June 29, 2012

Shark Diving in the Busan Aquarium


Earlier this month, Mike and I went down to Busan to scuba dive in their shark tank. Having gone to the Aquarium when I first arrived in 2010, I have wanted to try diving in it for a long time. I am not PADI certified, so it would be an opportunity to try scuba, and of course, see sharks up close and personal. Finally, I got my chance. 

About the pictures: Michael Jones took video of my dive underwater, and the ones in the shark tank are still frames from that. It was 40,000 for a hard copy of the DVD and totally worth it. Mike took all of the rest of the pictures.

Here is the video of the entire dive:


I wrote an article for Daegu Compass on the experience, so if you are looking for directions, prices, and those types of details, check out the magazine : http://www.daegucompass.com/july2012. My article is on page 36-38!


The program runs on Saturdays and Sundays, meeting in the morning/early afternoon by the front entrance. First, there is a short training session - powerpoint, forms, the whole works. This is to educate divers - especially those who are not certified scuba divers - on the safety regarding equipment and the animals. There are strict rules, like not touching the sharks and not drawing unnecessary attention to yourself (things like jumping and running around, which might look like an act of aggression or even just waving your hands and fingers, which might look like some little delicious fish). We were split into two groups since Michael Jones, the instructor, only takes 5 or 6 divers in at a time.

Next we walked into this giant room, the top of the tanks. We could see into the shark tank and the two side tanks set off by glass from the shark tank- the hammer head shark and some rays in one, some finless dolphins in another. There is a small pool connected to the shark tank, and that is where we practiced. 

Training was not easy for me. As excited as I was to use the gear, I was terrified of it. Once the weighted belt and oxygen tank were on, I felt crushed, as though I couldn't take full, deep breaths. Michael asked us to lay down under water on our stomachs and perform simple tests. I couldn't stay calm with the weight on my bank pushing onto my chest and lungs. We needed to remove the respirator and place it back into our mouths without swallowing a cupful of sea water... which I had to do over and over, since I couldn't stay calm. Then we needed to fill our mask with water and push the water out using air from our noses. Somehow I managed to breath in, once again choking myself on the water. Really, I was surprised how difficult it was. 

Michael was a saint. He put up with my struggles and failed attempts over and over. At one point he let a sea turtle into the training area, just to let us pet it and see it up close. That gave me a chance to calm down and remember why we had come there. I finally completed the tests successfully. At this point though, it was feeding time for the sharks... so we had to wait a long time to go into the tank. I felt terrible for the other people waiting for their turn to dive, but am thankful Michael let me try until I was comfortable with it.  


Hammer head shark 


Finless dolphin


This is the other group, Mike took pictures from outside of the tank after we finished, because I wanted to give an idea of what it looked like.

Michael Jones is supervising a diver walking down the curved part of the tunnel (this tunnel is for people to walk through outside of the water). You step down while holding the rope, stopping to pop your ears so they equalize under the water pressure. 


Thumbs up means go up more - if your ears do not pop it can damage your hearing, so you have to go up and try again. The OK sign means just that - I'm okay, I'm fine, My ears have popped, etc. 


Michael walks the participants away from the tunnel and has them sit on their knees until everyone is under the water. 


Here is our group! We are all lined up, and are "okay!"


First thing we see is a shark. There are ten sharks in the tank - black tipped and white tipped reef sharks and  tiger sand sharks. There is also a sea turtle, a few groupers, and a sting ray. 






He moves us into the middle of the tank and makes sure we are all breathing properly, staying calm, etc. We are also looking for sharks' teeth - any that we find, we can keep. I was happy to find three, which my students were so excited about. 


This is a grouper. It is a very large one, and the teeth are angled in. The hammer head was moved to a different tank because the groupers had killed the other hammer head shark. Also, one of the reef sharks had a scar on the back of its fin, like it had been bitten before. Pretty scary fish.


Next we walked over to the other tank, where the finless dolphins were flipping around. 


Another shark!


Here is the sting ray.


The biggest sharks had a ton of little fish swimming around them.


Even if I was PADI certified, not many people can say that they were this close to a shark (except whale sharks I suppose).


I'm a little scared, but OK!



Walking back towards the tunnel to climb up the rope. 

It was amazing. You really should watch the video to get the full effect. I would recommend it for anyone living or traveling around Korea, at 110,000 (or 90,000 for certified divers), it is a once in a lifetime experience. To book a dive, go to scubainkorea.com, but do so early - it books up quickly!




After our dive, we went to check out the rest of the aquarium, since admission is included in the dive price. These photos were taken by Mike.





From the outside, it doesn't look nearly as intense.


Grouper up close


I'm taking photos on my cell phone to show students 


The curved glass crowded with guests, taking more pictures.


Mike in the tunnel, shark swimming over head.



Details:
Location - Busan Aquarium in Haeundae Beach. The slow train will drop you off right at Haeundae, walk straight down the main road to the beach. 
Price - 90,000 for certified divers, 110,000 for uncertified divers
Contact info - go to scubainkorea.com for more information and available dive dates, then email your reservation to Michael Jones dive@scubainkorea.com 

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