By: Natasha Archary
If you have been following my innovative dating series, you would have seen that the last date was also at the UShaka Marine World in Durban. The reason I chose to separate the two ideas is because the two cannot and should not be paired as one date. (Although, I did both on the same day because I had limited time in Durbs.) For those who would not dare try the shark cage dive experience for its sheer insanity (*cough, cough* my date), I sincerely hope that the snorkeling experience is a milder suggestion for your adventure palette.
The sea animal encounter island is where this takes place and the friendly staff are on hand to guide you through the thrill that awaits. My date looked a lot more comfortable to try the snorkeling, luckily for me, I was a little worried I may have scared the poor guy away.
We get ready for the snorkel lagoon by taking a shower before getting in. This is to avoid risk of contaminating the tank because the marine life are highly sensitive. Kitted in our vests and snorkel masks, we get into the icy lagoon and look beneath us to the unbelievable depths below. It takes some getting used to, breathing in and out of the snorkel tube is a tad tricky at first but before long, we’re wading through, breathing comfortably and marvelling at the gorgeous aquatic life below us.
Fish of all shapes, sizes and colours surround us and we’re swimming with them taking up every inch of space between our limbs. It really is breathtaking. Probably one of the most romantic dates I’ve ever been on. I can tell my date feels the same way, we come up for a breather. Masks off, huge grins on our faces, this is without a doubt something he is thoroughly enjoying too.
“Wow, this is insane. It’s so beautiful.”
The tank is about six metres deep, you don’t have to be a strong swimmer, but you should have the basic swimming techniques locked down before giving this a go. To snorkel, you would just need to float on the surface of the water with your face submerged, breathing through the snorkel tube. It’s really that basic.
“I really want to check out what’s under the ship babe.” (I say)
Ahead of us is the heart of UShaka Marine World, the wrecked 1920s steamer, snared on the rocks around the lagoon, that houses the aquariums below. There’s a huge, gaping hole in the side that’s facing us, big enough to swim through. It looks dark and eery under the ship and I can already sense my date tensing up.
“You go, I’ll be here.”
I tease him, but to be honest I have no idea what could be under there. Nonetheless, the adrenaline junkie in me takes over and I make my way to the ship. Taking in the splendour below as I do. It’s getting darker as I approach the ship and when I am right outside the huge crack I notice that there aren’t too many fish swimming around this section of the lagoon.
I don’t think too much of it and make my way into the ship. It’s crazy how much detail UShaka Marine World has put into the design elements, for a full user experience. The concept of the wreckage carries through in all the aquariums with crates and aeroplane wreckages beneath each enclosure. It’s truly spectacular. I scan over the crates below me, frantically panning from side to side to see what could possibly be lurking under the dark waters around me.
“Hmm, doesn’t look like there’s anything here.”
I think to myself. This section looks completely deserted. I swim further in and notice a solitary light from an aquarium window below. Did something just move? Nah, it’s probably just my mind playing tricks on me because it’s so dark here. No, wait a second something’s definitely moving ahead. I inch forward, slowly.
My heart stops.
There’s four of them.
Circling the bottom of the tank.
Smaller than any of their massive counterparts in the shark tank, I was just in, but there’s no mistaking their distinctive fins, shape and the way they move in the dark, depths below. Sharptooth houndsharks, also known as the spotted gully shark. From my research, I’m comfortable to get closer because they’re relatively harmless. Still it’s impressive to watch them and I linger a little longer until their circling makes me dizzy.
Snorkeling at Ushaka Marine World
I swim back out to my date and find him taking in the stunning palette surgeonfish (more popularly known as the Dory fish) swimming around him. I brush his leg and laugh as he jumps. He’s an easy scare. He frantically takes off his mask.
“Relax, it was me you big scaredy-cat. Do you know there are shark under the ship?”
The colour drains from his face. He’s frozen to the spot.
“Babe, breathe, they’re completely harmless. Do you want to go see them?”
“Nah, babe I’m good. Let’s go grab lunch?”
All in all, the snorkel experience at UShaka Marine World is at the top of my list of innovative date ideas. It’s romantic, fun and if the beauty below doesn’t bring the two of you closer, I’m not sure anything else will. I’m so grateful to have shared this experience with him, jittery though he was at times, it’s something we’ll both have with us forever. At one with the underwater world below us, at one with each other.
Give this a go the next time you’re in Durban. You don’t need to worry about anything, all the snorkel equipment is provided by Ushaka, there are experienced staff on hand should something happen. Probably the biggest risk involved is possibly slipping on the moss covered rocks as you get in and out of the lagoon.
There are hundreds of stunning fish species to take in and trust me the little shark pose no threat at all. Take your date on an underwater excursion of a lifetime. Getting wet and wild together can only be a good thing, right?
Follow UShaka Marine World on social media to get the latest on package specials for the Sea Animal Encounter experiences.