In May 2008 I was living in Johannesburg, which prevents one from diving as much as one would like. The ex-wife, Tammi, and I had planned a two week trip to Durban. The first week we’d spend with my good dive buddy, Jason Chandler, and the following week we’d be at our timeshare in Ramsgate. The plan was to do as much diving as possible, weather permitting. The first day we got up a bit late due to the few (countless) drinks we’d had the night before. As we were packing the gear for a recon drive down the coast, Jason had a call from a diving contractor which meant he would have to stay, pack and leave the following day. In hindsight, this was his lucky break!
So off the ex and I cruised down the East Coast with the sea looking absolutely flat, calm and clean. We drove around for a bit looking for the best viz and settled on Rocky Bay at Park Rynie as it would be an easy shore entry for her, being an inexperienced diver.
While we were kitting up, she asked me if she should take her gun. “No,” I said, “Rather not, we can share mine and it will make the shore entry easier”… Famous last words!
We got in at about 10H30 and by that stage Rocky Bay was packed with holiday makers and weekend divers as it was a Saturday and the weather was great.
We got out past backline and the viz was awesome… 20m and warm for May; about 24 degrees. I called Tammi over to me and said that we should hang around in the shallows for a bit while I checked for some crayfish. I was on my second down in 5 metres of water when I looked up from the sea floor to see where Tammi was, and saw what I thought was a dolphin approaching over the sand about 20m away. As it approached it got bigger and bigger and materialised into my worst nightmare… a Great White Shark!
I headed for the surface, checking quickly to see if Tammi had seen it whilst putting a 44 powerhead on my spear and trying to stay calm. When I hit the surface I saw that Tammi was clearing her mask. I shouted, “White!! White!!”, but by the time she had put her head back in the water the shark was cruising off the bottom and directly towards her. I swam over as quickly as I could, but before I could get to her it stopped just below her fins, turned towards me and accelerated, now facing me head on!
I immediately turned 90 degrees to it to show it my size. The shark then rushed me and I was just about to shoot it in the nose when it turned 90 degrees to me and I was pushed backwards by the water it displaced. I could now see that it wasn’t a big White, about 3.5m in length, but it’s the younger, inexperienced sharks you have to watch out for as they are not accustomed to divers. One slow flick of the tail and it disappeared into the backline surf. Great, now I didn’t know where it was.
I called Tammi over to me and told her to keep calm and not to panic. I grabbed her arm and as quickly and quietly as possible, we swam back through backline and towards the beach where we grabbed two kids who were body boarding and dragged them to the beach, whilst warning other bathers to get out the water.
Funny thing was, their mother gave me verbal abuse for manhandling her kids! When I told her why she asked me to swim out and warn her hubby who was diving a bit further out at Kings Rock.
Fat chance I told her. Go ask the life savers, I’m not putting a foot in the sea!
As we were recovering and getting our kit off, a whole bunch of divers pulled up in a pickup truck and asked what the viz was like. I told them the viz was great, but clouded with Great White Shark! They all jumped back into the truck and drove off.
To this day I can still see that shark in my mind in 1080HD! My mate Jason still believes I’m spinning tall stories about the White at Rocky bay.