The north shore of O’ahu is home to world famous waves and a variety of sharks. We’re only good at riding basic waves so we left that for the pros and decided to go on a Shark Cage tour splashing out $100 for the trip from Haleiwa. We decided to save a few pennies on Oahu by getting buses around the island instead of rental cars. I’m now not sure if I’d recommend this as they take up so much precious time, plus we were on the verge of hypothermia due to the ice cold AC pumping out for the two hour journey. The sea along the north shore is notoriously rough; it’s where the big surf competitions take place so it’s got killer waves and I’d read lots of reviews about shark trips continuously getting cancelled due to sea conditions. I was getting worried that we’d arrive and be told the trip was cancelled, but things were looking good upon check in and the group of 14 people waited in the shade for the tin boat to pick us up. When it pulled up and dropped off the previous passengers the crew began making lots of phone calls and we were hearing the word ‘leak’. Oh for fucks sake! We ended up waiting nearly an hour before we were informed that the boat was broken. There was some good news though, they had a spare boat and it wasn’t just any spare boat, it was a brand new one and we were going on its maiden voyage!
It was actually a bit smaller than the other one so we were overcapacity and a crew member had to stay behind. One crew member on board, who I’ll call Joe was a bit of a comedian, he was telling us what to do if something bad happened to the crew, we were instructed to go to the cabin and say May Day May Day into the radio and something along the lines of “this is north shore shark adventures we need the coastguard at 3 miles north of the harbour…” His spiel was too long for anyone to remember and he knew it, so he said if your really panicking and can’t remember just go to the radio and say “this is north shore shark adventures….it’s happened again!!” and they’ll know what to do.
Joe explained that the three most common sharks they see around here are Tigers, Galapagos and Sandbars. I expected the cage to be on the back of the boat but it was just floating in the ocean. The boat clipped onto the cage and was ready for us to enter. Craig and I were in the first group of 6 and were kitted out with a snorkel and mask. We could already see sharks in the water around the boat and I was starting to get really excited. The sharks aren’t fed to get them there, they’ve actually learnt to recognise the sound of a Diesel engine with crabbing boats around the area. So when they hear a boat they come up to the rear hoping for scraps but are left a little confused when all they find is a group of tourists bobbing in a cage.
I was first into the cage and didn’t make it look very easy for everyone else. The sea was pretty rough so I quickly paddled to the far side of the cage, peaked into the water to see a shark coming right towards me, then a wave went right over my head and I choked on salt water. Craig arrived next to me and thought I was panicking from being around the sharks! It was very hard to stay positioned in the cage and we were told to hold onto the metal bars and put our feet on the bar below, but with the rough seas we were getting flung all over the place with limbs slipping in and out of the cage.
A few sharks came towards us and kept going around the cage to the back, I turned around and saw loads of sharks were congregating behind us. The boat had since moved away leaving us floating in the ocean and the sharks had stayed between the cage and the boat. We had to move across the cage to get to the good area and once we did it was incredible. There were at least a dozen sharks swimming in front of us. The sea was the clearest I think we’ve ever seen with 150ft visibility and stunning blue water with sunbeams shining down. The sharks, all of which were 6 – 12ft Galapagos ones, were calmly gliding though the sea, some were at eye level while others were small dots in the depths below. It was such a mesmerising sight and not scary in the slightest. I liked it when the sharks swam above us and we could see their mouths. They didn’t even attempt to eat the fish around them, apparently they know their too fast for them and they like an easy meal.
Our twenty minutes in the cage were over very quickly and we headed back on board. We watched the sharks from the back of the boat as their fins broke through the water. Joe was throwing out a plastic bottle on a string and the splash is what really attracts the sharks so they’d swim to the bottle to investigate. The boat also had a resident bird, I can’t remember the breed but it was a bloody big bird and hovered above the boat with a wing span of about a meter before landing on the rail. The crew introduced us to Gristle, who is one of a kind as this breed is normally shy and would definitely not land on a boat, but this dude does it every time they come out. In fact as a shark arched it’s back through the water it’s personal cleaning fish on its back got snatched up by Gristle in a split second.
After our shark adventures we got a bus a few miles east to Turtle Beach which is home to, you guessed it, turtles. They actually come up onto the beach here to warm up in the sunshine and there’s only three countries in the world where this happens. We’ve seen a turtle lay eggs on a beach at night in Australia but here even males come onto the sand for a bit of mother natures vitamin D. One was already basking in the rays when we arrived, quite camouflaged with the rocks beside her. I think her name was Sapphire and she was in her 30’s or 40’s. A few people were looking after the turtles by placing rope around the turtles once they came onto the beach so that people didn’t go beyond the line and intrude their space. Along with the rope was a sign detailing the turtles name, age and weight. It was pretty cool seeing one just sleeping on the sand and we could see others swimming through the waves close to shore. One particular area had at least five turtles in a wavy patch where they kept getting spun around like they were in a washing machine. I don’t know if they were enjoying the rollercoaster ride, performing acrobatics for the tourists or genuinely stuck in a rough patch.