Ever since the movie, everyone has a bucket list. Mine, well, is long enough to last me three lifetimes but I’m determined to finish it. A few years ago while taking a few moments away from life and its hectic calling I was watching the discovery channel. This beautiful man, perhaps beautiful isn’t the correct word but what he was doing was.
He was swimming cage free with a Great White. While some may find this terrifying, I was fascinated. I was so fascinated I watched an entire week of “shark week.” By Sunday night I was determined to swim with sharks, not any shark but the Great White. I wasn’t sure how I was going to accomplish such a feat but I was sure I was about to find out.
As I did research I realized this wasn’t going to be easy. How does one tell their family and friends I want to be up close and personal to the most feared creature on Earth? I found it’s easy as no one believes you, except for the other crazy friend who wants to do this adventure with you. I searched the web for the best places but what I found, chances were I wasn’t going to get up close and personal for less than three grand.
My new number one bucket list idea came at the same time I was moving to Southern California. The idea of taking out the credit card for a day with sharks wasn’t high on the list even though swimming with one was. I decided to stifle my desire and make a three day drive across country to my new home. Unbeknownst to me my crazy friend who was also making the trek had something up his sleeve.
Southern California was everything I thought it was going to be; palm trees lining the streets, gorgeous beaches and of course the well-known Ferris wheel in Santa Monica. I was mesmerized by the people I met. Being from the Northeast, I was enthralled by the slower pace of life. I was able to enjoy day to day living in a way I never had before.
After a month living in the Northern hills of Hollywood my roommate said to me he wanted to take a road trip to La Jolla, California. We took out the GPS and away we went. Three hours later I was looking at a beautiful beach in October. The beaches back home would be too cold to even think about getting into the water at this time of year but here, a bathing suit and some sunscreen and I was ready to go. Only he wasn’t quite ready to get into the water.
He led me to a place that sells snorkeling equipment and a wetsuit. I looked at him and wondered what was he thinking? I can’t get a suntan in a wetsuit. He smiled at me and said just you wait. So I did. At his command I put on the wetsuit, watched him pay for a pass and walked out of the shop with snorkeling gear in hand.
We walked by the main beach and set our items down. He took out a waterproof camera and said are you ready? I was ready only I wasn’t sure what I was ready for. He grinned at me and said you’re going to swim with sharks today. I looked at him, looked at the ocean and back at him. I didn’t believe him. He laughed, grabbed his snorkeling gear and went into the water. I had no choice but to follow. I realized as the water touched my toes, the coolness of it, I would never forget this day. A wave came up and dozens of sharks were engulfed in it. It came crashing down and I wasn’t sure if I could go through with this after all. I took a few deep breaths, steeled myself and went deeper into the ocean.
The sharks were all around me. I put on my snorkeling headset and looked into the water. They were vast and dark against the sand. My heart raced with wonder and excitement. I was still a bit uneasy but I didn’t care. I knew this was a once in a lifetime moment and I refused to let it pass by. No, it wasn’t the Great White but they were still sharks and I was still swimming with them. The shark I was in close proximity with was the Leopard shark. While they are sharks, they are harmless creatures having a small mouth and don’t actually chew their food. This fact didn’t curve my fear or give me the nerve for a good hour to actually reach out and touch one.
The skin of a Leopard shark is smooth and wet feeling unless you’re petting them backwards. Then the skin is rough like sandpaper. Either way it was thrilling to have the opportunity to be this close. The Leopard shark wasn’t the only sea creature in the ocean. A sea turtle was only a few feet away from me. It caught me off guard as I stared at its descent into the deeper waters.
I spent the entire day snorkeling with the sharks. I took so many pictures to remember the experience. I haven’t given up on swimming with Great Whites. I’m still fascinated by their strength and beauty. I still research where to swim cage free but my experience in La Jolla has left me feeling fulfilled. I plan on going back and visiting my new friends who gave me a chance of a lifetime.