Korea may not be at the top of your list for scuba diving destinations, but you have to learn somewhere! I recently had my first experience scuba diving, and it was a long time coming. Can you believe that I went backpacking around Southeast Asia for 5 months and have never been scuba diving?? Me either. But it’s pretty expensive, and my other half sinks more than he swims.
The Busan aquarium in Haeundae allows Aquatic Frontier, a PADI 5 star dive center located in Osan, to lead dives for the uncertified in the large shark tank. It’s a great chance to experience scuba diving before paying a large sum of money for the PADI certification course. Me and my friend Kate have been talking about doing the shark dive for a year, and the day finally came with a lot of nervous excitement.
I’ve always been a fish in the water, but I naturally have a healthy fear of sharks. Learning that the giant grouper in the tank are actually more dangerous than the sharks did not make me feel better. We started the day early and met our dive leader Sammy. She led us into the aquarium before a gaggle of Korean grandmothers waiting for the doors to open. We were quickly led to the behind-the-scenes areas of the aquarium that said “staff only” and I immediately felt like I was breaking the rules!
After being introduced to our equipment, we picked out our foreigner-sized diving suits and headed to the locker rooms. Putting on a dive suit for the first time was hilarious! We wiggled, jumped, yanked, and squeezed our way into the skin tight suits before nervously strapping on the heavy oxygen tanks and stepping into the small training pool. I was the first in the pool, and a little bit scared because there were several sea turtles and a baby shark swimming around with us while we practiced our diving techniques. After a few minutes I felt more comfortable with the animals, and I was grateful to have some time to adjust before I swam into the tank with the full-size animals!
We practiced our diving techniques for about 30 minutes. We learned how to clear our goggles of water, how to breathe comfortably with the mouthpiece, and how to recapture our mouthpiece if we lost it briefly. The small training pool was connected to the large tank by a sliding plexiglass door. On the other side of the door were very persistent sea turtles. Our diving instructor, Sammy, informed us that they would be trying to get into the small pool and that we needed to push them or kick them away to prevent them from getting inside. Panic! Suddenly the door is open and 4 or 5 faces of these magnificent sea turtles are staring at me and trying to swim into the small pool. It ended up being really cool to be able to touch them, and it wasn’t that scary at all. They were incredibly persistent though! They kept coming back again and again. We assumed the smaller turtles in the training pool were their offspring.
Eventually we made our way into the large tank and began our walkabout. Clearly it’s a bit limiting compared to a real dive in the ocean, but again it was perfect for first-timers like us! We slowly walked around the tank, pausing to take in the presence of a tiger shark, a giant grouper, or a ray. Being so close to those animals really blew me away, and I felt so fascinated by them that it didn’t leave a lot of room for fear! I was surprised at how calm I actually was in the moment, and it made me feel more confident about getting my diving certification in the future.
If you enjoyed this post, you can check out the video of my shark dive here! I took a GoPro in the shark tank with me, so it turned out really cool! Have you ever been diving? Are you afraid of sharks? Leave a comment with your story!
Busan Shark Dive with Aquatic Frontier Information
Price: 150,000 won total (70,000 deposit, 80,000 on the day)
Animals you’ll get to see: blacktip reef sharks, whitetip reef sharks, sand tiger sharks, Queensland giant groupers, short-tail stingrays, spotted eagle rays
Availability: Check the dive calendar on the website, most weekends, first come first serve (make the deposit to reserve)
Location: Busan Aquarium on Haeundae Beach, Haeundae station Line 2
If you have any questions, leave a comment below! More information can be found on their website.