On our 4th night staying on the Yasawa Islands, we had fresh fish for dinner caught by a very accomplished fisherman, Manasa, who worked at our resort. Manasa is 36 years old and his father taught him the art of spear fishing and free diving from the age of 6. His equipment consists of a 3 foot steel rod and a thick piece of rubber. With these two items he feeds the resort on a daily basis.
That night, while we were eating Manasa’s catch of the day, we asked him whether we could join him on a spear fishing trip. His English wasn’t great but we managed to gather that we could go and that we’ll probably see Sharks! That night all we spoke about is how we would react when faced with a shark, the do’s the don’t’s, what if it attacks us! We got carried away and very, very excited about the following days activities.
Shark swimming day! It started to hit home that soon we’d be face to face with the “Police of the sea” as Manasa liked to call them. We probably tinkered with the idea of not going in, we can’t remember but it was too late – Manasa had arrived and was all geared up, ready to go.
We walked out to sea around 9:00 AM, slipped our feet into flippers, popped our goggles on our heads, the snorkel in our mouths and in we went.
Manasa was incredible to watch, he dived down 10 meters or so with ease and held his breath for what seemed like an hour. We both attempted to dive with him but quickly discovered that diving more than 2 meters, quickly resulted in us doing a 180 degree turn, scrambling to the surface gasping for air.
From then onwards Manasa was doing his thing spearing fish left, right and centre while we remained on the surface of the water watching intently. He speared a few small fish with ease and progressively got into deeper water getting larger fish. Little did we know that he was only spearing the smaller fish to begin laying the scent of blood for the sharks. We were swimming around the edge of the reef, at some points the water was 3 meters deep and others, well, we found ourselves starring into a black obis, who knows how deep it was or what was down there.
We’d been snorkelling and diving for around an hour now and Manasa had a good 10 fish hanging off a wire. The water was deep, we could just about make out Manasa’s bright yellow fins. Our eyes we’re on the constant lookout for sharks. We were often back to back with each other or looking over our shoulders anticipating that deathly stare into the black soulless eyes of shark.
Suddenly we saw Manasa swimming to the surface a lot faster than we’d seen before and whilst doing so he was furiously pointing to the sea bed. His head popped above the water and two words came out of his mouth, ‘SHARK! SHARK!’ Our heads went straight back down and our eyes followed his finger to the sea bed, and there it was.
We saw a shadow, a long body around 4 foot in length. It’s piercing fins and the eerie manner in which it slowly and deliberately trolled the sea bed was unmistakable. We were swimming with sharks!
The water went cold as we fixated our eyes on this animal. We felt a shiver down our spines as we looked around only to see openness – This is his home, territory and lunchtime!
The shark continued to circle us about 10 meters below, we huddled together and didn’t say a word as we watched him in awe. At one point the shark tried to steal Manasa’s fish, however, all he got was a tap on the head by Manasa’s steel rod!
After what felt like a lifetime he slowly swam into the deep darkness of the sea. Our heads came up and with them came a flurry of gibber jabber. We could not believe that we’d just seen a shark circling below us. After a few second of excitement, fear followed. It dawned on us that we’re swimming next to 10 bleeding fish.
We continued to swim and Manasa continued to spear fish but this time we were very aware that there were sharks here and they could come from anywhere. As we swam on we stuck close together and our eyes constantly flickered over our shoulders.
We’d been in the water nearly 2 hours now and it was soon time to get out. We were in a much shallower part of the sea filled with coral. The fish were plentiful here and as a result Manasa was down catching us some dinner.
The water was clear and the sun was beating down on it making everything that moved sparkle. Then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere came another shark. This one was slightly larger and much, much closer. It was patrolling around the reef when the adrenaline surged through us and we wanted to dive to get a closer look.
The shark slowly rounded a corner off the reef and as it did, we went for it. With a big breath under we went – Our heads were down with both eyes on the shark. With a few kicks, our fins took us within 3 meters of this amazing animal. It was such a surreal feeling as we held our breaths and stared straight into the eyes of this large, powerful, grey animal. For those few seconds, being so close, it dawned on us that Manasa was right – These guys are the Police of the sea!