By Bastiaan Barnard
Who doesn’t want a GoPro?
GoPro’s and adventure are in my books synonyms and also inseparable - you can’t have the one without the other. I love adventure and I honestly thank God that my wife does too!
Her birthday was coming up and on her wish list only one thing – a Chum dive! I have previously had the privilege to do a chum dive and enjoyed the experience so much that I immediately agreed to the idea of doing it again. So it was settled – a chum dive at the Eastern coast of South Africa. For those of you who don’t know what a chum dive is, they put a big chum bucket full of dead fish in the water to attract as many sharks as possible. Umkomaas is only one of a few places in the world where you can have interaction with tiger sharks without a cage, which makes it a very popular diving spot, we were sold.
The preparation started, as did the excitement. We already had the GoPro Hero 4 Black, but now the accessories to get optimal quality. Action Gear’s website was of much help and I immediately knew what I needed. First and foremost was the GoPro 60m Dive Housing; to make sure the camera is safe and sealed. Next on the list was the red filter. As an open water diver they teach you that the first colour that disappears underwater is red, therefore a red filter will adjust the colour in the blue waters that soaks up the light. I decided on the Polar Pro Switchblade which combines the red filter and the additional glass macro filter for capturing close up shots. Both Red and macro filters slide out quick and easy depending on your need. Lastly I needed a mount for the GoPro, so the sharks don’t think I am sacrificing my hand to feed them a shiny object. I decided on the Lang-Arm 900mm, not to keep my hands as safe as possible but rather to get closer to the action! The order was sent and as usual our friends at Action Gear quickly delivered. The only thing left was for the time to pass.
The GoPro and all the accessories were packed in the DS case for GoPro, and at last the day arrived and we left Pretoria before sunrise on the Thursday morning. After a seven hour drive we arrived in Umkomaas at The Shoal and immediately went to reception to finalise our diving, after that we checked in to the hotel.
Early Friday morning as the sun rose over the ocean our dive kits were ready, the
GoPro’s batteries were charged and the SD card empty, ready to capture every memory. Considering Umkomaas’s usual rough seas, the water was perfect for great diving. A twenty minute boat ride brought us to our first dive site, Cathedral, the home of seasonal Ragged Tooth Sharks. We put our gear on, and the skipper started counting down, 3, 2, 1… and we all rolled overboard. The visibility was good and we descended to about 20m. The Dive Master took us site seeing around the reef before reaching the part that looks like an actual cathedral. As we placed ourselves on the sand we saw two ragged tooth sharks swimming around on the inside - this was an excellent start to our diving trip. We sat there watching the sharks for a few minutes before we started a gradual ascend over the reef back to the top. On our way out we met with a big potato bass as well as two sea turtles. It was a perfect dive to practice my skills with the GoPro. As we surfaced we were all thrilled with seeing two sharks on our first dive already. We were eager to see what the footage looked like, but there was only time to switch batteries before meeting with another boat that took us to the chum dive location.
We were only four divers on the chum boat and at this stage I didn’t know if it was the smell of fish or the stronger currents at the end of the last dive or the idea of diving around too many sharks, but my wife was pale as a ghost. After assuring me she was fine, the boat took us to the open waters of the ocean. We were quickly briefed on the do’s and don’ts of diving with feeding sharks. The chum bucket was lowered to hang at about 10m under the water surface, while we prepared. This was it: the moment we have been waiting for. Again the skipper counted, 3, 2, 1….splash! Surrounded by the big blue, we hovered in the water for about 10minutes, with no sign of any live fish. Then out of nowhere we saw a cautious Bull Shark approaching. He swam around underneath us, curious of what we were up to. The next moment, as if a door had opened up, about 5 Black Tip Reef Sharks appeared.
They were very inquisitive and not afraid at all, the complete opposite of the Bull Shark. It wasn’t long before we were surrounded by about 30-40 Black Tips. Sharks were everywhere. This was truly an amazing experience. I am so thankful for the video, because my words will never have the ability to express the moment. I filmed the whole time and tried to capture everything that I saw. The sharks were so focused on filling their bellies they bumped into us to get to their free meal. Because of their curious nature they will bite anything shiny, therefore rather dive in black scuba gear! One of them even tried the GoPro to see if something is fishy. My wife likes to compare the Black Tips to young Jack Russels; their energy never seems to run out, they are fast, playful and friendly. We had the privilege to spend a full 70 minutes with these amazing creatures. As we started to ascend they ascended with us to the surface and as we got onto the boat they kept swimming around the boat not leaving. Then I realized, unlike myself, they were not reluctant to say goodbye to us but only to the chum that was still left in the bucket. After the bucket was emptied, our ways parted - they went back to deeper waters and as we headed to the shore we promised ourselves that we will be doing this again.
Check our awesome adventure in the video below:
I was really surprised at how easy it was to film our dives with the GoPro. It is user friendly which allowed me to quickly change settings under water. One of the features I used most during our dives was the video + photo setting, and resulted in many stunning action photos. I enjoyed the filming and editing of this experience so much that I started doing it for friends and family and it resulted in my own business Kondensmelk Productions - check out my website for more videos.
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