HAEUNDAE, South Korea – I haven’t even seen the movie “Jaws” nor have many of my friends, but you only need to start with the sound track’s pounding, "du-du-du-du," to get a shiver down the spine. Still, I couldn't pass on a chance to swim with these marine monsters. If for nothing else than to send my mother the pictures.
When I arrived at Busan Aquarium in Haeundae I was set up with gear and joined by one of the aquarium interns, Chung Hye-young. She has never actually put a regulator in her mouth so we started out playing around in a smaller pool —joined by three sharks. While Hye-Young re-learned how to breathe, I made sure all my under water-gadgets worked properly.
Any diver knows you can do everything through your regulator under the water, as long as you keep it in your mouth. Even scream. And that’s exactly what happened when I poked my head under the water for the first time in the small tank.
Little Miss Zebra Shark was curious about me and apparently wanted to know who was invading her personal space. Suddenly we were eye to eye. Leaving me —actually the bigger of the two— screaming a trail of bubbles in hip-deep water.
When Hye-Young was all set we took the first steps into the big tank. With each move forward it was seeming more and more like an absolutely stupid thing to do.
Once underwater, the first sight I saw was the alarmed faces of the visitors on the other side of the glass. Waves were exchanged, photos were posed for and hopefully a silent prayer said. It was then that I turned around to see one of the seventeen Grey Nurse Sharks (known as a relatively peaceful animal, unless provoked or hungry, but still, a SHARK!) just ahead.
Within five minutes in the tank, most of the bigger sharks (one around three meters long) came over for a look. Or a bite. Or a scare-off. But they weren't too fond of our bodyguard Go Ji-woong and his air gun and quickly decided we weren't worth the trouble.
The longer you are in the same space with these great souls of the big blue, the more respect and awe you feel. You are overtaken with the utmost fascination. Swimming within reach of these creatures, makes you feel very small and insignificant. The shark has been around for millions of years with nary an equal in its underwater world. And yet, there I was, a potential meal for twenty minutes.
Afterwards, I stepped out of the water feeling as if I had been stirred from a dream. How could I leave a world where all you can hear is your own breathing, feel the water currents pushing and pulling you along and looking at a wonderful, yet strange and powerful fish in the eye, without even feeling remotely afraid? I must have been nuts. Enjoy the pictures, mom.
If you want more information about booking a dive with the sharks at Busan Aquarium, visit www.busanaquarium.com.