Shark Encounter: Swimming with sharks

 

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by Adrian Gan

I am not a diver. In fact, I am rather cautious of the open ocean and the creatures that swim in it. I’ve also had nightmares about the different ways how one could meet his demise in the hands (well, more like jaws) of marine animals.

Then I was invited to experience the Shark Encounter at the Marine Life Park. My first reaction was a nervous one – “I’ll be safely in a cage… right?”

As it turns out, there is no cage at the Shark Encounter. Instead, you enter a customised acrylic enclosure that is submerged in the S.E.A. Aquarium’s Shark Seas habitat. I was relieved that goggles with eyesight-correcting lenses are provided for short-sighted folks like me.

After a quick rinse (so that grime won’t pollute the habitat), I was given a safety briefing. The guide said: “You’ll be in the enclosure for15 minutes, and for your own safety, please do not put your hands and legs outside of the tube.”

“Great”, I thought. “These powerful and hungry beasts will charge towards me. That’s exactly what I needed.”

As we approached the habitat, I spotted a two-metre shark (by my estimation, at least) circling the enclosure. “Oh, that’s a nurse shark. Don’t worry too much about it, it’s very docile,” assured the guide.

I muttered: “Which of these can actually, err, kill me? Hypothetically speaking, of course?” The guide looked around and pointed at the scalloped hammerhead sharks. Without giving me a chance to regret my decision to be part of this experience, she asked: “Are you ready to go in now?”

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Gingerly, I lowered my 1.8-metre frame down the ladder and into the sea water. There was ample room in the enclosure for two people, and the water came up to my chest

At the guide’s signal, I took a deep breath and dived into the waters.

It was astounding – this was the same Shark Seas habitat that I’ve seen in the world’s largest aquarium. From the enclosure, everything looked different. Nesting below was the nurse shark I saw earlier. In a distance, there were some whitetip sharks swimming in circles. Before I knew it, they made their way towards me, and I found myself staring straight into one shark’s glossy eye.

Moments later, I resurfaced for a breath and realised my earlier fears were gone. I was excited to explore more. What shark would I see next? The leopard shark or the sandbar shark? Could this be my first step to taking up a diving license, so that I can join the Open Ocean Dive?

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Fifteen minutes passed and the guide beckoned us to surface. As I climbed up the ladder, I looked back in the water. I saw the massive nurse shark swimming away, as though it had done its job for the day. Me? I’m just glad I didn’t give up this chance to come face to face with the sea’s ultimate predators.

Adrian would love to learn how to surf, but a lonely cuttlefish in Tioman freaked him out many years ago. He also enjoys playing board games, video games and mind games.

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Interested? The Shark Encounter is available hourly every day from 11am t0 5pm.

Price: S$74 (Adult) | S$64 (Child/Senior)
Top-up rate*: S$38 (Adult) or S$36 (Child/Senior)
*Adventure Cove Waterpark admission ticket is required.

Terms and Conditions:
– Must be able to swim and hold your breath underwater.
– Must be at least 12 years old to participate.
– Guests under the age of 21 must have a parent/legal guardian complete and sign the liability form

Reservations required on-site at Guest Services windows on first-come-first-served basis. All reservations will close 15 minutes prior to the start of each session.

[This post was updated on 4 July 2016. Please check RWS website for the latest pricing.]

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