I stood on the back of the dive boat, ready to take that great big stride. Below, ominous shapes of sharks swam back and forth. Our guide insisted they would not harm us, but their black shadows were unnerving.
Settle to the bottom, line up, and enjoy the show, I repeated in my head. The viz was amazing in the clear blue waters off of the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. My first certified dive, and we do it with sharks!
My heart pounded as I took the leap. The water however provided a different solitude than being above the ocean. No sounds of waves smacking the boat. No birds squawking overhead. Just the sound of my own breath and the bubbles coming from the regulator as I exhaled.
My diving partner was already ahead of me so I sunk down beside her and settled in. The rest of our group lined up as well. Our instructor descended with a bucket of chum, feeding our friendly sharks.
I was amused. The sharks looked like hungry kittens, each trying to get some treats from the bucket. It was obvious these sharks knew the routine!
As the sharks swam around, we were encouraged to stroke their sandpaper like skin. Some of our class had to be instructed to keep their hands balled up — no one wanted to lose any fingers. The sharks were harmless nurse sharks, but they still could bite!
Nearby, a barracuda hung out, enjoying any treats that floated his way. Looking back, he was scarier than the sharks.
Eventually, our new friends moved along and our dive soon ended. We ascended back to the boat and headed off to our second dive site for the day. This was an adventure never to be forgot.