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Swimming With Sharks

Updated on February 8, 2016
Shark feeding frenzy
Shark feeding frenzy | Source

Introduction

For those with nerves of steel who want thrilling adventure on their next vacation to the Caribbean, should consider a shark feeding-dive offered by a growing number of scuba diving tour operators. These shark feeding dives are becoming more and more popular so it's important to do some research about the dive operator and take a good look at their safety record.

For my first experience I went with a scuba tour operator in Nassau, Bahamas. The staff at Stuart Cove’s are professionals that have been in the business for over 30 years. To participate in the dive you’ll need an open-water scuba certification that is offered by every local dive shop or you can get certified with Stuart Cove’s. Although the shark feeding dives are scheduled every afternoon, it is a good idea to book in advance, as space is limited to about 20 people.

Gearing Up For a Shark Dive

My group arrived at the boat launch around noon. After checking in with the staff, we loaded our gear on the boat and began our pre-dive checks. The boat departed from the dock at around 1 PM and within 5 minutes we arrived at the dive site. Having been accustomed to their daily feeding ritual the sharks began circling as soon as the boat dropped anchor. As I looked around the boat I saw some nervous expressions as we all began to contemplate what we were about to do. Our guide gave us the briefing for our first dive, which was a shark familiarization dive. Basically, we were to enter the water with a giant stride off the back of the boat and descend immediately to minimize our time at the surface. At the bottom, we regrouped and followed the guide, who led us on a tour of the shark arena and the surrounding area.

The Main Attraction: Caribbean Reef Sharks
The Main Attraction: Caribbean Reef Sharks

Shark Familiarization Dive

The first dive succeeded in its aim to have the divers familiarize themselves with sharks. There were no less than 50 or 60 Caribbean Reef sharks, averaging between 5 and 8 feet long, swimming around us. Some came within 2 or 3 feet before sharply turning away. Everywhere I looked I saw sharks. No one seemed to feel any fear; we were all totally mesmerized by the sharks. I was surprised at how remarkably calm the sharks were and how they did not display any aggression toward us. They were certainly curious though and kind of reminded me of dogs waiting for a treat! Before long, our 45-minute dive was over and we were back on the boat for a 1–hour mandatory surface interval and our second dive briefing.

Shark Feeding Dive

For the second dive, the feeding dive, we were instructed to enter the water and quickly descend to the shark arena below. The arena is a sandy bottom area that sits at about 40 feet deep. Rocks have been placed in the sand to form a circle around the perimeter of the arena. On this dive, a guide situated each diver in a kneeling position in front of a rock. The rock served as a means to anchor oneself to the bottom as the sharks create current when they swim in to grab the bait. Once everyone was situated and ready, the shark feeder, sporting a chainmail suit, entered the water with the bait. As the feeder descended with the bait box the sharks were all over it. What a difference the presence of bait made in the sharks’ behavior. An hour before, the sharks were calmly swimming around in a steady circular pattern. Now, they were racing in fast, biting at the bait box and competing hard against one another for food.

Great Shark Book For Kids

Lots of Shark Action

As he reached the bottom, the shark feeder opened the bait box just enough to spear a dead fish and to feed it to a passing shark. So long as a shark feeder maintains control of the bait box, the feeding will be a relatively orderly procession. If a shark feeder were to lose control of the bait box it would provoke a feeding frenzy among the sharks, which would dramatically increase the danger to the divers. As it was, the feeding dive was quite the rush: sharks were racing past me to get at the bait and I was getting smacked in the head by their tails. In one instance, I felt a bump on the top my head. As I looked up, I saw a big shark coming right over top of me. The feeding lasted for about 30 minutes after which time the feeder swam away with the bait box and the sharks followed in pursuit.

Conclusion

Once safely back on board the boat, everyone expressed their amazement with the whole experience. Some divers had never seen sharks up close before and for many it was an experience that changed their perception of these animals. For others, the shark dives were something they could cross off on their bucket lists. Looking back, it is easy to see how the shark feed is one of the most popular dive experiences and by bringing divers from around the world into contact with these animals they are helping to dispel the myth of the shark as a ferocious man-eater.

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