Gratia - Water Sports

Amber Sharkbait Jones in Hawaii

No need to be afraid: swimming with sharks can be like therapy

I was a victim of Jaws. That is, a victim of the grossly over-dramatised Hollywood message that sharks are terrifying monsters, and that the ocean is a dangerous place. My recent experience of swimming with sharks through One Ocean Diving in Hawaii has changed all of that. Here's the story of my first experience - swimming with sharks.

Haleiwa Bay, Hawaii

Travel blogger Amber on the salty, shoe-less life below the ocean surface

Hawaii is somewhere to go if you have an affiliation with the ocean. Everything and everyone is geared towards living the dreamy, salty ocean life without worries or shoes. For six weeks I had the pleasure of being part of it all, on the North Shore in Haleiwa Bay. It's a mecca for surfing, diving, swimming, fishing (yes, anything water inspired) and home of the world's best acai bowls. Here's a visual taste of my time there, living with the sea turtles and dolphins under the surface of the ocean. 

Hawaii, the Big Island

Flowing lava, snowy mountains and surfing all on one little 'Big Island'

To diffuse any confusion right at the start, here's the thing: within Hawaii the US State (which encompasses most of the Hawaiian archipelago - 137 islands and islets in the Central Pacific) there is an island called Hawaii. It is the largest of the Hawaiian islands, and so is called the Big Island. Got it? Phew - now on to the fun part. 

Kayaking on Lake Wanaka one Saturday

I was nervous about kayaking on Lake Wanaka. In fact, I was slightly hoping that it would rain so I would have an excuse not to go. It’s something I haven’t done in ten years, and that one time I did it was in an indoor swimming pool for school ‘camp’. (I think that was a result of some institutional fear of the great outdoors).

Not trusting my upper-body strength, I decided that a two-person kayak would be the best way to go, and that the other person involved should be as close to Arnold Schwarzenegger as possible.

To my surprise, it was not at all scary. In fact, it was very calming, pulling yourself across the water, taking in the views all around.

We rented our kayak from Wanaka Kayaks, which has a trailer of one and two-person kayaks set up on the beach.

Kayaking on Lake Wanaka is a wonderful way to explore the area and appreciate both the water and the mountains all around. We went exploring for an hour, paddling out to Eely Point, but you can also go to the Wanaka tree – possibly the most photographed tree in existence – or Waterfall Creek. If you hire a kayak for two hours, you can paddle out to Ruby Island and have a picnic lunch on the secluded little beach.

The only problem arose when we went into the lake for the second time, without the rudder in place – which lets you control the direction of the kayak with pedals. When we were pushed out into the water that second time, the woman we hired the kayak from said something about us going in without the rudder, but all I thought was “Shhh, I’m trying to focus on how to take a photo of my legs in the kayak, without dropping the camera into the lake”. Anyway, we both panicked a little bit. For a moment I forgot we were on a lake, and worried that we would be washed out to sea. Luckily, while I was panicking and taking some photos, my co-pilot decided to be sensible and use all of that upper-body strength to get us back ashore.

As I calmed down and we safely reached the shore, it came to me that two-person kayaking could be a good form of couples’ counselling. You’re stuck together, you have to cooperate, and you’re in a beautiful and relaxing environment. Also, you’re far enough apart that things can’t get too ugly – unless one of you hits the other with their paddle.

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Photography by Melanie Tollemache