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Walking With The Sharks at the Melbourne Aquarium

Recently, we went diving with Mitch, Bob, Marley and Lucky. You'd recognise Mitch because he has a smile distinguished by a row of triangular serrated teeth. Yes, Mitch is a grey nurse shark and the others are sandbar whaler sharks. We did this at the Melbourne Aquarium when we undertook their Shark Walker experience.

Walking with the Sharks, wearing a bright canary yellow wet suit, with a 30kg diving bell shaped helmet perched on our shoulders and weighed down with a 9kg weight belt was quite an experience. We gingerly descended the ladder into the water, that is kept at a temperature of around 20ºC but to which we very quickly adjusted, and found ourselves soon walking the sandy bottom of the tank and taking in the myriad variety of fish that swim by, first hand.

All you need to do to dive is bring your bathers (or trunks, togs, swimmers or whatever else you may call them), sign a variety of disclaimers and health declarations and pay your fee and you're in (having booked first of course). You don't have to be a strong swimmer but a fear of water or if you suffer from claustrophobia could be considered a disadvantage. You get a clear and detailed briefing of what you can and can't do and what to expect and what to do in an emergency before entering the water.

After adjusting our ears for the depth and finding our walking legs under the five metres or so of water overhead, it was a matter of exploring a defined area of the tank. For someone who had never dived before, walking was a slow motion experience and falling was surreal. Although the helmet weighs 30kg and it has to be put on and taken off with a small chain and pulley system, underwater you hardly notice it at all. For safety reasons an experienced diver is never too far away but remains, more or less, in the background.

After 20 minutes or so looking out of the fish bowl at the variety of humans walking by (from the fishes perspective) we called it a day and made our way up the ladder. It was quite an experience and for anyone who may never have the courage or opportunity to dive in the open seas this is one way to get a sense of the experience.

All details about the dos and don'ts and the declaration and health forms can be downloaded from the Melbourne Aquarium website.

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