HOORAY – IT’S HAPPENED at last! From the moment I entered the diving world, the idea of being photographed with sharks while wearing a dress would not leave my mind, not only during the day but at night too.
I was looking through the photographs of “mermaid” Hannah Fraser with tiger sharks not only in admiration but with envy.
I examined her movements, I studied the different emotions on her fantastic face, and I was sad to think that it would just be too difficult to organise a similar experience for myself.
My first open-water dives had been on a safari at St John’s in the Red Sea in 2010.
My leaking mask had been a huge problem, and my buoyancy still wasn’t the best, but despite all that I felt as if I was inhabiting a fairy-tale. No HD TV screen can do justice to the range of colours, the textures of the corals, the beauty of the reef inhabitants or that cosmic zero-gravity feeling.
As our liveaboard moved further from civilisation, so the sites became ever-more interesting and the volume of marine life rose. I was feeling anxious about my first encounter with sharks, which didn’t occur until my fourth dive, when a long-finned oceanic whitetip approached us at Habili Ali Reef.
When I saw this elegant beauty moving gracefully towards us my fear vanished, leaving only enormous admiration and happiness. I realised that this sea-raptor meant me no harm, and the adrenaline flowing through me was of the positive kind. The shark was looking into my eyes as if trying to hypnotise me.
On that first dive-trip I spent time with big shoals of fish, small turtles and even dolphins, but that Longimanus inspired the most incredible feelings.
Each new safari strengthened my love for sharks. We saw many more oceanics in Egypt, dived with Caribbean reef sharks near Cuba, saw scalloped hammerhead, grey reef sharks and tawny nurse sharks in the Maldives, and whitetip reef sharks almost everywhere!
The only thing I missed was photos of the sharks or, more specifically, photos of me with the sharks, but what can you do with a simple underwater glove-box camera?
My dream of being in the same frame, wearing a beautiful dress, was getting stronger by the day. My scuba skills were improving, and I also managed to obtain a freediving certificate.
I never missed the chance of an amateur photo-shoot in a swimming pool, I watched webinars and went on photo-modelling courses. I was inspired by photos of such famous women as Cristina Zenato, Hayley Jo, Ivana Orlovich and the wonderful Hannah Fraser, and was sure that I could do it!