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06/05/2013

Swimming with sharks in Shanghai

What’s the most exhilarating thing you can do in Shanghai for your last minute China travel deals ? Climb to the highest observatory in the world? Take a ride on a magnetic levitating train? How about scuba diving with more than 150 sharks?

That last one should do it. And I did it, at Changfeng Ocean World, where scuba divers can suit up and jump in a tank with the ocean's most fearsome killing machines.

The larger, more intimidating sharks have menacing teeth inside mouths that are larger than our heads.

Preparing for "Jaws"

I sign up for a shark session with Big Blue Scuba, which runs regular sessions at Changfeng. On the way to the aquarium, instructor Leigh Chan tells my group that after millions of years of evolution sharks have become some of the most successful predators in the world.

“So we’ve got no chance against them,” I say.

“You should be OK,” Chan says with a smile. “These sharks aren’t interested in humans. There are plenty of other things they’d rather eat in that tank first.”

Last-minute jitters

Changfeng's expansive dive tank is 5.5 meters deep and teems with stingrays, turtles, eels, a variety of large fish and, of course, sharks. Five different types to be precise -- sand tiger sharks, nurse sharks, whitetip reef sharks, blacktip reef sharks and guitar sharks -- those being the ones with triangular heads.

Shanghailander Heather Hunt is one of the divers in our group.

“That shark is freaking huge,” she says as she peers through the aquarium tank at one of the ten-foot monsters. “I’m getting quite nervous. I’m slowly crumbling.”'

With the sharks

After some last-minute instruction from Chan and Changfeng's divemaster, we make our way to the top of the tank and reluctantly jump in.

Swimming side by side with more than a hundred of these perfect, powerful creatures is breathtaking. Literally. For a moment, I think I forget to breathe. So I suggest tourists to try it to color your China tour

The larger, more intimidating sharks are fat and slow, though they have menacing teeth inside mouths that are larger than our heads.

For the most part, however, the sharks appear disinterested in the human interlopers. After a few minutes in their midst, my nervousness subsides.

Even so, I keep repeating in my head Chan's instructions to keep my arms in close to my body. I really do want to leave this tank with all my limbs still attached.

No longer terrified, and more fascinated, I swim around the tank, getting close to all the sea creatures. Tourists who have popular China tours pass through the tunnel below and snap photos. They'll have some great shots, but they'll never know the exhiliration of this unique and unforgettable experience.

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