Shark Dive

[pullquote align=”left”]Most people associate a trip to Busan with the hot summer sun and lazy days at the beach.[/pullquote]Despite the mercury plummeting below freezing, you can still throw your swim gear into a beach bag and head toward Haeundae. Instead of going directly to the beach to feel the sand between your toes, go only as far as Busan Aquarium for an experience you won’t soon forget—a  refreshing dip in shark-infested waters.

Shark Attack!

On a cold winter’s day, a few friends and I made the trip, took a dip, and lived to tell the tale. At any given time, the Busan Aquarium is filled with a vast selection of sea creatures. Bright and early Saturday morning, after a big dose of caffeine, hoping not only for energy but bravery as well, we were escorted down behind the scenes of the always bustling aquarium.

We met our dive master and host for the day and learned that the others, who had planned to dive with us, had backed out at the last minute. Chickens! So it was just the three of us diving, plus our instructor, the ringleader. “Lucky us,” we thought, hoping the smaller group would mean a more intimate experience.

We went through a brief introduction, rules, regulations, and an outline of what was about to go down. I have been scuba diving for about 15 years, but no previous experience is needed to do the shark dive. After our briefing, I quickly realized, this wasn’t going to be a typical dive on so many different levels.  With our nerves starting to peak with a mixture of excitement and anxiety, we shed our winter wear and donned wet suits and scuba gear.
One by one, we sank down to the aquarium floor. The strangest sensation right at the start, was diving without fins, a basic necessity when kitted out in so much dive gear. Basically, we dropped down to the bottom (we were heavily weighted) and navigated with a type of hop/jump/step kind of movement. What we did was like a moonwalk, and I would imagine this would be similar to how zero gravity feels.

The maximum depth we hit was 5 meters  inside the aquarium . Keeping our limbs tightly tucked in, we hopped around the shark-infested waters. The aquarium held about a dozen sharks, all way bigger than us. There were nurse sharks, black-tipped sharks, white-tipped sharks, and hammerheads. There were also gigantic groupers (that could’ve swallowed one of my petite 5-foot nothing girlfriends in one swift bite), sea turtles, and stingrays. Swimming amongst the big fish were hundreds of schools of small colorful fish as well. What an adrenaline rush!

Don't let his teeth fool you...

The aquarium has (safely) been doing shark dives for 9 years, so these fish are accustomed to seeing people strolling around their territory. Saying that, though, we were advised to keep all our extremities tucked in closely and, obviously, take any other precautions necessary not to get on the bad side of our fishy friends. For example, if a shark were headed toward me, I was advised to stay put ,and it would go around me like a game of underwater chicken. Yeah, easier said than done when an 8-foot shark is staring you down and headed your way. There is nothing better to test your heart rate than seeing a gnarly-toothed, carnivorous shark coming straight for you.

Live Bait

Our dive time was less than an hour, and for parts of it, we were stationary, absorbing the tranquil world around us. Our dive master had told us ahead of time to check out the aquarium floor for shark’s teeth. Apparently, sharks shed their teeth all the time and can have about 35,000 in one lifetime. They are not attached to the jaw.  They are embedded in their flesh, and when one falls out, like on a conveyor belt, the next one moves into place. Sharks have multiple rows of teeth, too, so the teeth were plentiful along the bottom of the aquarium. They camouflaged really well into the pebbled floor, but we each managed to scoop a handful as souvenirs. So if anyone doubts my bravery, I have proof to show off my courage, like a badge of honor.

Towards the end of the dive, we congregated and surfaced, climbed out, and spent the rest of the day buzzing with adrenaline. The rest of the aquarium is also worth checking out. There were some incredible varieties of fish to look at and fun things to do. All in all, the experience gets an 8 out of 10. (Nines and tens are only awarded for REAL ocean diving.)

So if you find yourself in the vicinity of Busan and with an urge for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, try spending the day swimming with sharks; I highly recommend it. 

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