How to safely swim with sharks

Introduction

Whether or not you’ve ever seen a shark on a dive and if you were “scared” are some of the most common questions scuba divers hear. To see a shark is an increasingly rare pleasure and privilege; the fishing industry kills an estimated 100 million sharks every year. Fins from up to 73 million animals become part of shark-fin soup. Overfishing has decimated some shark populations by up to 98 percent in the past 15 years, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature considers almost 1/3 of pelagic shark species threatened.

And yet, the media still often wrongly maligns these magnificent animals. Misinformation, hyperbole and sensationalism are common currency, describing sharks as dangerous eating machines. In reality, leaving aside baited shark dives, they’re reserved and cautious when near divers. The risk of harm from a shark encounter is statistically tiny, but these are apex predators and thus, divers should treat them with respect when scuba diving with them.

If you’re lucky enough to dive with sharks you can minimize your risks by practicing safe behavior around sharks. Here are our top tips for safe and enjoyable interactions.

Sharks are disappearing at an alarming speed.

There is one shark killed every three seconds in the world. It’s one of the biggest issues in the ocean right now, Sharks are maybe the most important key species living in the oceans and making them disappear could have unknown, but very strong consequences, on a global level. This infographic is beyond eye-opening.

Sharks are not vicious.

They maintain the health of the ecosystem. Vicious is a word describing some human behaviors more than animal behaviors, but they are opportunistic, This is why they have such an important role in the ecosystem. By targeting the weak, sick or injured animals, especially fish, they contribute to the good health of the fish populations and the whole ecosystem no propagation of the diseases, favoring natural selection, etc.

Sharks don’t want to eat humans.

This is probably the most important fact and I cannot emphasize it enough. Let’s take a look at why: Like I learned above, sharks are opportunistic and curious, so they are always exploring their environment, but humans are big. Only a few species of sharks are big enough to even consider humans potential prey. “99% of the time they meet a human, they have absolutely no interest in him,” said Petit. “There is a particular thing we’ve noticed — the bigger the shark is, the more shy it is. It is very easy to attract small reef sharks close to the boat and humans, but to attract a big shark, you have to be patient as they escape the boats and the swimmers most of the time.”

You can look them in the eye.

Sometimes I wonder if I watch too much “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel, because in my head I just keep repeating “whatever you do, don’t make eye contact.” In reality, this is next to impossible when they’re circling you in the water and to be honest — their eyes look really cool. I asked about it when we surfaced and there’s really no reason you can’t look them in the eye “Why wouldn’t you? In fact, you did it many times and nothing happened, except cohabitation between a human and shark with no aggression on either side.”

Swimming at dawn or dusk still isn’t a great idea.

You don’t want to meet a bull shark, a tiger shark, or a great white shark. It’s best not to dive at dawn or dusk, since that’s when sharks are feeding. Because sharks are opportunistic, you’re not necessarily going to be attacked, but you’ll be putting yourself in a questionable situation without the upper hand.

Sharks are opportunistic so they will try to have the advantage on their prey. The lack of visibility at those times is a very good advantage to them as they will sense your presence a long time before you do. That said, this is a warning particularly for bull sharks, tigers and great whites. 95% of the shark species don’t care about humans and the time of the day you swim in the ocean.

One day, sharks might be gone.

Because these graceful, curious creatures are killed so rapidly for sport, fins and more — their population is fragile. If you share the same interest I did in sharks, or desperately want to overcome a misplaced fear, I cannot encourage you enough to forget what you think you know about them and go meet them in the wild with the help of someone who knows what they are doing before they disappear.

Do Your Research!

Before you just dive headfirst into the ocean, do your homework. Find out as much as you possibly can about the area in which you want to experience a shark encounter. It is of the utmost importance that you find out which species of shark inhabit your chosen area, and how they behave. Not all sharks react the same way, and having this knowledge prior to jumping in shark-infested waters is a great precaution. Furthermore, sharks oftentimes conduct themselves one way in the daytime, and another way at night. Weather, water turbulence, and the season may also have major impacts on the ways in which different species of sharks act. Therefore, it just doesn’t hurt to investigate the waters before you delve into them.

Use The Buddy System

You are not the only one who believes that swimming with sharks is a fantastic idea, and if you get the courage to jump in, I wouldn’t suggest that you do it alone. You may not be fortunate enough to have plenty of adrenaline junky friends, but there are plenty of people out who share a shark passion. If you plan to experience sharks while in a cage with trained professionals, that would be awesome, it is actually what I suggest if you have never worked with sharks before. However, if you are the type of person who has no problem diving in close proximity to sharks, please don’t do it unaccompanied. It doesn’t hurt to have another set of eyes around, and in fact, it would be wise for you and your partner to come up with hand gestures in order to communicate with each other.

You Are A Guest In THEIR House!

Whether you are anticipating a meeting with giant fish or not, always be on your best behavior upon entering the Ocean. I will emphasize the importance of behaving underwater. Remember that there is an unbelievable amount of life in the ocean, and we should look out for them as well as the sharks. Now when it comes to the sharks themselves, be sure to conduct yourselves with the utmost amount of respect. Do not reach out to the shark; let the shark come to you. They may decide to inspect you, or they may not. No matter what, do not try to corner or handle them in any way; they may become threatened by your gestures, and feel the need to protect themselves. Also, do not forget to avert your eyes. I understand that the sight of a shark is unforgettable. Nevertheless, staring is rude whether it be at people or sharks. The last thing any diver wants is to make a shark uncomfortable or defensive, therefore, be sure to keep an eye on the shark without letting them bug out of their sockets.

Don’t Feed The Sharks

If you happened to tune into “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel, you may have seen a few professional divers and scientists feed fish to the sharks they encountered. However I place emphasis on the world “professional.” If you do not deal with sharks professionally, do not try to stick a fish in a shark’s mouth. While it may make sense to give food to the shark in order for them to realize that you mean them no harm, this may very likely cause other sharks to come to the vicinity. Remember that sharks have an outstanding sense of smell, and if the scent of your bait catches their noses, they will come. Swimming with sharks may be awesome, but accidentally luring many food-expecting sharks is a whole different story.

Time your dive

Dawn and dusk are prime hunting times for many types of sharks. There is likely to be more shark activity on a dive, but, conversely, a greater potential risk as they search for prey at those times of the day. Similarly, try to avoid shallow murky water. Bull sharks, in particular, hunt in these conditions and, if the shark cannot see the diver clearly — and vice versa — the risk of an accidental shark attack increases.

Enter and exit quietly and respectfully 

This may seem a strange tip in a sport where you can’t even speak beneath the surface. However, creating minimal disruption to the shark’s usual environment leaves you more likely to observe their natural behavior and reduces any potential risk to yourself. Enter the water gently. Use steps or a seated entry where possible, avoiding the usual crashing giant stride. If a giant stride is your only option, you can opt for a negative entry and immediately leave the surface.

In that vein, try to limit your time on the surface in general. Many predatory sharks feed on dead animals or animals in distress at the surface. Similarly, some sharks prey on animals that spend extended time at the surface, such as seals — hence the penchant some larger sharks have for surfers.

At the end of your dive try, when possible, to ascend and board the boat directly. Avoid long surface swims and don’t make unnecessary noise or splashes.

Smooth and subtle beneath the waves

Move slowly and steadily beneath the surface. Relax your breathing and don’t approach or, worse, chase the shark. This will likely startle the animal and may provoke a defensive reaction.

Many diving experts recommend staying close to the reef wall or seabed to avoid leaving yourself exposed. This habit has two advantages. First, a shark cannot startle you by sneaking up behind you outside of your field of vision – many sharks are ambush predators. Second, this helps ensure that a current doesn’t pull you out into the blue and separate you from the dive group.

Jump In And Be Amazed!

Well that covers some of the basic things that anyone planning on swimming with sharks should know. It is expected for people to have a certain amount of fear before getting in the water with sharks, but chances are likely that you’ll be just fine. Always be on your guard nonetheless, and use your intuition. If you feel that there’s something fishy going on (pun intended) get out of the water. And if you feel completely uneasy before diving, don’t do it. It isn’t worth the possibility of alarming the shark because you freaked out. Harming humans in any way is not part of the typical shark’s agenda, although many believe it is. So relax and experience swimming with sharks in all its wonder.

Summary

So we have provided some advice & hopefully some useful pointers on how and where you can swim with sharks. Diving with sharks is a wonderful, humbling and beautiful experience. If done correctly, you’ll minimize the risk to yourself, your buddies and the environment and get the chance to observe these beautiful creatures respectfully at relatively close quarters. so just relax fully and enjoy your time in the ocean and with its beautiful marine life as they are a gift…..

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