Ever since I was a young girl, the ocean has intrigued me. It wasn’t until 2004 that I first dived (in Queensland) and then again in 2010 (in the Maldives). I was mesmerised. I found that the life under the ocean to be fascinating, intricate and integral part to our very existence and an instructor once told me that krill is the most important thing to humans. (Google it, it’s a fact!)
So when we moved to Dubai in 2012, imagine my excitement that Dive With Sharks was available in a Mall!
Dubai Mall aka World’s largest Mall aka A billion squares of shopping aka you need 10 years to look at each shop, has also a Guiness World record for the ‘World’s Largest Acrylic Panel’ in an Aquarium.
What makes this aquarium so special?
Well, the 10-million litre Dubai Aquarium tank, located on the Ground Level of The Dubai Mall, is one of the largest suspended aquarium in the world.
It houses thousands of aquatic animals, comprising over 140 species. Over 300 Sharks and Rays live in this tank, including the largest collection of Sand Tiger Sharks in the world.
There are numerous ways for visitors to experience the main Aquarium tank, which measures 51 metres in length, 20 metres in width and 11 metres in height. The website claims that:
- The 48 metre walk-through Tunnel provides 270 degree views from 11 metres below the surface of the tank
- Visitors can go on a Glass-bottom boat ride, providing unique views of the tank from beneath their feet
- Those who want to experience a dip in the tank can opt for a Cage Snorkeling Experience
- And for the adventurous ones, a Shark Dive is a once in a lifetime opportunity, bringing you within inches of a large variety of sharks and rays
This last point was something that I was keen to try so on Sunday, I signed up, booked and paid. I was determined to tick this off my bucket list!
The booking and payment was simple enough, it was done via phone. Exchanged a few emails for medical forms and contracts and I was good to go. There was a choice to do a practice dive at Al Wasl Diving Centre or (for an extra charge) at the actual Dubai Aquarium. I selected to practice dive at Dubai Mall Aquarium, mainly due to time restrictions and although it was a big price difference, I didn’t have the luxury to be able to scoot around town.
I was very happy with this choice, because it meant that I got to know my diving instructor well and I could ask plenty of questions. I asked the obvious “Will a shark eat me?” and Ivan giggled tremendously and said “Probably not!” He explained to keep my hands to myself, follow him, do not wave manically and most of all to listen to instructions. And then he said “Don’t worry it’ll make good footage” and we laughed. For anyone living in the UAE, finding a HUMOROUS person is a rarity, so I quadrupled laughed.
After a ton of paperwork, we went through some testing and then it was time to get the gear on and practice in the cage!
I was nervous because all of a sudden I needed to remember everything I was a tested on. “Remember to equalise…. Remember to equalise…..Remember to equalise……Remember to equalise…..” was on repeat in my mind.
OFCOURSE I forgot to equalise when I got into the water and immediately felt a panic.
However, Ivan was very, very patient and calm and within a second I held my nose and all of a sudden the pressure was fine. We practiced how to get rid of water in my goggles, checked my gauge, did an emergency procedure if I lost my mouth piece (I gripped that baby with all my might) and how to regulate my mouthpiece. It was very intense, so I recommend that you listen very carefully during the training session. I also recommend you ask any questions (however trivial they seem), because soon after this – the REAL dive happens.
When Ivan was satisfied with my 2 minute practice (alone) then I was ready. Side note: He said I was a very calm breather and I told him “Really?! Because my heart was beating out of my chest!”
He strapped on the Go-Pro and took some happy snaps. I was happy to let him take care of taking pictures, because frankly at this stage, I was beyond anxious at forgetting to breathe. Number One rule for diving: NEVER HOLD YOUR BREATHE. As stupid as it sounds, it’s a common occurrence.
We stepped into the Aquarium entrance, and like a superstar people wanted to take pictures with us! It was funny that tourists mistook me for a pro. With a weights belt strapped onto my waist, a heavy tank, and a million pipes, I just smiled, posed and moved along.
I must stop here and mention ever so gently: PUTTING ON A WETSUIT IS HARD WORK. One piece of advice, keep the shower water running – think, friction. Also note, Dubai Aquarium is very hijab friendly and provide the appropriate wear for ladies who wear hijab.
Back to the dive.
Here I am:
My heart was racing, my hands were shaking and my legs were stiff. But I knew I had my 3 little munchkins waiting to watch Mamma swim, so I made a quick prayer and stepped into the cold water.
Ladies and Gents, let me introduce you to water pressure. This lovely concept will wreck havoc to your lungs, ears and sinuses if you do not descend slowly and calmly. Follow the instructors lead and make sure you signal the appropriate problem you have. Unfortunately, the fist 3 metres I went down too fast and I honestly felt like my head was going to explode. I panicked and started to rush up the rope. This is a no-no. Ivan again calmed me down and I somehow tried again. I descended ever so slowly and blocked out my fear. I concentrated on the task at hand and before I knew it, I had descended 35 feet and although my head felt heavy, I was breathing fine. Woohoo.
This is where the action happens. I saw every type of animal species there was and Ivan guided me around the tank. Yes there are sharks everywhere. Small sharks, big sharks. Sand Tiger Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks and other sharks that I don’t know their exact name but somehow couldn’t stop staring at the teeth.
We swam around for 30 minutes and it was pretty magical waving to my kids on the outside of the tank. They were cheering for me and i wanted to smile (but water would enter my mouth) and I wanted to shriek with excitement (but sharks would probably have eaten me) so I ended up looking like this.
I highly recommend this activity for anyone wanting a thrill.
Cost: 1150 dh including training + 220 for video footage.
Till next adventure,