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* swimming with a shark–literally

August 10, 2015

Growing up in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar, down on the southeastern tip, we were blessed with miles and miles and miles of white sandy beaches stretching northeast and southwest. Close your eyes and put your finger on a spot of coastline and sharkyou’ll find it to be absolutely beautiful. This meant for a lot of variety when it came to swimming. There were the beaches where you didn’t swim as there were sharks, those where you could swim or snorkel, those better for body-surfing, etc. And in those days, most of the time you had the beach and swimming all to yourself.

The bay near Italy (pronounced eetalee), a very small town (not the country) not so far from where we lived, was one of the places we’d sometimes go to for picnics about 35 km to the west of where we lived. Driving west on the only paved road in those days, you’d leave the road at Manambaro, some 25 km west and head towards  the coast on a dirt road that wound over dry hills, rice paddies in the lowlands and occasional villages. We’d often ride in the back of the pickup truck that served as the school “bus” (it wasn’t a very big school), either sitting in the back or standing behind the cab, letting the wind blow through your ears. Hotter and quite a bit drier than Fort Dauphin, the village of Itay was located just up from a gorgeous bay with a white sand beach (I only recently found out this was where early explorers anchored their ships when passing by, some 500 years ago).

We had gone there for a picnic and rather just splash in the shallows, what we’d done when younger, my brother and I had decided to swim out further to see if we could body surf some beautiful waves coming in, one after the other. Sheltered from the wind, the ocean was a glassy green with nary a ripple. Just gorgeous waves rolling in nonstop. As we got out further, it got a bit tricky because to get out far enough to catch a wave, you had to go out deeper than you could touch, which made it a bit more difficult to navigate with the waves rolling in. Also, as we swam out, it seemed the waves were always just a bit further out then we were.

So you can imagine our surprise when all of a sudden a shark came popping up, pretty much straight out of the water, not nearly far enough away from where we were. Evidently it had come in to see what these strange looking big “fish” were and had gotten nervous when the waves came rolling in.

As for my brother and I? After verifying that it seemed to be heading back out to deeper water, we came close to walking on it on our way back to shore. No more body surfing in that bay. At least for us.

[and no, the shark we saw wasn’t anywhere close to the size of the one in the picture, but for my brother and I, out there in the bay that day, it most definitely was]

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