Michael Rutzen is one of the few people in the world who free-dives with great white sharks.
Here, the South African, who was in the UAE last week for an educational event at Atlantis on The Palm, speaks about a typical day taking tourists out to cage-dive with great whites with his company, Shark Diving Unlimited, and how it nearly all went wrong the first time he got out of the cage.
I get up. With nature the early bird catches the worm. When I was 20 years old I started going to the ocean. And when I was 24 years old in 1994 I started skippering a shark boat. It blew my mind. Later on in 1998 I started free-diving with great whites, so it took four years of learning.
We start preparing the boats to receive our guests. They eat breakfast with us and we start briefing them about how the boat works on dives and conservation. Diving with them is an honour. I have learnt through my mistakes. Fortunately the animals are forgiving. That's why I am still here. The first time I wanted to free-dive with the animals was in 1998 ... there were four, 4 metre females around, beautiful animals. I dived in and ... one shark saw me and came up nicely about a foot from my face. It was just hanging there in the current looking at me doing nothing. I am thinking, 'Wow, I'm really doing it'. After a while I thought I need some air because I had a snorkel. I thought if I run away I am fish food, so I decided I have an unloaded spear gun with me, so I just took it and tapped the animal underneath the nose, as if to say go away. This shark turned around, swam into the water column about eight metres away, turned back, came flying back to exactly the same place and went bang, opened his mouth right in front of me. That was the last time I touched them.
The boat launches. We run [just over] 5 miles to an island, Dyer Island. There is a high concentration of great white sharks that move through the area. There are no residential sharks there.
We arrive and read the currents. The we put an anchor down and start chumming. Chum is the smell of something dead into the water. If the shark smells it and wants to scavenge they will come to our boat. The worst I have done is nothing and the best we have seen is 48 great white sharks in one trip.
We come back. Then I start doing office work. I'm not good with computers but I have to answer emails and try and put together research endeavours. If I don't do office work we go out and try and tag DNA off the animals.
I try to leave the office as soon as possible. I go to eat something and go home.
I get home, have a shower and go to sleep. That's my life, as boring as ever.
* Gillian Duncan
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