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My First Tiger Beach Adventure PART 2: Day 4

Day 4!

The waves were rolling, the wind was blowing, and the sky was covered in dark clouds. Ryan and Finch said that the first dive would have the same or worse visibility than yesterday’s dive, so I sat that dive out. I was still pretty shaken up from yesterday, and I had even wondered if I should still dive. But, Dad was so patient with me and he told me that when he did his first open ocean dive, it freaked him out too. But, he told me that the only way to overcome that fear is to keep doing it. I knew he was right, but I still had to work myself up to diving again. After the divers got out of the water and had their surface interval, it was time for the second dive. Taking Eli’s suggestion, I had taken a Sudafed that morning to help with congestion, which I hoped would help me clear my ears better.

I went outside, and there were dark clouds, lightning, thunder, rain pouring horizontally, and rough seas. We debated whether or not to keep diving, then we all decided in favor of it. The only way to escape the bad weather was to get beneath it, right? The rain stung like needles as we got all geared up. Dad jumped in first, with me right after him. I immediately realized that the visibility was not that great, but I reminded myself that I needed to stay calm. Clearing my ears went much better this time, and I could descend at my own pace on the downline. I held Dad's hand as we dropped the last 25 feet to the bottom. On this dive, all we saw were reef and lemon sharks because they weren't feeding. With my gloves, I would rub the sharks' bellies or touch their fins as they swam by. This dive went much better than yesterday's dive, but I still hadn't had that 'wow' factor that I had been told about Tiger Beach. We got out, ate lunch, and I wasn't feeling too good so I sat out the third dive of the day as well. However, when the last dive of the day rolled around, I was ready. Little did I know that this dive would be forever etched in my memory.

I geared up, and jumped in. Dad was right below me, and we went down the line. The visibility was not good, but I reminded myself that once again it was going to be fine and I couldn't panic. All of the divers planted themselves in a horseshoe around the bait box, we joined them, and faced away from the current so the bait box scent would travel away from us instead of towards us. I kept in mind that we always needed to check our backs, and to frequently turn around. I sat in the horseshoe, and waited. I turned around again, wondering if something was behind me. There was nothing. I faced the bait box and Eli again. In the distance, I saw something. A large, dark silhouette bigger than any other shark we had seen so far appeared out of the mist. As quickly as it appeared, it was gone. I knew they were here; it was just a matter of where and when we would see them.

Suddenly, I saw her. Her huge body hovered just above the sand with perfect buoyancy, her beautiful black eyes examined everyone as she passed, and her prominent stripes and blunt nose announced that she was a tiger. A wave of emotion came over me as I tried to take in what I was seeing. I teared up in my mask. She was a perfect image of beauty, and I remembered why I wanted to keep diving with sharks. I just love them, and I realized that I would do so much to protect this girl from humans. She swam with such grace, and with such power. She went up to the bait box, and Eli rubbed her nose and gave her a piece of fish. She very clearly liked that, because she took one wide turn around all of us divers to go back for more. After a few minutes of this, she was joined by another beautiful tiger shark.

They alternated who would go to the bait box to get food and a nose rub, but sometimes they would go there at the same time and Eli would have to juggle two sharks. I was busy watching Eli feed one of the sharks, and I figured that I should check my back. I'm glad I did, because there was a tiger right behind me. I let her know that I saw her, and she quickly turned her head away from me as she got the signal. It was strange; it was almost like she didn't want me to catch her looking at me.

The current started to get stronger, and the visibility began to rapidly decline. It finally got to the point where I couldn't see Eli feeding the sharks, and Dad signaled to Jack and I that it was time to get out of the water since it was not safe to be there with feeding tiger sharks when we couldn't see them. Dad and Jack swam to the downline together, and Kelly went to the line with me. I got out of the water, and I was just filled with awe at what I just saw. I took a shower on the deck in my swimsuit, put away my wetsuit and gear, and ate lots of snacks.

P.S. Eli - this is the day you put the mini soft cookie in the toaster and it came out in crumbles and melted chocolate. Fun times.

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