Wolfgang Leander – Wolf of the Sea

Wolfgang Leander with shark
From time to time, too seldom, I have been privileged to meet some very special people who share the same passion and love for the ocean and sharks as I do. I have also met remarkable people who are an inspiration to me, people I admire and respect and set in a category of their own. One such person is Wolfgang Leander, or Wolf for short. Watching him stroke a 3 metre tiger shark while freediving at Aliwal Shoal recently, as if it were a fluffy puppy dog was more intriguing than the 50 blacktip sharks that surrounded us. His intense compassion and passion for sharks is like nothing I have seen. There is something about Wolf with those animals that the most hardened of ‘sharkmen/girls’ don’t have, a connection, an unspoken bond of sorts, a gentleness and calm I have not seen before. I think that’s the difference, these other sharky people, whom I’ve watched in the same scenarios with sharks lack that simple, special quality: deep sensitivity.

Wolfgang Leander and Lesley Rochat
Wolf with his Nikonos slung around his neck and on breath hold, and me in the background with my huge photographic set-up on scuba. That Wolf is an avid water-baby who has been diving for decades, a fine underwater photographer, a superb freediver, is nearly 70 years old, and who has suffered and survived a fatal illness only to be back in the water with the sharks he loves so much a year later, is only a small part of what makes up the sum of this extraordinary individual. Wolf is a true legend. I look at him and think: I hope I will be like him when I get to his age. And then I correct myself: I wish I could do what he does now at this age!

It was a pleasure to spend a few hours underwater with Wolf and I hope to spend loads more in the future. We have things to talk about and sharks to share…

  1. Lyn NelsonLyn Nelson12-06-2013

    The Wolf is a truly remarkable person…and diver. I had the great fortune of being his buddy in Nassau in the late 1970s. He seems more at home in the water than most of us do on land. To observe him with “his Tiger girls” Is magical. Clearly they sense his vibration and the interaction between them is as if they were dancing. A beautiful friend and a diver like no other, I am blessed to have him as a friend.

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