A British photographer overcame his fear of sharks by swimming with up to TWENTY of the fearsome predators at a time.
Factory worker Phil Wills, 44, was traumatised at the age of five when he watched the film Jaws.
Mr Wills, of Nuneaton, refused to swim in deep water after watching the 1975 classic, in which a shark terrorises the residents of a small island town.
During a trip to New Zealand in 2002 the scared swimmer came face-to-face with his worst fear while scuba diving – it was then he realised it was safe to go back in the water.
Mr Wills, an amateur photographer, now travels the world diving with up to 20 sharks at a time, capturing hair-raising photographs of the misunderstood creatures.
Mr Wills said: “I’m one of the Jaws generation – when I saw the film it put the fear of god into me.
“After watching it, I was convinced that sharks were waiting for me in the sea and even in swimming pools – I could not go swimming without thinking about sharks.
“When I was in New Zealand I wanted to overcome my fear so I did my first scuba dive.
“On my first dive I saw a small reef shark, I was surprised by how calm I was. I wasn’t scared by it, I was too excited.”
Mr Wills was unable to dive again until 2009, but since then he has completed nearly 20 dives with sharks.
The fear-conquering diver has travelled to South Africa and the Philippines, diving with bull sharks, blue sharks, tiger sharks and even great whites.
“In South Africa I did a cage dive with great white sharks, but I much prefer being out in the ocean with them,” he said.
“I now love the thought of being in deep water with sharks all around me – I could never have dreamed of that ten years ago.
“They are the most beautiful creatures on the planet.”
While in New Zealand Mr Wills also attempted to confront his fear of heights by participating in a bungee jump and a sky-dive.
He said: “Both activities just confirmed my fear heights – I still have nightmares about skydiving.”
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