Photo: Brooke Dombroski

21 Thoughts I Had on my First Cage-Free Shark Dive

Swimming with sharks cage-free is an unforgettable experience, in more ways than one.

Last week, I had the opportunity to swim with sharks, sans cage, with research and conservation group One Ocean Diving. And although the activity is truly magical, it's also, as you would probably guess, a nerve-racking experience. To further illustrate my personal emotional rollercoaster, here are some notes I’d taken of my internal monologue and feelings before, during and after the dive. 

1. "Wow, I can't believe I'm going to see sharks today, I'm so lucky!"

2. "Oh man, I'm going to swim with sharks today, why did I agree to this?" 

3. "Wait, should I have not eaten fish yesterday? Will they smell that?" 

4. "I know I chose the 7 a.m. dive because the wind will be lighter, but I will never wake up this early again."

5. "Driving from Honolulu to the North Shore was a mistake, it gave me a lot of time to internalize my fears."

6. "I'm at Haleiwa Harbor. Pretty sure I'm waiting at the right spot, since there's a shack right next to me called the ‘Shark Shack.’"

7. "I know the guide is telling me how I shouldn’t be scared of sharks but my math teacher in high school also said I wouldn’t always have a calculator on me so I know what it feels like to be lied to." 

8. "Apparently you’re supposed to look the sharks in the eyes and establish yourself as a predator. Gotta let them know you’re down to scrap." 

9. "Are those sharks? Oh no, those are dolphins! This is magical." 

10. "The view from the boat is also magical. I feel better." 

11. "OH MAN THERE’S A SHARK RIGHT THERE!"

12. "I’m kind of surprised at how surprised I am to see a shark on a shark diving tour. Like, of course there is a shark, that’s the whole point."

13. "Oh wow, that’s a lot of sharks." 

14. "They want me to get in the water now, with the sharks. Yikes." 

EDITOR’S NOTE: During this time, I was in the water, so note-taking had to be halted. Here, however, are some of the thoughts I had jotted down directly after getting out of the water about my time swimming with the sharks. 

15. "Hey, this isn’t so bad, and these sharks seem like pretty chill dudes." 

16. "Wow, it’s almost kind of beautiful how they move so gracefully in the water. Also, their faces are kind of cute, in a weird way."  

17. "Uh oh, that tiger shark is swimming right at me. Engage eye contact!"

18. "I want to look away but I can’t! Why won't you swim away from me! Ahhhhhh!" 

19. "Oh, it left. Phew. I hope nobody near me realizes why the water is warmer all of a sudden." 

20. "Our guide is telling us to get out but I actually don’t want to. This is so cool! Sharks are awesome!" 

21. "Goodbye, my shark friends! I’ll miss all of you, even you tiger shark who doesn’t understand personal space. Even you."