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  • Writer's pictureG Jonker

Diving into the Depths: Conquering Fear and Embracing Sharks

Exploring the local underwater world is an absolute delight. The lakes and rivers offer surprising abundance of fish, and the historical wrecks never fail to captivate me. But a few times a year, I embark on journeys to tropical waters, where I'm fortunate enough to witness and peacefully interact with sharks. These magnificent creatures have become my absolute favorites to encounter in the wild. However, when I share my mind-blowing photos and exhilarating videos of these shark encounters with my non-diving friends, their eyes widen in disbelief. Many people have been influenced by the terrifying images presented during shows like Shark Week, which often vilify these animals. The idea of willingly swimming with these so-called man-eating monsters just for the thrill seems unfathomable to them. And honestly, I can't blame them because I used to share the same perspective.

As a young boy, the iconic movie Jaws deeply affected me. The image of a colossal great white shark lurking beneath the water's surface haunted my dreams. Fear paralyzed me, constantly imagining something lurking below, ready to drag me down into the depths. Even ordinary water activities like water skiing in a calm lake or swimming in a pool under the night sky became daunting. It was a paralyzing fear.

To conquer this fear, I knew I had to dive, pun intended, into understanding sharks and the ocean. So, armed with my allowance money, I pleaded with my mother to buy me books about sharks. One book led to another, and another, until my fear gradually transformed into an indescribable admiration for these extraordinary creatures. From that moment on, I eagerly awaited every opportunity to encounter them in their natural habitat.

Sharks are truly exceptional beings. As apex predators within their ecosystems, they possess unparalleled grace and power. Their presence not only evokes awe but also plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy balance within marine ecosystems. Shockingly, when sharks are hunted to near extinction in certain environments, the entire ecosystem suffers, leading to a decline in overall health.

Now, let's address the common question: "But aren't they dangerous?" I relish the chance to educate and share my experiences. Here are a few compelling arguments I offer: On average, there are only 5 to 10 fatalities per year from shark attacks, with 75 to 100 attacks occurring worldwide. Compare that to the hundreds of millions of sharks killed by humans annually. Surprising, isn't it? In reality, you're hundreds of times more likely to be fatally attacked by a domestic dog or even get electrocuted by a toaster than fall victim to a shark attack.

However, let's not overlook the fact that sharks are indeed apex predators. If we were on their menu, it would be an entirely different story—one that would undeniably be terrifying. It's crucial to treat them with respect and caution, just as we should with any wild animal.

Teaching the PADI AWARE Shark Conservation course has become one of my absolute favorite endeavors. It allows me to share my passion and dedication for preserving these incredible creatures with others. Through education and action, we can work together to save and protect sharks for future generations to admire and appreciate. The fact is, by saving them, we are also saving ourselves. Our interconnectedness with the ocean and its inhabitants cannot be underestimated. So, the next time you see a sensational image or video depicting terrifying encounters with sharks, remember that it's not a true reflection of reality. Thousands of people interact with these creatures every day, and they should be appreciated and respected for their vital role in our ecosystem and not seen as evil monster from our nightmares.

Personally, I cannot wait for my next opportunity to see these amazing creatures.

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