Wolfgang Leander – Wolf of the Sea
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.
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…