One of the most frequent questions that our clients ask us when hiring a trip or choosing a destination is if they are going to see sharks. Crossing with one (or many) shark while diving is one of the most dreamed situations for all divers regardless of their level and experience, but when we meet sharks while diving we must observe some rules or regulations to enjoy these majestic creatures without taking risks. In this post we are going to talk a little about these rules.
Although there are some diving destinations from hotel where you can see sharks, the normal thing is that if we come across any of them, either because we are doing a diving safari or life on board. We are going to focus on this scenario. Of course, it goes without saying that we will talk about fortuitous encounters and not the “shark feeding” that causes so much controversy.
On one hand and to reassure those who have never dived with sharks, we must bear in mind that the majority of shark attacks in humans are simply the result of being mistaken for another animal. As much as Spielberg insisted on scare us with his film “Shark” (and he did it indeed) sharks do not eat people, we are simply not in their diet. On the other hand, only at an informative purpose, a shark detects the electromagnetic fields of your heart in the water a mile away, and some specimens can reach 70 kms of speed, in other words, if it comes for you, as my good friend Luis would say, “you’re screwed”. You wouldn’t have a chance against the shark. When you see it, it is because the shark has already analyzed you and discarded you as a prey or as a threat and therefore, the shark allows you to see it. So you don’t have anything to worry about. A piece of advice, it is a good practice to avoid diving at dawn and dusk because is when sharks feed.
To start with, it is better not to wear glossy materials due to the fact that can attract sharks that may end up confusing you with a fish with scales that shines against the rays of sunlight in the water. Therefore, if we plan to dive in areas where it is possible to encounter sharks, it is better to wear dark or matte metals, as well as a black or blue neoprene suit.
As we are in a diving safari that means that we are going to dive as a group and also that is the best way to dive in waters where we can cross sharks. Remain as a group is the best option in order to see sharks, and above all resist the temptation to separate to take the best picture. It is very important not to follow the sharks because they may feel threatened, and we already know what the animals do when they feel this way.
Most of the sharks that you will see while you are diving will stay away from you and behave in a non-aggressively manner. They like to leave space between “that thing that blows bubbles non-stop” and them. Instead, other sharks may be curious and they will approach you. First of all, always stay calm when diving with sharks, especially because erratic movements can get the attention of a shark and provoke it. The most important thing is that you always have to respect the sharks and give them plenty of space. No matter how tempting it is, never chase a shark from behind as it can turn around, seeing you as a predator and attacks you in self-defense. The diver’s best position is to stand upright and move smoothly and as little as possible. They will relax and although they will maintain their distance, they will “integrate” you in their space. Another thing that you mustn’t do is to interfere in the shark’s path or face a shark in its navigation route, because of the above mentioned.
Another good idea is to keep a regular breathing. It is said that dogs can smell the fear, sharks I won’t even tell you. It’s a whole new level!!. The mental state of a person always influences in an interaction at different levels. A stressed diver can act or react provocatively near a shark, while a more stable person judges a potentially dangerous situation correctly and acts accordingly. Unfortunately it is not yet clear what kind of information a shark receives from a nervous or stressed diver, but some research reveals that the increased level of nervousness of a diver seems to have an attractive effect on sharks nearby.
The way a shark approaches a diver indicates his intention. The more directly the shark swims towards a diver, the more interested it will be. A shark usually adapts its swim direction (creating an approach angle) and will not adapt it further, assuming the person does not move until it has passed.
According to the position of a diver, a shark can approach in three different ways: from above, at the same level or from below the observer. The ones swimming at the bottom should be considered quite cautious due to, their more camouflaged position against the darker background (when viewed from above). Similarly, a diver stands out against the brightest background (surface). On the contrary, a shark that swims above us. A shark that approaches the same level than us seems to be more relaxed, taking into account that it neglects the use of the bottom advantage and, therefore, remains totally visible. As not all encounters take place in open waters, the different topographical conditions, such as shallow areas, reefs, etc., must be taken into account when referring to the position of a shark.
Some sharks are more curious than others. In this video you can see the King of the curious ones, the always imposing “longimanus”
To end up, only say that sharks are disturbed by some noise we make, such as the sounds of maracas. Some dive guides carry a small plastic bottle that they are twisting and making noise to get their attention. Although, it is not clear if it really catches their attention or bothers them greatly.
And this is all I can tell you…
By Sergi Garcia