A Close Encounter with Mossel Bay Sharks

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I did it.  I went shark cage diving in Mossel Bay!  And, oh boy, what a thrill!  It was truly one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I’m so glad I did it.  Those who know me might think it odd that, with my fear of swimming in fish infested waters, I would choose to put myself in close quarters with a shark.  Well, let me try to explain…

I don’t like fish.  I love fishing and I will gladly unhook and release the fish I catch, and over the last 8 months I’ve grown to love eating fried fish and grilled sardines.  But I don’t like fish.  I can’t stand the thought of swimming in lakes, ponds, rivers, or oceans because as I am there, treading water, all I can think about is a fish, of any size, coming up from underneath me and attacking me!  Unnecessary?  Probably, but it still happens.  If I am at a body of water that has some sort of fish in it, and I mean anywhere in it, I will only go about waist deep before freaking out.  If I go any further I prefer to be carried.

But here’s the catch: I love observing underwater life!  Like seriously love it.  I love aquariums and the giant fish tanks at Cabela’s.  I love standing on docks or boats, or walking along rivers and seeing fish.  I get giddy when I spot any sort of sea animal life!  I just love it.  So that’s why I wanted to go shark cage diving.  I wanted to be in a controlled environment where I could see the sharks up close and personal in their own habitat.  And let me tell you, it was amazing.

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After check in, we started out the morning with a light breakfast and a short intro about what we were going to be doing, then we headed to the boat.  The entire trip the crew and the Skipper were adamant that we knew that the point of this shark encounter was to show us that sharks are not vicious creatures, but are sweet and docile like a new puppy.  From everything they told us to what I experienced I believe that they are wrong.  Sharks are not anything like puppies!  Have they ever seen a puppy???  And now I’m even more afraid to go swimming in the ocean.

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Once on the boat, we took a 10 minute ride to Seal Island, literally a small island covered in seals, and began to “chum and bait” the sharks.  The process consisted of mashing tuna and mixing it with salt water, then periodically throwing it out into the ocean, and hooking a tuna head to a long rope and throwing it out into the water over and over again.  The sound of the tuna head hitting the water was to mimic that of a seal jumping and then trigger the sharks to come.  The “chum” or the mashed up tuna mixed with salt water, was to intrigue the sharks curiosity and draw them closer to the source.

DSC06233Here is one of the crew members “chumming” or throwing the mashed up tuna mixture into the water.

 

DSC06231Here the Skipper is “baiting” by throwing the tuna head into the water to create a loud plop.

 

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After about 30-40 minutes of doing this process we spotted our first shark!  Ahh!  Everyone was freaking out in excitement.  The cage was already lowered into the water and attached to the boat so a few of us hurried to put on our wetsuits.  Well, we attempted to hurry and put on our wetsuits, but lets be honest, it took quite a while to get those things on!  One by one, six of us jumped into the cage not even caring that the water was absolutely freezing.

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Once in the cage, we held on for dear life, careful to keep our arms and legs in the cage, and waited.  The Skipper would yell, “Down! Shark!  Left!” and then we’d push ourselves under the water and look left as a shark would be coming at the bait in front of us.  As the shark would open it’s mouth to take the bait, the Skipper would yank it away from the shark and right at the cage!  The shark would then come at the cage with it’s mouth open and it’s teeth all showing to go at the bait again!  It was so cool!

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On two occasions, the shark charged the cage, bit onto the corner and then thrashed!  The cage was secured to the boat so the cage didn’t shake too much, but it was so cool to see!  After this experience, I do think that sharks are very beautiful and incredible, but I would never, ever, ever, compare them to puppies.  Maybe I should get the Skipper a puppy so he’ll know what one is like and stop comparing a shark to it.  And, if you ever get the opportunity to go shark cage diving, I HIGHLY recommend it.  I’ll be going again the next chance I get.

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The Longest 33 Hours of Our Lives: Part I

(Want to read ahead?  Here’s Part 2 | Here’s Part 3)

Prior to moving from Morocco to South Africa, we had never experienced any problems or difficulties while traveling between countries, nor ever been close to missing our plane.  Now we have.  This trip pretty much takes the cake on bad experiences that could possibly happen to someone on a trip, and they just seemed to get worse as the hours ticked by.  We apologize for the lack of pictures, as pulling out our camera was not the first thing on our minds, but we hope you’ll stick around with us and be amazed at how we actually made it to our final destination or at least have a good laugh.  Enjoy!

5:00am

We began our morning by physically getting out of bed at 5am, but my morning started much, much earlier than that.  Carter awoke around 10pm and was inconsolable.  He doesn’t sleep very well in bed with us because he moves around a lot, so I made the couch into a bed for Carter and I with the hopes of at least giving Scott a decent night of sleep.  Carter and I slept on the couch just fine until about 2am.  Then I was up every subsequent hour for 15-20 minutes because Carter was pushing me off the couch and/or I was freezing because Carter kept kicking the blanket off of me.  Needless to say, I was actually a bit relieved when the alarm went off at 5am because I could stop pretending to sleep and get up and be productive.

 

6:00am

After waking up and finalizing our packing, feeding Carter breakfast, and cleaning up our apartment, we headed out the door right on schedule.  We stood on the curb for about 2 minutes and hailed down the first taxi we saw.  The day prior we had asked our building manager about prices, and he said (with a glint in his eye, no doubt) that a taxi that early in the morning would cost 100MAD (about $10 USD) though he was certain he could get the price down to 70MAD (about $7 USD) if we would have him call a taxi for us.  We knew what trick he was trying to pull though so we kindly opted out of his offer and decided to get a taxi on our own (a taxi from our apartment to the train station would only cost a local 20MAD, or $2 USD).  After hailing down the taxi and asking him what he’d charge us (50MAD, or $5 USD) we threw our bags in the trunk and climbed in.  We didn’t bother haggling because we wanted to make sure we got to the train station with plenty of time before our train left.

 

6:15am

We get to the train station only to find that the McDonald’s (mine and Scott’s breakfast plan) was closed.  We were distraught, and hungry, so we sat at the only cafe that was open that early and settled on sharing a hot chocolate.  Side note: We had divvied out our cash perfectly so we could buy our final train tickets to the airport and leave the country with just a few dirham for keepsakes, so we had to be very careful about our purchases.  As we were waiting for our hot chocolate, Scott checked his pocket for the phone to check the time.  The phone wasn’t there.  After looking EVERYWHERE and retracing our steps we admitted defeat and knew that our phone had to be in the taxi.

We didn’t know what to do.  Scott had a little bit of a meltdown so I took initiative and asked the security guard that we passed on our way into the train station if he knew any way to get our phone back.  He didn’t speak English.  I used my professional charades skills to communicate with him and he caught on quickly, continuing the conversation with his own hand signals and pointing.  He ended up pulling out his phone with the intention of calling our phone to see if the taxi driver might answer it.  I ran to Scott asking for the phone number, but it was written down in a document online and there was no WIFI available to access.

I felt like we had made so much progress in enlisting the help of the security guard that I couldn’t let him down by telling him that we don’t even know our own number.  So, I waved down the waiter at the cafe and asked him if they had WIFI we could use.  He seemed a little wary, but agreed to give us the password and we were able to get our phone number!  Scott scribbled it on a napkin and I ran back to the security guard who still had his phone in hand.  He dialed the number, put it on speaker, and we waited.  And waited.  It rang for what felt like forever and then went to voicemail.  I thought that was it and the security guard would just shrug and say sorry, but he immediately dialed again!  We waited some more as only the dial tone was heard through the speaker, and then… the taxi driver answered!  MIRACLE!

The taxi driver and the security guard spoke arabic to each other for a few minutes while I waited intently on what the next step would be.  Was the taxi driver close?  Would he even be willing to drive all the way back to the train station?  The security guard hung up the phone and signaled to me that the taxi would be coming back and I needed to be waiting outside for him.  I ran back to Scott beaming, “HE ANSWERED!  HE ANSWERED!”  Scott almost didn’t believe me.  He actually might have shed a tear or two. I grabbed a few dollars worth of dirham to pay the taxi driver for coming back for me and ran to wait outside for his return.

 

6:25am

I waited outside for over 10 minutes for the taxi to come back.  As he pulled up to the curb, he opened the door and verified I was the right person, pointed accusingly at me and reprimanded me in arabic, I slipped him some cash as he handed me the phone, and I ran back to the Scott.  Our train was leaving in a matter of minutes.

 

6:40am

Scott and I strapped all of our gear to ourselves and ran to the train.  The train had private cabin seating and we were really hoping we could get one to ourselves since it was a 3 and a half hour train ride.  We walked through 3 train cars looking for an open cabin and we were losing hope.  Scott commented about how the train was going to start moving any second so we should really just sit anywhere, but I was determined to find our own cabin.  We passed a room that was dark so we thought it was occupied, but the door was open so it caught my eye.  I took a couple steps back to inspect the cabin and found that it was empty!  I called to Scott who had already almost made it to the end of the train and we sat down right as the we started moving.

DSC05962-copyOur own private cabin!  Carter was eager to get down and run around.

 

DSC05954Victory photo after acquiring the phone!

 

6:45-10:15am

It wasn’t until halfway to Casablanca when we realized we didn’t have enough cash to buy our final train ticket from the Casablanca station to the airport.   Because we used an extra 40MAD to pay the taxi driver for coming back with our phone, we were now short 15MAD (about $1.50 USD) for our final train tickets.  We were kicking ourselves hardcore.

DSC05966Carter sleeping soundly on the train.  It had the perfect amount of white noise and vibrating for this guy to sleep for a long time!

 

10:15-11:15am

We decided we would try to see if the station would use credit card, pretty much knowing they wouldn’t… but the only alternative was to essentially pull out $15 USD from the ATM to only use $1.50 USD of it–not to mention the $5 service charge.  The most frustrating thing was that all the time we had been so careful about making sure we’d have the right amount of money to pay for everything was useless; instead of keeping just a few coins as keepsakes, now we have $13 USD worth! Anybody need some Moroccan currency?

 

11:15am-12:15pm

Despite the drama at the station, the final train ride to the airport was great.  Carter played with all of his toys, colored, and slept.  By the way, airplanes should really have private cabin seating for families.  I mean seriously, they’re great sound barriers, they allow room for kids to walk around, and there’s plenty of room for sleeping.  Someone should get on that. Southwest Airlines, we’re looking at you.

 

Coming Up Next:

  • Waited with a screaming baby in a sweaty, makeshift security line for 30 minutes while we elbowed people who were trying to cut.
  • Discovered at check-in that the ticket for Carter months prior suddenly didn’t exist.
  • Bought a brand new ticket for Carter… that one didn’t work either.
  • Carter vomited on the plane while lunch was being served.

Cape Town: Our New Home

We made it to Cape Town!!  Okay, so technically we’ve been here a couple of days already, but we’ve just barely caught up on sleep (is that even possible?) and we’re starting to think coherently again.  Key word: starting.  Let’s just say it was a rough trip getting to Cape Town (more on the trip in a series of posts coming soon… it was a really rough trip…).  No worries though, our spirits our high and we’re loving Cape Town so far!  We’ve met some amazing people, come up with way too many things to do in a month, and are very cozy in our apartment in Seaside Village.  Here’s where we are living for the next month:

IMG_7018The view of the front balcony.  It’s equipped with a grill!  We’re really excited about that little detail.

 

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IMG_7016The view from the front balcony.  Excuse our mess on the couch, we kind of set things down anywhere and collapsed out of complete exhaustion for a few minutes.

 

IMG_7021This fun little piece is in the living room area.  We actually have a pillow case back home that is very similar to this one (if not the exact same) and we love it!  This chair also folds out into a bed which is pretty cool.

 

IMG_7023The bathroom.  It’s so clean and it smells so good!  Something we’re not used to, haha.

 

IMG_7014The bedroom.  The glorious bedroom.  This bed is the most comfortable bed we’ve had yet.  The duvet is thick and heavy and the pillows are the fluffiest ever.

 

DSC05977Carter loves this place.  Upon arriving, he made his way around the apartment finding all the things he shouldn’t play with.  It was great because we were able to know what we needed to move around or arrange to essentially “baby proof” the apartment.  We’d just follow him around and (when safe) we’d ask for his help in removing and stacking items, then we’d relocate them.  He loved being such a big help!

 

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IMG_7032Out of the back door of the apartment is a small private gated area, and that opens into a large courtyard.  Carter loves running around the courtyard and picking at the plants (we’re working on that), but mostly he loves climbing up and down the stairs.

 

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And then this is our view: a beautiful beach, and the incredible Table Mountain.  We’re so excited to be here!  What are some things you’ve done, or have heard of doing, in Cape Town?