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Wednesday 9 Dec 2009
Manly Beach, Australia

Diving with the Sharks

You all may now refer to me as an Extreme Shark Diver. It appears that the 6 - 8 foot long Grey Nurse sharks were very curious about my big head.  Hugo swam by me at least 6 times and the other 5 sharks checked me out once each. A few really large sting rays, a couple dozen arm length sharks, and several hundred fish swam by me while I was in the tank.

After pancakes for me and French toast for Ellie at breakfast we took out a loan from the bank to pay for the $40 overnight parking for our rental car. $58 a day to rent the car and $40 a day to park it. Of course, that's the hotel guest rate, normally it would be $65 a day to park. That's worse than parking in the middle of San Francisco!

When we picked up the rental car at the airport yesterday they gave us a flyer which had phone numbers next to the major toll roads in Sydney. We didn't know just how to use this and the person at the hotel reception didn't know how to use it either as she didn't own a car or drive regularly in Sydney. Apparently there are numerous toll roads and bridges in Sydney and most don't have a lane that one can pay the toll with cash. Your car must have an E-tag toll pay system similar to the FasTrack in California. Rental cars don't have this, of course. Another issue with driving in downtown Sydney is the lack of view of open sky (skyscrapers) which means that the Garmin doesn't get a quality satellite signal. Thanks to my Eagle Scout training and natural sense of direction I was able to use the map in one of the brochures to steer me onto the main highway.

The Oceanworld Aquarium is in Manly, which is suburb of Sydney, north over the Sydney Harbor Bridge. SHB is a toll bridge with no toll booths. While I was driving generally towards Manly, Ellie called one of the Toll road phone numbers and was able to use a credit card to pay for the bridge toll and any tolls that we might encounter during the next couple of days. Oh, it doesn't stop there. Even though it was after 11AM there was still a boat load of traffic on the roads out to Manly. Don't these people realize that we are on vacation? There should be a special signage that can be placed on foreigners rental cars and all the locals could just get out of the way. I mean if the shops and attractions are only open till 4:30PM we've only got a limited amount of time for sightseeing.

Anyway, we finally made it to the aquarium which is rather small when compared to say, the Monterey Bay Aquarium. But you can't intentionally scuba dive with sharks in California. The tank is only about 10-15 feet deep but is circular like a donut. There's a clear acrylic half dome all the way through the tank so Ellie was able to take photos through the glass while sharks were swimming all around me.

After watching a DVD instructional video and listening to the dive instructor repeat the same info I and three others on the Extreme Shark Dive went to the back room to change into our wetsuits. A 40 pound  weight belt, a buoyancy compensator vest with another 25 pounds, and 50 pound air tank meant that I would be firmly planted on the bottom of the tank at all times. There was no need for flippers as we would not be swimming, only walking or kneeling on the bottom. We entered the "test" pool to make sure that we were comfortable breathing underwater and could manage walking with all this weight.

After passing our tests we headed into the shark tank. We walked down and around and then climbed over the acrylic dome to the other side. Another short walk and then we were staring sharks in the eye. Ellie took so many photos that she drained the battery in the camera. I didn't really feel any apprehension or fear, just amazement. It seems that I have big lungs in addition to a big head as I sucked down 60% of my air during our 30 - 40 minute dive. I'm what's known to the dive master as an "Air Pig".

Check out some photos and when we get back to the US we'll have video, too.

Hopefully we'll be able to work in a climb to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge tomorrow.

 Footnote:  Twills... I'm up to my old tricks... we went to the grocery store to pick up something to snack on as neither of us were hungry for a full dinner after the late lunch we had in Manly.  We picked up some fruit, crackers and wanted some cheese or hummus and went to the deli.  They had several flavors of hummus and one small container was upside down and I was trying to determine what kind it was.  I finally had to ask the deli assistant what SNORDTOM was (thinking it was an Aussie delicacy).  He picked up the container and read the back (ingredients) and said it had some tomatoes and herbs in it so we took it.  We were in the dairy section and they had pre-made dips saw one that looked similar  - it was then that Tony brought to my attention that SNORDTOM was SuNDRieDTOMatoes..... (Laughed ‘til I cried !)...That will teach me to try and read a label upside down !

2 Comments for this Travel blog entry

P Says:

10 December 2009

snordtom...SUNDRIED TOMATOES...that's our Ellie!

MAH Says:

11 December 2009

Sounds like Tony had a blast with the sharks, and Ellie had fun at the store!!!! I'm so jealous.

Tony and Ellie's Adventure

Travel blog by tonyandellie

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It doesn't get much better than this !

This is it ! Our BIG Adventure ~ We leave Wed. Nov. 4th and return Sat. Jan. 9th visiting New Zealand and Australia - 65 days !! Join us on our adventure - Check back often. We will do our best to post notes and pics along our way.

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Photo Album

  • Dun Dun...Dun...

    Manly Beach


    Dun Dun...Dun Dun  (theme from Jaws)
  • Here...

    Manly Beach


    Here come's Tony's buddy !
  • His fin...

    Manly Beach


    His fin touched Tony's head
  • Quite the set...

    Manly Beach


    Quite the set of teeth !