Jacqueline Smith gets up close and personal with sharks at Kelly Tarlton's
Avoid sticking your fingers through the net - even the tiniest nick, the slightest whiff of blood will really get them going, said Maddy, my cheery instructor.
I shook away visions of blood and shredded flesh and slipped into the floating net, letting my feet touch the Perspex bottom. Bit flimsy, I thought.
But Maddy assured me that sharks were the most misunderstood creatures in the ocean. I wasn't quite sure what she meant, but stuck my head underwater anyway.
Jaw, fin, beady eye and body like a torpedo. The photographer maintains she heard me let out a shriek through my snorkel.
Whether it was the magnifying effect of the mask, or my proportionate size, those sharks were much bigger than I expected.
This mad face-to-face encounter came about after a discussion over who would jump in a "cage" to look at the collection of sharks at Kelly Tarlton's.
Assuming someone would pay for new limbs if I lost them in the name of journalism, I volunteered. Sure, I enjoyed the odd brush with death, I said.
But as I was to discover, the "I could die right now" feeling of being trapped in a sweaty mosh pit is slightly different to considering your last waking moments as a meal.
One lovely workmate had assured me the sharks in Kelly Tarlton's didn't have teeth.
They do, of course, but I then imagined an old curmudgeon stumbling around his kitchen without his dentures and felt pretty confident.
Meanwhile, others told me it would make a much better story if I offered myself to the sharks. They hummed the theme-song from Jaws and bid me a final farewell when I left the office clutching a swimming bag.
That Jaws song grew louder as I pulled up at Kelly Tarlton's and hit a crescendo when I was passed my wetsuit.
Little did I know that song was also playing in the viewing tunnel underneath - no wonder the family that pointed to the girl in the shark pool did so with a gasp.
The new shark cage at Kelly Tarlton's is intended to give those who have no diving experience a chance to float amongst the school of wobbegong and broadnose sevengill sharks and the short-tailed stingrays. The thrill is that the mesh sides won't protect you from a hungry shark's chops - it does little more than to give you something to grab on to.
Maddy told me it was also about understanding sharks weren't out to kill people, and to help visitors appreciate their beauty.
Sure, I came out with ten fingers, ten toes, two eyes and a nose, but now I appreciate exactly why I panic at the thought of fins or shark-like shadows in the sea.
I realise it was not Jaws, reports of gruesome attacks, or ominous theme-songs that have, over the years installed a fear of sharks in me and other humans.
Sharks, by force of creation, are frightening. On paper, or face-to-face.
KELLY TARLTON'S SHARK CAGE
* 5 times daily Wednesdays to Sundays
* Until March 28