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Thursday, 23 August 2012

Taking the Plunge: Scuba in Jamaica - Page 3

Written by Gary Pearson
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Looks, however, can be deceiving. Life as a nomad has forced the impassioned diver to make innumerable personal sacrifices. Relationships are built, but upon relocating, quickly implode.

“My life is like being in prison,” he said, staring vacantly into the distance. “No relationships, no friends, no Playstation – just diving.”

Scuba diving continually restores his faith. While underwater he clears his mind, longing for nothing but an endless supply of oxygen. He lives for diving. Below the surface nothing else matters; he achieves tranquility and inner peace. 

“I will play with the animals, this I do for free,” he quipped. “How you know if they don’t like to be touched until you try. Some love being touched. Some not so much.”

I suppose it’s a fairly logical thing to say, in a convoluted sort of way.

“They call me the shark diver,” he continued, raking his hands through his scraggly, wispy beard.

Sharks posing no threat to humans, he said, are easily wrangled when sleeping, albeit fleetingly. Typically blacknose, Caribbean reef and lemon sharks are most commonly spotted in the Caribbean Sea. Halacoglu, who embodies a mixture of fearlessness and foolhardiness, enjoys most the company of blacknose sharks – a species stretching to over a meter in length. 

“I’ll come over, a couple of my friends seen it before. I hug and he (the shark) cannot go anywhere,” he said, frantically embracing the air. “He shakes me but I have all the control, for a second anyway.

“You cannot do it with a bull shark or tiger shark, they are going to kick you ass.”

Halacoglu, dubbed “Turkish” by his colleagues as his nationality reflects, was not always so blasé about shark encounters.  While diving the notorious Andaman Sea off Thailand’s coast, he was forced to draw from maneuvers in his then-inexperienced repertoire to evade a fully matured nurse shark. Halacoglu’s sightline was blocked by a school of barracudas. The shark speared through, appearing only meters from the startled diver. 

“The shark came within a whisker,” he said, animated as ever. “It was the first time I saw one. I don’t remember. I just react. I just swim away.

“People was laughing at me.”

Reassuringly, the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) at the University of Florida has recorded only six shark attacks in the Caribbean since 1997, 17-fold less than in North America. However comforting the numbers, I had every intention, if the situation arose, of letting sleeping sharks lie.

With fears heightened and curiosity piqued, the boat propelled forth to the dive site, which is known as the Canyon. 

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Two other more experienced groups hitched a ride. Packed on like sardines, the three instructors went about their daily routine, robotically cleaning the masks.

Passing beach-goers wading in tepid, 29C water while sipping Dirty Bananas –consisting of rum cream, Crème de Cacao, milk and aged bananas – and parasailers dangling precariously above the ocean, the weathered boat bobbed up and down, darting through shallow cyan and azure hued water. The further we traveled from shore, a darker shade of blue the ocean turned. The captain reversed the throttle. We had reached the Canyon. 

(Page 3 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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