Diving with sharks in Dubai at Atlantis‎

On the whole, sharks tend to get a bit of a bad rap.

While a handful may live up to their reputation as apex predators with a taste for human flesh, most species of shark are entirely uninterested in feasting upon us.

Nevertheless, we’ve watched Jaws too many times to be entirely unaffected by the myths surrounding these carnivorous fish. So, it was with some trepidation that we slowly submerged ourselves in the Shark Lagoon pool at Aquaventure at Dubai’s Atlantis hotel for its new visitor attraction.

The water park’s Shark Safari experience utilises the Sea Trek system, which is essentially a modern version of the old-style diving helmet that has air continually pumped in, creating a bubble that allows you to breathe.

While the equipment is cumbersome, weighing you to the bottom and denying you the freedom of being able to float freely, it does mean you can take in subaquatic sights without the steep costs of learning to scuba dive.

In fact, our instructional session beforehand – which consisted of a series of flash cards commanding us not to handle any of the wildlife, reminding us to keep breathing and showing us how to communicate with our guides underwater via hand signals – was over in less than two minutes. Once you begin the experience, undoubtedly your first observation will be that sharks clearly like their water cold. Really, really cold. But once you’re inured enough to these icy temperatures to submerge yourself up to your shoulders, one of the staff will position the weighty helmet on your head, then you’re edging your way down the rungs of the ladder to the floor of the tank, some 10 metres down.

As you descend, the atmospheric pressure intensifies, causing head pain similar to the kind that flares up during lift-off or the landing of an airplane. Hence, you’re continually required to hold your nose and pop your ears as you lower yourself.

Being acutely aware of sharks’ keen sense of smell, I was slightly concerned that an unwieldy swipe of my Gilette on my neck that morning might still be seeping blood. I feared the presence of drops of blood in the water could well result in an epic tussle for our lives with these beasts. Thankfully, the blacktip reef sharks, marble rays and other exotic fish here don’t pose much threat to humans, and they remained oblivious to our presence in their realm.

After a quick plod around the bed of the tank, gawping at the marine life and waving at guests of the park as they floated by the tank on rubber rings, our guides indicated to us that our tour was over.

Possibly because this was an event for the press and they were eager to get the next batch of journalists down the ladder, it all seemed a bit rushed. So, in no time at all, we were climbing back up to the real world, breaking the surface of the water and the helmets were being lifted from our heads.

Despite its briefness, it was still an interesting experience, though one that could possibly be more enjoyable in the real ocean rather than the false environment of a theme park.

That said, many scuba divers spend years questing for a glimpse of notoriously elusive sharks, and with this you’re 100 per cent guaranteed of both seeing these magnificent creatures and of a return to dry land with all your limbs intact.

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