A lot of things run through your mind when you’re about to swim into a tank full of sharks and rays. You’re thinking about that shark attack in Bondi. That trainer at Sea World who was pulled to her death by an angry killer whale. You’re thinking about Steve Irwin’s untimely death at the hands of a stingray. And you’re wishing you didn’t have that Hungry Jacks on the ferry ride over to Manly. You wonder… if I vomit into my mouthpiece, where does it go? But then you emerge into the aquarium and amazement takes over. The sharks glide past you, so chilled and cool, like a Cadillac on a summer’s day. If I was wearing a hat I would have tipped it to them. You’re in their world but they don’t mind, they just roll on by, look you in the eye, think “yeah whatever” and keep on truckin’. You look up and a stingray floats above you’re head, hovering over you like a magic carpet. Then there’s the turtle, seemingly asleep on the ocean floor, looking like a big camouflaged rock.

The instructor invites you to tickle its back and it awakes, paddling towards you. I have to admit, the eight toothy sharks in the tank didn’t scare me, but the 250kg turtle floating towards me like a sloth at a free buffet did a little. If, like me, you’ve never got personal with sharks, or even scuba dived before, then Manly Oceanworld is your big kids’ playground. Within an hour they have you trained in basic diving and pumped with equal measures of fear and excitement.

Dive supervisor Jamie is a bit of a Shark Dundee, a little mad, but very respected. I expected someone like him to have a tooth missing. As it turns out it was the top of his finger. His assistant “Nemo” is there as a guiding light. Ladies, he’s even cuter than the fish and does the appropriate hesitation between sizes when handing you your wetsuit. That’s right Nemo, I’ll squeeze into that size 10.

While you’re down there playing with the “Labradors of the sea”, as the guys call them, there is so much else to look at, the fish, the coral and of course the camera. I made sure not to exhale every time it was pointed at me. In fact, every time a shark swam towards me, it wasn’t fear of attack running through my mind, it was “Jamie get that goddamn camera off the turtle and point it at me”. It was my big day and I wanted to be the Bridezilla of the marine world.

The visibility is crystal clear and having the public view you like a zoo animal is pretty cool too. I felt like I was in a shop’s Christmas window display. It’s also an amazing feeling walking underwater, almost like being in space. I’m bouncing around like Neil Armstrong, dressed like Lara Croft and have the fearlessness of Superman. Just like the saying, “in space no one can hear you scream”, underwater no one can hear you cheer, so I had my hands in a constant state of ‘thumbs up’ to let everyone know how brave I was. As it turns out, my fringe had escaped my hood and was standing upright, several inquisitive fish had a nibble and the crowd were calling me “Something about Mary”. Okay, so I wasn’t quite the superhero I’d pictured.

After half an hour I didn’t want to leave the tank and I definitely have a newfound taste for underwater adventure (possibly even space exploring and tomb raiding). But first things first, the instructor tells me the next dive I can do is at feeding time. Book me in.

Showered and dressed, Jamie hands me a shark tooth he found on the dive and I decide to ask him about his finger. “Shark bite. I told you to keep your hands to yourself, didn’t I?” He grins. Thank you so much for telling me this after the dive. Next time I go, I’ll be sure to look out for his fingertip.

The damage & the details:
Shark Dive Xtreme at Manly Oceanworld (Ph: 02 8251 7877, www.oceanworld.myfun.com.au) costs from $185.

Jet Boating

My hands grip tight to the handle bar, my feet push hard against the floor and the guy in the seat next to me smashes against my right side, all while the shore becomes a swirl of colour and my stomach does the familiar rollercoaster lurch.
“Everyone okay?” asks captain Rick. Twenty-four thumbs shoot into the air and the boat breaks into giggles. “I love my job,” he then declares with a laugh, as our boat sets off again at top speed over the lapping waves.

Sydney Harbour, one of the most beautiful, serene and peaceful places in the city. Add a very fast boat, some stylistic driving manoeuvres and your adrenalin is guaranteed to start pumping. I’d climbed into a seat towards the front of the big red boat, a position I was assured was one of the roughest seats in the house as we coasted out of the jetty and into the bay, a boatload full of nervous, anticipating smiles. “You see more when you go faster. Look at that!” “What?” “Back there.” At full speed my eyes are watering and struggling to stay open. Looking sideways I’m shocked to see my face level with the bay’s surface and a sheet of water making a wall straight upwards besides me. I’m even more shocked to realise I’m not wet… yet.

According to the Oz Jet Boating staff, the choppier the water is, the faster the ride feels. Today the sky is grey and the water stirred up. Perfect conditions. Suddenly the boat goes from full speed ahead into reverse, causing it to nose plunge downwards, and my body to try and fly upwards. Thank God for seatbelts. A tidal wave of water pours over the boat, completely soaking me and leaving me breathless. This was called a dip.

Captain Rick’s hand shoots straight into the air, our signal to start counting down. “Three… two… one…”. The boat swings quickly to the left before changing direction and spinning 360°. It feels like an extreme version of corners, as everyone clings to the rail for stability. There’s a moment of silence as everyone’s insides catches up with the rest of their bodies, then laughter echoes from our boat. Each time Rick does a spin, I think I’ve gotten used to them, only for my stomach to jump halfway through, with the world spinning as I grip the handrail laughing.

The jet boating adventure lasts around 30 minutes, and in my opinion is one of the best ways to see Sydney Harbour. The adrenalin ride also doubles as a mini tour, with our driver pointing out noteworthy facts about the harbour after the tricks are done.

When my feet are finally planted safely back on the jetty I’m smiling… and soaked. I hand back my poncho and head up the wharf just in time to hear Rick cackling, “I never get sick of hearing them scream”.

The damage & the details:
A ride with Oz Jet Boating (Ph: 02 9808 3700, www.ozjetboating.com) costs $60.

Bridge Climbing

Sydney’s Harbour Bridge has the affectionate nickname The Coat Hanger, but there’s nothing cute about it when you’re about to scale the beast. For starters, it’s huge. You don’t realise this until you’re standing in one of the pylons, suited up and hooked to a railing. There’s no turning back now, I’m in a chain gang of tourists and the bridge, which I usually only ever see on fridge magnets, is about to become my very own giant jungle gym.

I won’t lie, it wasn’t the perfect Sydney day. It was cold, grey and pretty miserable. Now I know why they don’t offer the bridge climb on the Tyne. I had to wear one of their custom made beanies that they tie to the back of your suit and gloves that attach to your arms. My sunglasses were tied to a string around my neck. I was like one of those senile old ladies.

My mobile phone is confiscated as I walk through the scanners. Damn, I was hoping to update my Facebook status at the top. They think of everything really, because, like they say, a hat falling onto traffic could cause mayhem. I stupidly ask if I can take my lip balm up there and am denied. It, too, is a weapon of mass destruction.

It was late afternoon when we ascended and I could see as far as Manly Beach on one side, and to Randwick on the other. Our lovely tour guide Chrissie points out the main attractions such as Bondi Beach, the Anzac Bridge and the city’s joke that is Luna Park. Then there’s the iconic Opera House that makes for the perfect photo opportunity.

All along the way we are given its history and the horrific conditions the bridge workers endured. “See this harness, these railings, these stairs? Well the men working on the construction of the bridge had none of this.” Chrissie asks us how many people we think died in the eight years of building. I look down the 134 metres or so to the harbour, gripping onto the railings with both hands and roughly guess: “About 250?” Er no, actually only 16. And one was hit by a tram as he crossed the road. Amazing. I’m sure I would have died from heart failure. I have a new found respect for my ancestors. And I decide to keep my mouth shut.

Scaling back down the bridge, the evening beauty sets in. The lights of the skyscrapers switch on and the peak hour traffic whizzes below. This is when the weather pays no importance and the city really shines. As a Sydneysider, there’s a few things you never think you’ll do. Get a really good tan, drink at Scruffy Murphy’s and climb the Harbour Bridge. I guess now I’m practically a member of the EU. And I have to say, the BridgeClimb is definitely worth it and really puts things into perspective. Not just an artery that pumps traffic, but a big part of Sydney’s history. And it makes you realise just how beautiful this city is. Yes, even on a miserable day.

The damage & the details:
The Discovery Climb with BridgeClimb (Ph: 02 8274 7777, www.bridgeclimb.com) costs from $188.