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Diving with sharks

Shark and Diver – a pair of friends?

Diving with sharks

This experience is always accompanied by intense emotions and an accelerated pulse. For most divers, the possibility of meeting a shark is exciting, and very often they choose destinations where there specifically is a large likelihood that they will meet these majestic predators. Well, maybe with the exception of some species. There are of course also divers who do not like meeting with sharks underwater. So what is the first association that comes to mind when most of us when we hear the word “shark”? For a very long time, the melody and images from the movie “Jaws” caused sharks to be perceived as bloodthirsty beasts. But is this conclusion justified? Sharks are born murderers, quick, agile and dispassionately deal with their victims, but unprovoked attacks on humans — including divers — occur extremely rarely, or almost not at all. Personally, I have dived with them many times, making sure to always respect them and at the very least: appear calm.

Sharks arouse respect

Experienced divers, people who deal with sharks, and people who read scientific reports about them know perfectly well that the general idea about sharks from “Jaws” is completely untrue. Of course, these animals are wild and dangerous, and theoretically a human does not have the slightest chance in winning a fight with them underwater… so what makes us push ourselves to face the possibility of close contact with a more-or-less real threat?

Of course, there are many answers, because everyone has different motives. One of the most obvious is the famous “adrenaline rush”, which people seek in various ways. Maybe it is simply the human desire to push the limits of one’s own capabilities. I am motivated by a desire to see sharks in their natural environment. Ideally, at an isolated reef. Meetings with these animals are interesting, a sure source of a thrill, because in the end: you never know how any given shark will behave. Of course, your first-ever dive should not be geared towards meeting sharks, because it is a bit like learning to drive a car. When you start your adventure in the world of diving, some activities seem unattainable initially, but over time they become easier and sooner or later: we do them automatically — but always using our heads, because safety is the number 1 priority. Similarly, starting learning about the underwater world in the company of predators may not be the best idea, because the relationships between humans and sharks are not as obvious as they may seem.

Sharks have a cartilage-skeletal system, which means they have no bones. Although they are fish, often very large, they also do not have bladders. When it comes to the tools the average shark is equipped with, regardless of body size, he can boast 40 razor-sharp teeth, as well as excellent hearing and smell. Sharks have very poor eyesight, but they have electroreception, which allows them to detect changes in electric fields around them.

Not as bad a shark as the movies portray.

Despite the bad reputation they gained in films and television, sharks are not inherently man-eaters. Most species are not dangerous to humans — with the exception of the most predatory ones such as the tiger shark or the white shark. Sharks feed mainly on fish and compared to crocodiles, for example, they are quite predictable in their behavior. They do not attack humans just for fun. There have only been a few isolated cases of shark aggression to humans without the animal being provoked. Even in open water, these animals do not generally show aggression towards divers. In 2017, there were a total of 155 shark attacks. In all these cases, only in 3 divers injured. Statistically, the most most danger is posed to surfers and swimmers. An interesting fact is that although water sports have almost the same number of women as men, men are the victims of shark attacks in the overwhelming majority. Can they sense testosterone, like blood, from a great distance?

The prudent are always safe

When preparing to dive with sharks in places such as Galapagos, Bahamas, Philippines, Fernando de Noronha, or e.g. the Maldives, familiarize yourself with the general guidelines for conduct in contact with these predators. Do not touch the sharks, make sudden movements, run or swim in their direction. Most importantly, keep calm and stay vigilant of their behavior, keeping your hands close to your body. Although sharks rarely attack humans underwater, you must be careful around them. There are several factors that can increase the risk of a shark attack, including:

  • bright and/or sparkly clothing,
  • open wounds or cuts — sharks can smell blood from a very long distance,
  • diving at night — sharks usually feed between sunset and dawn,
  • cloudy water,
  • diving alone or in a large group — the safest is to dive in pairs.

Man in a cage

There are several places in the world where tourists are offered diving with sharks in a cage. Except in this case, a person sits in a cage, and sharks come to look at them. This is quite different from how things look at a zoo. At any rate, cage diving, often offered by diving centers in South Africa or Hawaii, for example, allows you to feel much safer in the presence of a predator. A diver enters a cage, is lowered into the water on a strong line, and sharks are lured in front of the cage, sometimes by dripping bloody fragments of fish into the water. Sometimes a white shark will swim to the cage and check its tightness and the thickness of its rods. Sharks are curious, never forget that!

To dive in a cage, no special qualifications are needed — just the minimum, basic diving knowledge requirements.

If you want to learn more about close shark encounters, read our report on diving at Brothers Islands.

Łukasz Głowacki

I’ve been diving for almost 10 years. The underwater world won my heart quite quickly. From the very beginning I wanted to be a good diver and partner, so I kept practising until I got a Master Scuba Diver PADI degree. I dive in hot and cold waters around the world. The thing I like most about diving is the sense of weightlessness and possibility to dive in the depths. I’m not too demanding when it comes to the landscapes, although I do enjoy their diversity, so I like diving in different places and conditions.

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