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Diving with sharks and other things that eat you

So I'm in New Zealand now and yes everything is very nice. I've wandered around Auckland, got refused entry to a casino for being underage (min. age 20) and have been out into the bush to do a morning's conservation work, retrieving wasp poison from little plastic containers on a transect line off the beaten track. I've already booked my flight to Christchurch for monday and then the real adventure starts. Before I left Fiji however, there was one other thing I did worth mentioning. You might have guessed what it involved from the title of this piece.

The shark dive on the Shark Reef Marine Reserve is apparently, according to many world class divers, the best in the world. It's even in the list of 1000 things to do before you die in the back of Oli's diary. This was an extra activity organised by Greenforce after the phase had officially finished, although of the 17 volunteers 11 of us did the two dives.

Let's clear something up straight away as this always seems to be everyone's first question: you were in a cage right? Ummm... no, actually. But don't worry, we were wearing full length wetsuits and gloves to ensure we don't look too much like morsels of food. So with that out of the way, let's get on to the dives themselves. We descended quickly to a depth of 30m, where a small stone wall had been built for us to kneel behind whilst no more than 2m in front of it, the dive master stood wearing chain mail gloves and holding on to a huge wheelie bin full of fish remains from a local processing factory. In front of me and above me (in fact all around) were over a hundred giant trevally, enormous vicious looking fish up to a meter and a half long and 75cm tall. Whenever a fish head was thrown up to them they would descend upon it like a pack of piranhas, ripping and tearing before a massive one simply swooped in and swallowed it whole. There were also some other large fish in with them, particularly red snappers and a fair few shark suckers. All these fish were no more than a meter or two away and often passed close enough to touch, should you not value your fingers that is.

It wasn't long before the sharks came. Three absolutely gigantic tawny nurse sharks arrived, each between two and a half and and three and a half meters long. Despite this, they weren't that scary as a rather toothless grin with two little tassels hanging below their mouth like a goatfish and they ate straight out of the wheelie bin, their head stuck inside. The bull sharks however were much more impressive, starting off slinking through the shadows at the edge of the visibility; they look like real sharks.

After 17 minutes we ascended to another wall at 10m and watched a show of smaller sharks, white tips and grey reefs, along with some smaller fish. We ascended and had an hour-long surface interval before dropping back down to 15m and watching a stunning display of giant trevally and (apparently) 15 bull sharks (although I never counted more than 8 in my sight at one go). Up to two and a half meters long and fat as a barrel, they had little piggy eyes and a sloping mouth. The dive master was feeding them out of his hand; the sharks would approach from the left then he would swing the food around so the sharks turned to face towards us as they opened their cavernous mouths a meter away from where I sat and slammed them shut on the fish. Absolutely awesome. And to top it off, a giant moray eel was poking his head out of the wall just below me, apparently enjoying the show as well.

We were of course slightly disappointed that we didn't see a 6 meter long tiger shark that actually scares the bull sharks away, but you can't have everything ;-)