Great White Sharks and Chasing Childhood Dreams

Remember when you were a kid and you were always dreaming of doing amazing things when you “grew up”? Well now that you’re an adult, what happened? Did you follow and achieve those same dreams? I think many of us would say no to most of these things as we probably didn’t end up as professional athletes or astronauts or whatever else you wanted to be as a child. Looking back, our dreams might have been far-fetched or we simply might have changed our minds. Still, I am a big believer that all of us have or still can achieve dreams we had when we were kids. Maybe you did go to that college you’ve wanted to go to since you were little. Maybe you were able to visit an exotic destination as an adult that you always dreamed about going. For me, this same thing happened to me about a month ago – I was able to achieve a dream I had had since I was 8 years old.

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When I was 8, my uncle sent me a VHS of a documentary called Air Jaws: Sharks of South Africa. I remember watching it over and over and saying to myself I had to somehow get to South Africa to see these amazing animals. Years went by and I would watch Shark Week on Discovery Channel every year and I still always had this desire to get in a cage and see a Great White Shark up-close and personal. As I grew up, graduated college and found a job it unfortunately didn’t see super feasible to achieve this dream anymore. Getting to South Africa was just hard and expensive plus the time I would have to take off work. I still didn’t want to let this stop me so I put it on my dream board that was above my desk at work so I had to look at it every day.

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Eventually, an amazing opportunity with Remote Year popped up and I was booked to travel the world for a year. Now South Africa wasn’t in the itinerary and the closest place I would be was Spain but I wasn’t going to let that stop me, I was going to make it happen. Three months into the program, I decided to go for it and book plane tickets to South Africa. After doing extensive research, I found a great company that did Great White Shark diving. A couple of clicks later and it was finally going to happen – after all these years I was going to be swimming with Great White Sharks in just a few month! Now that it was all booked I simply had to wait which wasn’t too hard as I was traveling all over and busy. At the end of August, the time had come; seventeen years after getting a VHS in the mail from my uncle, I was going to achieve a dream I had as a little kid!

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Luckily, I had two friends with me which made the experience even better. We woke up in Cape Town at 4:30am, hopped in a bus and drove two hours to the town of Gansbaii. After a quick breakfast, meeting the other people in the group and getting a few tips from the captain we hopped on the boat and we were on our way. The sun was just beginning to rise and it looked amazing looking back over the South African hills. After a quick 15-20 minute ride out to sea, the captain said we were ready to go and we all rushed to put wet suits on. Just a few minutes later, one of the crew yells shark and I quickly look over to just catch the tip of the fin jetting out from the water. This was it I was thinking, theres actually a shark right outside the boat.

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The first group of us rushed into the cage. Seven of us were packed in the cage as we had to stay afloat and then hold our breaths to catch a glimpse under water. This certainly wasn’t the same sophisticated dives you see on Shark Week but I didn’t care. The shark was now circling the boat and the captain would yell, “Down” and point so that you knew where to look. All of a sudden I take a deep breath, put my head underwater and see a big grey shadow pass alongside the cage. The visibility was poor but you couldn’t miss the big grey shark as it passed the cage. It was an incredible feeling to actually be in the water with a Great White. After a few more passes it was our turn to get out and take our vantage point from atop the boat deck.

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While being in the cage was incredible and I saw exactly the image I had dreamed of in my head, the deck of the boat gave a better perspective of what was going on in the water. As we got on deck, we realized there were actually two Great Whites in the water with us. The captain would throw out a huge bait hook filled with fish heads right in the front of the cage. From the boat you could see this grey shadow come up from the ocean depths straight under the bait. It made several curious passes before it shot up out of the water with its mouth open and grabbed the bait. It went straight for the cage and took a left turn to pass right in front of us on the boat. It was one of the most amazing sites I had ever scene. This giant 12-13 foot shark was close enough for me to touch and I looked into directly into its jet black eyes. It felt like everything was going in slow motion and it was such a euphoric feeling – one that I will never forget.

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The shark made five or six passes like this and it was an amazing site every time. It was an interesting feeling where I wasn’t scared at all. The sharks looked majestic in the water and their grey skin was a beautiful color. Even as they opened their mouth to expose hundreds of jagged teeth, it was more of a sense of beauty than being scared. Seeing the sharks in person gave me a greater respect for just how massive these creatures are. It also gave me a greater respect for their habitat and keeping the oceans clean so that these animals can thrive. The ride back on the boat was great as I re-lived all the emotions I had during the experience. I thought back to all the images I had in my head, all the shark week documentaries I had seen and the crazy 30 hour journey that got me to this amazing country. It was truly a dream come true and an experience I will never forget!

I think as we all grow older we lose touch with part of who we were as a kid and it is hard to get that back. The things that you dreamed about then seem impossible now. I thought the same thing into I realized it was only impossible from the lense I was looking at it from. Going to South Africa was never impossible, I simply needed to commit to the trip and make it happen. Sure it was going to cost money but knowing I’d achieve a childhood dream made saving so much easier

Seeing Great White Sharks in South Africa was more rewarding than any of the other things I have done. I have been able to cross many things off my bucket list this year and achieve more than I ever thought imaginable at this point in my life but this is at the top of the list. I was most excited about this trip over all the others and it did not dissapoint. It is an indescribable feeling of pride when you’re able to make your 8 year old self proud! Many of the things I have done this year have been things I have wanted to do since maybe high school at the earliest but this shark dream has been swimming around in my head for 17 years, that’s almost 70% of my life! When you’re a kid you don’t think of the steps you need to take to achieve a dream. Instead you just use your imagination. I think a lot of us should use our imaginations again and think about what you loved to do or wanted to do when you were a kid. You are never too old to achieve a childhood dream and I would encourage everyone to do so. Write it down, map out the steps and do it – you will be amazed with how it feels to make that younger self proud!

The pictures were a bit hard to take so the full 8 minute video can be viewed HERE via dropbox.


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