Going for a swim... with 20 sharks!

Gareth Vickers and Katie Upton (below) try out Snorkelling With Sharks  at the Sea Life Centre.
Gareth Vickers and Katie Upton (below) try out Snorkelling With Sharks at the Sea Life Centre.
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Suddenly, and unexpectedly, I am panicking. Here we are, in the same tank as 20sharks, while one, a predator we’re told, circles nearby.

I say ‘unexpectedly’, but after crying the whole way round a Go Ape high wire course and having been carried down a Himalayan mountain due to injury it was perhaps to be expected I wouldn’t fare the best in another daredevil task.

Gareth Vickers and Katie Upton try out Snorkelling With Sharks  at the Sea Life Centre.

Gareth Vickers and Katie Upton try out Snorkelling With Sharks at the Sea Life Centre.

Despite my past, in the run up to an afternoon snorkelling with sharks at Sea Life Centre, Blackpool, my excitement was on the same scale as that pre-Christmas or holiday.

But as we entered the dive zone it felt like a the sensory overload; a strong smell of salt, the sight of a single fin almost menacingly skimming the surface of the water and the sudden sound of my heart beating in my ears.

But it’s not sharing space with sharks that’s scary - actually, looking over your shoulder to lock eyes with a black tip reef shark is an unforgettable feeling. (Just don’t gasp in excitement - you will get a gobful of water.)

And the near-silence that sets in as you hold yourself underwater to watch a bowmouth guitar shark swim below you is incomparable to any other.

Gareth Vickers and Katie Upton try out Snorkelling With Sharks  at the Sea Life Centre.

Gareth Vickers and Katie Upton try out Snorkelling With Sharks at the Sea Life Centre.

Even the predatory sandbar shark brushing up against the netting between you and its jaws (“yeah, it could probably fit your head in its mouth” I was told beforehand) is exciting, if a little intimidating.

No, my panic came from an apparent inability to simply snorkel.I took along workmate Gareth Vickers to share the laughs and, as he discovered, for moral support.

He, infinitely braver than I, gave me regular pep talks, advising I use upper body strength to hold myself down in the tank, and later resorted to more direct methods...

Sadly, trying to marry together holding my breath and myself underwater was easier said than done.In the end Gareth’s foot on my back was the unconventional but effective way to hold me steady long enough for a look at the tank’s inhabitants.

Stunned to silence after the experience, it took a much appreciated hot shower and certificate for it to hit home what I’d just experienced.

Having launched this month the experience is already proving popular at the Promenade attraction, with the thrice-daily slots, on four days a week, filling up fast.

Those daring enough to take on Snorkelling With Sharks are also treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the attraction, priority admission, and a 15-minute snorkel.

And clearly the sharks are already used to it taking no time to get up close and personal with their tankmates.

Call 01253 621258 to have a go.

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