A Shark encounter in Madagascar

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Everyone always asks me whether I have seen a shark. Before, my answer was always “No, thankfully not!” but today it is an emphatic: “Yes, not again!” A Northern Kilometre out from the Island of Kalakajaro which I had planned to set camp on for the night, I was aggressively rammed from behind by a three-metre shark.

Usually the last kilometres of each other of each day are strenuous and seem never to come to an end so it’s understandable that I wandered into a mental lull.

While in this lull and imagining what land feels like again, I suddenly had this 30cm-high shark fin slice the water at speed across the bow of my kayak. This sudden movement startled both me and two large bottlenose dolphins who were some 10m away and sent them immediately aiming in the opposite direction. The benefit of seeing the two different fins at the same time allowed me to quickly ascertain that the first fin was that of a shark.

The thought of this 200kg plus beast of Jaws fame circling under me was not a calming one although anyone seeing me immediately reach for my camera could argue my state of mind to the contrary.

The shark did not surface again but the dolphins, visibly agitated, continued on their route to deeper water.

Two to three minutes, with my heart pounding loudly, I patiently waited to get a snapshot of the shark but it was to no avail as he did not rise again. Dejected, and slightly relieved, I packed the camera away and started to paddle again, focusing again on the idea of getting to terra firma after eight hours on the open sea.

Six to seven strokes later and nearly at my desired speed, the kayak lunged forward with such a force me head snapped back. My mind went numb.

Fortunately the attack was from the rear and had me accelerate in the same direction I was originally traveling.

Only three, four, maybe five seconds later, I was able to swivel around to see what had happened behind me. In my wake the remnants of this experience left for me to see were only foam and swirling water. My mind was still numb, but now I was also in shock and disbelief. “It couldn’t have been the shark … could it?”

What do you do? I took out my aptly named Dog of War portable knife and extended the thick, sharp blade in anticipation of another attack. Would the knife have helped in this gun fight? No, probably not, but I felt that even in a sharks world there can be nothing like a free lunch.

Once safely on shore I asked all the local fisherman and also the French fishing tour operator on this tiny island what they thought of the incident and they all agreed that only a shark would have acted in this way. Especially as the splash of my paddles created that surface action synonymous with scuttling schools of bait fish, a scenario known to attract sharks.

I have passed through some of the most beautiful scenery, island-wise, that Madagascar has to offer. The Radama islands, which are a bit south of tourist-packed Nosy Be, are stunningly pretty and to top it all, also have some of the best fishing in the world.

When you read this I should have passed the port of Mahajanga, having a few days’ recovery and rest. I need it.

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