Sharks, dolphins and whales, oh my!

By Jimmy Lee

Given the choice of the ability to fly or to breathe underwater, which one would you choose? Almost everyone says fly, because, well, at least we can swim in water, and scuba’s not that far off.

But for the most part, we can actually see everything there is to see in the sky. Sure, it’s a different vantage point looking up from looking down, but if you’ve seen one cloud, you’ve seen ‘em all. That’s why there’s no question, being able to breathe underwater would be the only choice. There’s a whole world under there with way more going on than we’ve got up here. Like a certain Jamaican crab once said, “Darling it’s better, down where it’s wetter, take it from me”.

Enter Australia. Here you can do things you’d never have dreamed you could. I’m not talking about learning to surf, or hike through an ancient rainforest (although both are admittedly very cool), I’m talking about entering that deep blue mystery that David Attenborough keeps talking about. Australians have a reputation for being crazy adrenaline junkies, but where they really make their mark is how much they want you to experience what they do, and how easily they can make that happen.

With companies like Rockingham Wild Encounters, you can swim with dolphins. And not in a giant tank with the tagged and trained type. These are wild dolphins out off the coast near Perth, Western Australia. Dolphins are apparently the second smartest species next to yours truly, and you can see why. Their willingness to encounter with humans is incredible, and the Rockingham guides are their best friends.

If dolphins remind you too much of the aquarium, you can make a trip up the coast to Ningaloo Reef where you can swim with whale sharks. Could there be any cooler realistic combination of animals? Discounting prizzly Bears and ligers, whale sharks are second-to-none.Not technically whales, yes, but at 17 meters, whale sharks are the largest, and arguably most magnificent looking fish in the sea.

If Shark Bay doesn’t do it for you, you can try the perennial favourite out east in the Great Barrier Reef. One of the most popular diving sites in the world, you might think that you’d be crossing flippers with a fellow tourista at every turn. But with 2600km of the world’s largest coral reef, there’s plenty of space to move around.
Companies like Quicksilver tours don’t require you to have prior experience scuba diving, and offer an introductory diving session that allows you to get more than just your feet wet.

Sharks (of the non-human eating type) are abound, and you are given a considerable amount of freedom to explore your new coral playground, especially taking into account you have had only a half-hour’s training. It might all sound a bit dodgy, but the professionalism and track record of the staff is more than enough to know you’re in good hands.

Now, back to the initial question: to fly or to swim? One of the first responses to said question is “Am I impervious to dangerous sea creatures, namely sharks?” Well, that can be taken care of in Australia as well. In Port Lincoln, South Australia, you can go face-to-face with a Great White Shark as it tries to work through its aeons of evolutionary knowledge on how best to eat you. How, you say, do you thump the ancient hunting wisdom of the Great White? A little metal cage. Take that, evolution.
So now that you know just how friendly the dolphins are, the grandeur of the whale sharks, and that you can point and laugh at a creature that used to eat dinosaurs, the decision is pretty easy. Now combine that with a window-seat flight to Australia, and you’re pretty much getting the best of both worlds.