where we were hiding in our cranny of rock and coral, gave us a good looking over then abruptly but smoothly veered off to get back to the main business at the end of the rope. We were down for quite a while, not having any dive instruments apart from the tank pressure gauge I had to rely on Olivier to tell me when it was time to go. And all of a sudden Olivier must have decided that the time had come, for he simply swam out into the colosseum's arena, all the fish, including the sharks, scattered, Olivier reclaimed his piece of line with part of the carcase still attached and we continued on our way, back into the current of the pass. As we drifted over the rapidly passing bottom we spotted a hammerhead shark patrolling below us. Being the novice I had the largest tank and Olivier had to share some of my air which I will confess after all the excitement I felt a little proud of. He inflated the pick up float and after a six minute decompression stop we were back on the surface and in the pick up boat.

In all I would say quite an exciting dive. I sat quietly as the the four other divers gibbered on unintelligibly like, well, like four excited Frenchmen. One of them, Bruno, spared me a moment and said, “Bob, you are one lucky guy.”

In the afternoon I went for another dive, this time the highlight was swimming with dolphins. I will admit I enjoyed this more, it was a much more interactive experience. We were swimming along the reef edge out in the ocean when another group of divers came our way and they brought the dolphins with them. Swimming with them was amazing. I will admit I perhaps got a little carried away but the dolphins didn't seem to mind, swimming around me, standing on their heads, eyeing me, and dancing around me like they were trying to teach a one legged man how to waltz. I did my best but then I caught the eye of Olivier and I could feel the waves of disapproval magnetically transmitting through the water, as he waved me to rejoin the group. I don't know if one can swim sheepishly but that is what I did as I imagined the scolding I would have received if words could have been spoken with a regulator firmly planted in one's mouth. We continued on our way, once again back into the current of the channel.. We broke surface in the middle of the channel and the cauldron of the tidal over falls. Standing waves stood tall breaking around us and one of our number got a little separated, probably because he was lugging a rather large video camera, but we were all being carried on at the same rate so no problem. Olivier stayed by the separated diver, the rest of us focused on getting back into the large inflatable boat then once all aboard we went to collect the other two. We returned to the dive shop well contented.

It was a wonderful day.  Time to turn in.

All is well.