REVIEWED BY: Gary Uys
Diving birds sards excitement andsharks
After a long week in the office the weekend had finally arrived. On Friday reports of clean water and sardine activity had made me somewhat excited. Chris had seen a few good fish on the deeper reefs mid-week and had missed a large Dagga at the wreck. That was all the news I needed to get me into gear and out of bed at first light on Saturday morning. When I picked up my dive buddy Judd he too was keen to have a good, productive dive. On rounding the last corner of the road, which opened up a great view of the point at Sheffield Beach, our excitement levels soared. There before us was a barrage of diving gannets and boiling water as a large shoal of Sards was being harassed by predators and birds. Also at the corner was Chris who was ready to leap out of his skin with excitement.
Without further fussing we donned our wet suits and headed up the beach to try and catch up to the frenzy of fishy activity. By the time we had caught up to the birds the activity had moved a good 400m north of Christmas Bay. Chris was now 100m further up the beach from Judd and I and was entering the water. The excitement seemed to have totally destroyed our ability to think rationally as the only thoughts we had were of shoals of Daga, Couta, Snoek, Garrick and every other species of game fish waiting for us. Only once I was entering the water did I take notice of the 2m-plus backline which had to be negotiated. Pumping with adrenaline and picking a likely rip I managed to get past backline with only a few hair-rising, rock-scraping moments.
It was at this point that things started to go awry. Firstly, as I made it through a hefty 2m curler I was greeted by a heftier 3m Bronze whaler! Having dived with sharks in Mozambique and in Maputaland I was not too worried as the shark glided off. Only then with a quick look left and right did I realize that there were five such Bronzies cruising around. Still not too worried I raised my head to look for Chris and Judd. Chris was about 100m north and a bit further out and Judd had been caught by a large set and had managed to get past backline 150m further north of my position. As I started my swim towards Chris the sharks swam along with me, the comfort levels where now seriously out of balance and the sooner I reached Chris the better.
At that point I considered taking the next set to the beach but could not leave Chris or Judd who I was positive would be having shark problems of their own. Now, when I say shark problems, picture at any stage three to five large sharks behaving like puppies thinking that you are their master and following you around as if on a Sunday stroll. One healthy Bronzie came gliding up to me and doing what had always worked in the past I dived down to meet it and frighten it off. The shark had different plans and kept its course, only after a prod with my spear did it drift back into line and the next shark came in. Now the feeling of being the master of a group of thoroughbred hounds changed to the vision of being a piece of fresh steak amongst a pack of pit bulls.
I finally reached Chris who also had his own following of sharks. After another five minutes we finally teamed up with Judd and then made the call to go out deeper and distance ourselves from the sards. Judd had also had a tough time, he had been swept out straight into the shoal of sards. He had not seen any sharks straight away and only when he was lining up what he thought was a big couta did he realize that it was a bloody big shark! So, the three of us headed out towards deep Vegetations and then across to deep Aloes. The shark activity diminished but the variety changed as a hand full of big Greys and Zambos made an entry. We carried on diving but my comfort levels remained low and we finally swam in at Christmas Bay where, as Judd put it “It feels great to be back on good old terra ferma!”
We will never know if one of those sharks would have bitten one of us and thankfully we did not have to find out. We learned a key lesson that day - if you are fortunate enough to find diving birds on a shoal of sardines in great diving conditions – don’t allow excitement to blind you to the almost certain presence of “bigger predators” and…… STICK TOGETHER!
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