Although in my mind I kept on believing we would actually be staying in South Africa, I was keen to jump on to Vaughn’s bandwagon and take advantage of some of the wonderful activities and sights the country had to offer. Every year we made an annual pilgrimage to De Kelders to watch the magnificent Southern Right whales. Our last year in South Africa was no exception. We sat on the rocks staring at the sea until our eyes ached. White horses on the periphery of our vision teased us as we waited. And always they came, the mothers and babies, sometimes so close in to shore we could have waded in and touched them. Sometimes out in deeper water, breaching and playing and performing just for our own private show.
Another activity offered off the Cape coast was a cage dive with great white sharks. We decided that although it was expensive, we would do it. It may be our last chance (although I knew it wouldn’t because we wouldn’t actually be going to Australia).
Our booking included a breakfast of boiled eggs, the wisdom of which I did ponder. But duly fed, we climbed on board the rather smelly boat. We all geared up in the obligatory yellow oilskins as the weather forecast was stormy. I felt pretty strong as we bounced out through the harbour. Once on the open sea, the waves became choppier and I had to take deep breaths and concentrate on the receding coastline. People were in and out of the cupboard that housed the pump toilet and that reminded me that I’d had two cups of coffee with my egg, so I decided to brave the plumbing. What a disaster! The person who had used the toilet before me had vomited leaving the smell lingering for all to enjoy. As I tried to stand up to get the oilskins off, the boat lurched as a wave threw us into the air and dropped us.
I bounced off the narrow walls of the closet and somehow managed to hover over the bowl, but the smell of vomit was making me gag and I would have turned around to part with my egg if there had been space. I pumped, sluiced and staggered back out to the deck and the fresh air. Several people were already leaning over the side while those with strong stomachs made comments about it not being necessary to ‘chum’ for the sharks.
All of a sudden one young lad vomited across the deck, narrowly missing me. That finished me! I grabbed the rail and retched. As I leaned over the side of the boat I felt my tongue swelling and the acid rising. I thought I would feel better after I’d been sick, but I actually felt worse. Each time I tried to stand up, I had to grab the rail and vomit again. In the end I lay there with my head over the side, wanting to die. A great white shark swam beside the boat and I was tempted to roll off and let him eat me.
I looked up to see if anyone was going into the cage, but the skipper said it was too rough. So we waited and ‘chummed’, and that fishy smell seemed to go straight from my nose into my stomach. Strangely, I was still keen to get into the cage. Every so often I raised my miserable head to see if there was any action, but the sharks had been and gone. Nobody dived with them that day, to my bitter disappointment.
It took me two days before the feeling of nausea really wore off.