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Ryby Stonehouse

They told me in the bar afterwards, that when I was unusually quiet for about half an hour after getting back onto the boat earlier, they realised it had been serious and it wasn't just another wind-up. "It was BLOODY serious," I said, "and almost very bloody."
Catfish Dive & Safari
It was our final afternoon on 'The Run', and the guy I was with was a photo-journalist without 'the shot' he so needed to reflect how truly awesome the sardine run really is. We'll call him Stu to protect his anonymity (sorry Stu it slipped out). We'd had some absolutely stunning wildlife encounters but enough about the bars diving and snorkelling (yes snorkelling, extreme style) out from Port St Johns on the 'Wild Coast' of South Africa a few hours down from Durban. It was late June, the shoal was on it's way north and we were completely knackered, six to eight hours a day for five days of hard core ribbing... you know what I mean (diving is the second most fun in wet rubber after all isn't it?)

The last day had been amazing, with video evidence to show a bait ball the size of a squash court rammed by a lone fur seal, it dived down towards the camera making the shoal split into a halo against the surface light, bites a sardine and swallows it looking down the lens. Suddenly I'm a Nat Geo videographer and all I can see is Royalties in $'s and 's. Swimming back over to Stu and Jamie (the 'guide' who was on a jolly with us) I look past them at a VERY large fish swimming by. They note the interest in my startled-rabbit-in-headlights expression and turn to see "What's Behind Youuuuuu?". Both immediately turned back round and gave the thumbs up and we were out of there mucho pronto. My first words at the surface were, "TELL ME there's another shark with a white belly..." closely followed by howls and frantic waving for a boat pick-up.
Now we get to the interesting bit, Stu, the Pro Foto guy, moans yet again, "I've got NOTHING" for his article for another (lesser) dive mag than Tanked Up... so I say I'll jump in for one last splash to see if we can get anything. Afterwards Jamie had the ultimate, "I told you so" look, having explained that the viz had gone to shite and that even if we saw anything, the shots would be cr@p (no reflection on your prowess here at all Stu), but we went in anyway. At five metres down, back to back hanging on an SMB, looking out through the pea-green soup all we saw were shadows of bronze whaler sharks (only two to three metres long these ones) lurking around us, but no chance of a good foto or any useful footage, so we called it after just five minutes. I flipped round the video camera (nice, shiny aluminium) and started to reel in upwards, then bang. I mean BANG, the camera is ripped out of my hand and I'm jerked sideways as the steel cable snaps tight on my BCD. Apparently it didn't taste too good. The shark spat it out to leave me free to make the fastest ascent I've ever done. No safety stops here. The plot was no-where to be found in my world at that point. I yelled for the boat and somehow managed to get onto it fully kitted first attempt. Amazing what adrenalin can make you do. I remember repeatedly patting down my arm to check it was still there. It was, but so are the nightmares...

Morals from this tale:
  • Always take the local guides suggestion warnings seriously, you don't know better
  • Never knowingly jump into low viz ocean with big sharks and shiny toys
  • Don't be an arse and think you're shark proof. You're just lunch on the grand scale of things
  • Tell the photographer that his shots are great and not to be such a perfectionist
  • All these lessons and more will come in useful next summer on the sardine run take II

Trip run by Blue Ocean Diving.
Reef Jewellery

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