BOOM - BOOM - BOOM. The bass was pumping, it was 3am in the Bahamas, and the place was rocking. Unfortunately, the hotel room I was sharing with my dad was right above it.
My dad and I had arrived in Nassau late that afternoon for a father-daughter dive trip that would include a shark dive. My mom, not a diver, and especially not interested in being anywhere near sharks, had elected to sit this trip out. Despite being a travel agent, she also left the booking of the hotel room to Dad, who wanted to go the cheap route. Now, when I'm not traveling with my parents, going cheap is the only option, and I would've been in whatever club was located below my hotel room. On vacation with Dad, I spent the night with the pillow over my head listening to him toss and turn and yell 'for Christ's sake!' at the floor at random intervals until morning.
After a night of little sleep, we were picked up at our hotel by the Stuart Cove van. Stuart Cove is one of the larger dive operations in Nassau, and offers quite a bit in the way of adventure diving and snorkeling. We did four great dives that first day (saving the sharks for the following day), wandered around downtown Nassau that night, and headed back to our hotel room for another rockin' night above the club. We returned to the Stuart Cove the next morning somewhat more nervous than we had been the previous day.
Once we were on the boat, Chris the divemaster briefed our group of 8 divers on how the dive would go. We would enter the water first and descend to the bottom, along with other divemasters and the photographer. We were instructed to kneel on the floor, and keep our hands crossed across our chests (presumably so that the sharks wouldn't bite them off). Chris would remain on the dive boat until we were all situated on the bottom, and then enter the water with a bait box full of dead fish, bringing the sharks down to us.
As we watched him put on his chain mail, he repeatedly reassured us as to the safety of the dive we were about to take.
I was one of the last divers in and descended the 50 feet to the ocean floor - a little too quickly as I was somewhat over-weighted. Chris had recommended that we add additional weight to our weight belts if we had any problems with buoyancy control during the first dive, so that there would be no issues with us flailing around, trying to stay on the bottom, and the sharks mistaking us for flailing prey. Having seen all of the Jawsmovies, I felt strongly that being mistaken for prey was something to be avoided, and I had added an extra two pounds of weight.
The divemaster who led us down arranged us in a semi-circle. After we were in position on the ocean floor, we began looking up to the surface in anticipation of the arrival of the sharks. We could tell as soon as Chris got in the water with bait box, as the sharks seemed to come out of nowhere and began to circle the box in a somewhat menacing fashion. As he descended towards us, the sharks descended with him.
Once he got to the bottom, Chris began to feed the sharks by pulling the fish out of the box with a stick and holding the fish out for the sharks. There were now about 35 reef sharks circling around our group and looking to be fed. It was unbelievable - sharks were swimming over my head and brushing up against my wetsuit - they were everywhere around me. It wasn't like Jaws at all, as they seemed to take very little interest in our group, except for the bait that Chris was dishing out. I stayed calm for the most part until, despite my extra weight, I began having problems with buoyancy and started to flail. Before my hand could become dinner for one of the nearby sharks, one the divemasters behind me steadied me, and I stayed put.
We stayed at the bottom for about 30 amazing minutes. When our time was up, Chris ascended to the surface first, taking the sharks with him. When it was safe for us to move, the other divemasters signaled to us and we followed him up, ending my most exciting dive to date. Back at the dive shop, the Stuart Cove photographers had put together a video of our dive and had pictures for us to purchase - perfect proof of our experience for when we got home.
Then it was time for the requisite 24-hour surface interval before flying, so we headed back to the hotel and changed rooms three times, attempting to find one Dad found acceptable and therefore not eliciting repeated 'for Christ's sake' comments. In the end, I'm not sure which was scarier - diving with sharks or staying in a cheap hotel with Dad, but I had a great time and highly recommend making the trip.