||What Tom FLENGERIS had to say about her experience as a White Shark Trust Field Research Assistant...
I had been to South Africa a couple of years back to do a couple of shark cage dives...I was hungry for more! In 2002, I spent the first half of the year teaching in Japan. During these months, I was eagerly preparing myself for South Africa and working with the sharks. October 2002 finally arrived!!! I'll tell you, the experience I had with Michael, Tracy, Billy, the sharks, (and Southern Right), would be one I would never forget!!!
Right from the get-go, Michael and Tracy made me feel right at home. They never hesitated when it came to making the assistants feel comfortable. The food was always top notch (thanks to the gourmet expertise of Tracy) and there was always plenty of it! The house was very big and clean. I always felt like I had my own space when I needed it. I could never forget the nights when Tracy, Michael and I would sit down in the back room.... ...while sipping on a glass of South African wine, we would absorb ourselves in the wonderful colours that the beautiful South African sunsets had to offer...not to mention the fact that on most evenings, we would be blessed by the presence of Southern Right Whales, breaching, not too far from shore! Sometimes, our 'breathtaking' moments would be cut a little too short when Michael would take out his digital and ask us to pose (non-nude) in front of the sunsets!!! I tell you my friends, this is about as annoying as Michael will get...so if you could deal with this, you can deal with anything he throws at you!!! But judging by the way the pics turned out(on the website), I quickly learned to forgive his picture-taking antics!!! (ok, his singing on the boat might test you a little bit...but his South Park rendition of Uncle $#^@#*!$>$#^@#*!$ is a must hear!) Also, on many nights, Tracy had some of her friends visit....which made for some interesting conversation indeed!
The days on the boat were just as memorable!!! We all felt part of the team, with each member doing his or her own part each day! There were some things on the boat that were almost next to impossible to do...like figuring out how to work the wind-o-meter!!! I finally got the hang of it near the end (Gee, I hope all the readings in the early days were accurate!?!?) Working the anchor was great!!! OK, I really needed a chiropractor after most days...but the exercise was much needed! Working the bait line was my cup of Tetley tea! Except for the day that my perfect record quickly went south when a shark was able to grab onto the bait on 3 separate occasions!!! The water was really glassy and reflective that day, alright! Ok,ok, I was hung over and out of it...blame Tracy for that! Just kidding..hehehehehe..the former (and not the later) is true!
The sharks were amazing! 3m, 3.5m, 4m, 4.5m... no discrimination here! And no, size doesn't matter when it comes to these magestic gems! We even saw a 1.7m shark one day (probably a baby). Most days we went out were sunny..there were some overcast days and some very windy days. On the whole, I felt very safe. Michael always made decisions that put our safety first! In the end, I could wholeheartedly say, that this was truly the most amazing experience of my life so far... I hope to do it again sometime soon! Thanks to Michael and Tracy for making it all happen!!!! They are truly my friends!!!!
...till we meet again, Au revoir!