Diving with sharks
By: Garnett Swain, former Broadreach student and current HQ staff member High School Study Abroad, College, Scuba Diving, Marine Biology
Almost all of my memories with Broadreach begin with a sense of uneasiness, at least all the good ones do. Diving with sharks for the first time is no exception to this – the first giant stride took such an immense amount of guts and trust, but ended up being one of my favorite memories to share.
It’s a dream to travel to Fiji and spend almost a month diving with sharks every day. I was excited beyond belief during the months leading up to the trip, but there was some hesitation. When I finally arrived in Fiji and we moored up to the Shark Reef Marine Reserve and began to slide into our gear, I noticed how hard I had been gripping the bench – I finally realized that I was absolutely terrified to get in the water.
Fight past the nerves and jump in
One by one, all of the divers began to jump off the boat into the chilly water. They would turn around, give the on-surface okay sign, then paddle over to the mermaid line. Some people showed obvious nerves, but no one looked nearly as scared as I felt. One of the staff members walked over to me, grasped both of my hands and pulled me up, signaling that it was my turn to take the great plunge. I slowly shuffled to the stern of the boat in an attempt not to trip over my fins and fall directly on my face with all of my gear on, and also to delay the giant stride into the water as much as possible. I finally made it to the stern of the boat and was given the go-ahead to jump into the water.
Getting past that bit of fear in the beginning is essential, and I knew swimming with sharks would be no different. I confidently placed my right hand over my weight belt and my left over my regulator and mask, took a final deep breath of compressed air and then plunged into the beautiful deep blue waters of the Pacific.
An exhilarating payoff
We descended 100 feet to the bottom of the ocean slowly, with excited sharks all around us hoping to get a tuna head snack. I crouched beside my dive buddy and watched the instructors as they prepared for the first feeding. As if out of nowhere, bull sharks entered the arena and began their infamous circling, looking for the prime opportunity to score a snack. The feeder threw tuna heads up and the sharks gulped them down without any hesitation. The sharks moved in a calm, collected, and graceful manner, and at the end of the feeding disappeared past the blue wall in seconds, without a care in the world about the divers around them.
As I think back to some of my favorite memories with Broadreach, from breathing from a regulator for the first time underwater, sailing in the open sea for the first time, hiking The Quill in Saint Eustatius and traveling outside the U.S. by myself, I realize that all of these new, intimidating tasks turned out to be such perspective-changing, fun-filled adventures that affected my life both during the course of the program and when I returned home.
I was first scared beyond belief, but decided to push myself – I’m glad I did. By pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, I discovered my immense love for these creatures. I had never even noticed how beautiful shards were until that day. I learned a very valuable lesson: you have to try things for yourself, even if it scares you, and develop your own opinions. Broadreach’s shark studies program in Fiji provides opportunities to challenge yourself and take risks while offering incredible discoveries and a world of adventure.
Garnett Swain is a former Broadreach student Alumni Ambassador, the Broadreach 2012 Alumni Editor and a current member of the HQ staff.