An adventurous lunch break: snorkelling with sharks on Pulau Payar, Malaysia

A special mention goes to Brian, my official Gili snorkelling buddy…we each hoped to swim with sharks together in the Gilis but never spotted them…after the experience below, I mentioned to Nico: ‘Wish Brian was here to experience this with us!’


The excitement and fear of seeing sharks whilst conducting my PADI dives led me to feel grave disappointment by dive 3 when I had yet to swim with them. Despite having witnessed them from the dock… and despite having dived 10m below that same dock where we had previously sighted sharks, we still didn’t succeed in our quest to swim with them.

Luckily, I have Nico.

On the final day of PADI training, Nico quickly finishes his packed lunch (as per usual)… and borrows a snorkel from the East Marine Dive staff… he then proceeds to borrow two more… one for Jonathon, and one for me… we had 20 minutes until we needed to return to the dock to be picked up by the dive boat for our final dive before getting qualified.

In these 20 minutes… the strong current carried us to precisely the spot where we had sighted the sharks the day prior… I was nervous… Nervous, not only because of the typical fears people have concerning sharks… but nervous because – over the years – my fascination with sharks has led me to watch and see all of the things that people who fear sharks shouldn’t watch and see…. Like Jaws… like 100 Youtube videos under the search terms of ‘shark attack’… why would someone do that?

I swam as close to Nico as possible (you see, I’m not as brave as my blog post suggests). I probably irritated Nico a fair bit as well… upon my first shark sighting, I swam even closer to Nico and held his hand. I’m convinced Nico struggled to swim against the current whilst holding my hand. At times, he even let go just to give himself a bit of a push a meter or so forward, and then he’d grab behind him and pull me forward and next to him again.

One moment, when he let go of my hand, I saw one little shark… a shark that was slightly larger than the one I video-taped from the dock… at this stage, I was composed… tried to control my breathing… and maintain an internal state of peace, so to speak… until I saw a second small shark… again… controlled breathing…. and I saw a third small shark… I turned to swim the opposite direction, and then came a larger shark beneath me, about 1.5 m …

By this point… I had exhausted my options… I had maintained my breath… I had paused… and managed to cope with my first shark sighting… when I turned right to give myself a bit of a break from the adrenaline… I see a second one, and feel my heart beating even faster… when I turn left – my second attempt for a break – I see the large shark… and the smaller sharks swimming around it… and that was it. Adrenaline over drive. I wanted out.

Luckily, our 20 minutes were up anyway… and we proceeded to the boat for our final dive.

Nonetheless, I achieved one of my biggest aspirations… and overcame – albeit for a moment – one of my greatest fears… swimming with sharks. J


2 thoughts on “An adventurous lunch break: snorkelling with sharks on Pulau Payar, Malaysia

  1. Great little side story. Glad you included it in your blog. Mission accomplished, I guess you could say. A special treat for me indirectly. After watching the little shark swim around in your YouTube video, other timeoutnewbeginnings video options were displayed along with what I assume were miscellaneous YouTube options. Surprisingly, I spotted a familiar name amongst the video captions – Vicky Leandros. She’s a Greek-born singer from the 70’s who married a German gentleman, settled in Germany many years ago, and became relatively popular in Europe. I don’t know much about her but always loved her voice and bought much of her music. Almost had the opportunity to hear her live at a concert in Schwetzingen, Germany in 1995. Haven’t seen or heard much about her until seeing the video link. She recently sang with a German band called ‘Scooter’, which I know nothing about. The ‘Scooter’ sound doesn’t appeal to me but I sure loved hearing Vicky’s voice again. She’s aged plenty since I first saw her in the seventies (like the rest of us), but I was glad to see she’s still active in the business. Check out “C’est Bleu” at:

    • Wow – thanks for sharing. I remember seeing tapes around with vicky leandros… what a coincidence it came up near my videos on Youtube! Scooter doesn’t seem too hot… I agree… but great she’s still active, indeed! 😉

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