As one of the most popular underwater pursuits in the world, scuba diving provides a genuinely exhilarating experience for everyone involved. The ability to enjoy diving underneath the waves and water to move around with the stunning aquatic life of this world is a uniquely satisfying opportunity. However, if you intend to go scuba diving with sharks, you need to understand what you are getting yourself in for. Normal diving can feel somewhat worrisome at first: diving with sharks can feel daunting!
However, it does not have to be this way. With some basic attention to the instructions given to you by your dive master, you are extremely unlikely to run into any kind of negative experiences. If you choose to go scuba diving with sharks as your next underwater adventure, be prepared for a thrilling experience. Many compare this concept to taking a rollercoaster under the waves.
The chance to go diving with so many species of legend can be a gratifying experience, as well as an educational one. However, as you will soon find out when diving with sharks, there are some essential precautions you should take into account.
To help you prepare for this exciting opportunity without worrying, here are some useful tips to ensure you can get the most out of your underwater diving experience.
Is Scuba Diving With Sharks Safe?
Yes, scuba diving with sharks is both a safe and satisfying experience. The things that can make a shark react negatively to your presence can be quite varied, though, so it is important that you always listen to your dive master closely. Not everyone goes shark diving with an instructor, but it is likely that you will be led by a dive master who can show you around the area that you will be visiting.
They will provide you with a contingency plan should something go wrong. This will include learning specific hand signals and ensuring that you understand the procedures that will be used in an emergency. Creating a clear understanding of the area you are in and the entry/exit points into the water is going to be very important, as well.
What makes scuba diving with sharks dangerous? The biggest risk that comes from scuba diving with sharks is being too sudden with your movements. Sharks are not aggressive creatures, and most of the time they come closer to humans more out of curiosity. As such, diving with sharks can be a thrilling and fun experience so long as you manage to follow some basic tips. This helps to avoid antagonizing them.
As such, while scuba diving with sharks is safe, you should always ensure that you listen very closely to the instructions and information your dive master gives. This is your best bet for staying safe and getting the most out of this experience.
Sharks are not aggressive creatures in the main – only a tiny portion of shark breeds, such as Great Whites and Tiger Sharks, are likely to be more aggressive in the wrong circumstances. By the same token, though, breeds like Whale sharks or Nurse sharks are completely harmless.
For a first timer, it is understandable that you might enter the water feeling uncomfortable or uncertain. TV and the media have taught us that sharks are to be feared: this is not the case whatsoever. Sharks are beautiful, friendly creatures and so long as you treat them with respect and do not encroach on their territory to excess you should have absolutely nothing to worry about.
After you have completed even one or two dives, you should feel far more comfortable with the experience. For most divers, going underwater to be surrounded by sharks is among the most entertaining adventures they can go on!
The Best Places In The World To Go Scuba Diving With Sharks
There are many great locations in the world to consider scuba diving with sharks. Just some of the most popular places that you might wish to consider include:
- Tiger Beach, Bahamas – ideal for beginner shark divers
- Jardines de la Reina, Cuba – the perfect starting place for beginners
- Pyramid Rock, South Africa – great for entry-level shark diving
- Lemon Drops, Florida – suited to beginners to intermediates in shark diving
- Gordon Rocks, Ecuador – most suitable for intermediate shark divers
- Monad Shoal, Philippines – most suited to experienced shark divers
- The Bajo Alcyone, Costa Rica – most suited to advanced shark divers
These are all great holidays to attend if you want to enjoy scuba diving with sharks. Each offers a gratifying experience that will give you a closer understanding of what it is like to dive with sharks in the first place. At the same time, each poses different skill levels, so you should look to see what options exist for scuba diving with sharks in relation to your skill level.
Scuba Diving With Sharks: General Tips To Take Into Account
If you want to enjoy shark diving as you should be able to, then the below tips can help settle any nerves you might have. Try and keep the following factors in mind as you go about your journey underwater, and you should enjoy an even more thrilling experience.
Respect The Territory Of The Shark
If you are going to be scuba diving with sharks, the first mantra of your learning is this: the sharks are in charge. You are in their domain. If you head down underwater with sharks present, you have to appreciate that the shark is in its own comfort zone. You are, in essence, interrupting its day. Respect their personal space: if a shark swims up close to you, do not react. Never try to touch the shark – you only run the risk of annoying it.
Many will find, for example, that a shark might come up next to you and approach you. This can feel exhilarating. Sudden movements might unsettle the shark, but if you are still you are not going to make the shark feel like you are being aggressive toward it. At the same time, though, when the shark swims away, do not give pursuit. Sharks of any species will not take kindly to being pursued.
Respect that you are in their world and that you need to follow along with the rules set by the sharks themselves.
Choose Your Timing Wisely
Any local guide will tell you that diving with sharks is an experience best enjoyed during the day. Sharks are typically going to be out hunting for food from dusk until dawn, so you should make sure that you avoid scuba diving with sharks during these timeframes. Sharks are crepuscular, meaning they tend to hunt during this specific time of the day.
It is better to dive during the brighter times of the day when a shark is less likely to want to be out trying to eat.
Determine The Colors That You Wear
This might sound odd, but some sharks have a favorite color. While it was long assumed that sharks were colorblind, this does not appear to be the case, as they can see color contrasts very well indeed.
You should avoid wearing excessively colorful diving equipment – and you should avoid wearing yellow entirely. Yellow can be quite attractive to a shark, and it might make you look more like a nice meal than simply someone enjoying the pleasures of scuba diving with sharks!
Stay Above The Shark
Whenever you can, please make sure that you stay above a shark. This is more likely to avoid an response from the shark than if you were to move alongside or underneath it. At the same time, staying above the shark makes it less likely to see you as a target. So long as you always look to stay above the shark, it would help if you made it easier for the shark to see you as harmless.
However, please keep in mind that this can be a contested piece of advice by some divers. It is best to read into the specific shark species you are likely to encounter to learn more about what they tend to prefer. Some sharks might be more likely to see you hanging above them as a threat, but this is again a topic that is up for debate. Please ask your local guide if you are unsure, and they can give you some advice.
Use Your Size To Your Advantage
Next, if you find yourself being approached by a shark, the last thing you want to do is come across as threatening. While a shark will almost certainly be bigger than you, it can react through fear/intimidation if you try to make yourself look too big.
If a shark comes close to you, it is better to lie horizontally. Standing upright and vertically makes the shark feel challenged. They might be more likely to see you as a threat if you float upright in the water. Keep in mind that you are much smaller than the shark: let the sharks know they are in charge to help reduce the risk of sharks becoming defensive and feeling like they need to attack to pass the message on.
Another thing to think about when scuba diving with sharks is to avoid being clustered up in large groups of people. Dive in small groups of a few individuals. If a shark sees a group of several people coming toward it, they are likely to act defensively and lash out. Where possible, dive in smaller groups to avoid intimidation.
Take Your Time
One of the most common questions around diving with sharks is the speed you dive at. Most assume that you want to move quickly so that you do not linger around and irritate the shark: this is the opposite of what you should do, though!
Sharks are always more likely to be calmer around slower-moving individuals. Avoid diving quickly and then coming to a stop before making a rapid movement, too. Sharks do not like objects that make unexpected jumps. As such, you should remain consistent in motion – albeit slowly. Avoid hiding in places, too; many think hiding behind some rocks is enough to escape a shark’s attention, but this is rarely the case.
Your guide should be able to help you ensure that you retain the right pace as a group. They should also ensure that you can enjoy scuba diving with sharks without causing the sharks to become concerned about the speed/suddenness of your movement.
You should always avoid diving backward and away from a shark. This can create be more likely to cause a worrisome reaction in the shark. If you see a shark beginning to produce rapid movements of its tail or head, then this is a sign that it is feeling threatened and is liable to produce some form of response.
Get To Grips With The Species You Will Be Diving Around
There are not only species of shark: there are many. For example, going scuba diving with whale sharks is a different mood and experience from going scuba diving with Great White sharks. Keeping that in mind is very important. Therefore, You should read into the type of sharks you are likely to encounter in your scuba diving experience. Then, spend as much time as you can researching these sharks.
It depends on where in the world you will be heading underwater. For example, you might find yourself in a place like the Maldives, diving around with generally pacifist creatures like the white-tipped reef shark. However, if you head to a different part of the world, you might find yourself contesting against more powerful forms of shark.
Taking the time to understand how each species of shark you might encounter will behave is very important. It is likely that when you go scuba diving with sharks, your dive master/guide will provide you with some information. Arriving as prepared as possible, though, definitely ensures that your diving experience is likely to be more satisfying.
Not only will you feel safer knowing the creatures you will face off against, but you will know how to react should the sharks become alert to your presence.
Avoid Making Eye Contact
A common mistake many people make when scuba diving with sharks is trying to force eye contact with the sharks. It might be a mesmeric moment to lock eyes with such a powerful creature, but it is needlessly risky. Sharks tend to become quite uncomfortable if they feel like they are being stared at. To our knowledge, no breed of shark enjoys being looked at for too long.
Could you keep an eye on the activity of other fish in the region? If you see other fish moving away from the shark or acting with alarm, it is a clear sign that the shark is agitated. Keep a close eye on the tail of the shark, too: this will give you an idea of whether or not the shark is simply making its way through the water or whether it might react negatively.
At the same time, could you ensure that you always keep a visual note of where the shark is? Please be sure to stay alert, but do not stare.
Know Your Limits
When you first go scuba diving with sharks, you will likely naturally feel quite nervous. However, once you get used to the experience, you will understand why so many people love going underwater with sharks!
Really, there are precious few activities in this world quite like going diving with a shark. As such, it would be good to know your limits. If you are beginning to panic, it is better to pull yourself out of the event. Why? Because you are more likely to create the exact issues we have spoken about above – eye contact, staring, rapid movements, etc.
Please always make sure you stay close to the group you are with and never stray too far from the boat. This makes it easier for you to get back to the surface and reclaim your composure. During a dive, avoid panicking too much as it can make you seem more like a suitable peay for the shark. When you panic, your heart rate increases, and your body temperature soars. This makes it more likely that the shark can see you as something worth hunting.
So, know your limits. If you feel like you have reached the point where you do not wish to go on, you should abort. It is better to be safe than sorry!
Do Not Feed The Sharks
Please, try and ensure that you do not feed the shark or other fish in the vicinity. If a shark sees you handing out food or giving it food, it will assume you have more. If you do not have more, you run the risk of being seen as the next meal yourself!
So, yes, avoid giving a shark any food when underwater. Feeding sharks create an association of you with food. And if you fail to give the shark some extra food after the first time, they might be more inclined to see you as the next meal. This is extremely unlikely, of course, but it is far better to be safe than sorry.
Know What To Do In A Worst-Case Scenario
You should understand what the steps are should you find yourself dealing with a worst-case scenario of a shark acting out. If a shark becomes aggressive with you, the last thing you should do is tighten up and ‘play dead’ or try to outswim the shark. You will never outswim a shark.
Instead, if you find yourself being attacked by a shark, the best thing you can do is fight back. The gills and the eyes are comfortably a weak points on a shark. NEVER throw the first hit, though. Many sharks will bump into you as they move around the water. It would help if you only were prepared to strike a shark in retaliation to an actual attack. This is such a rare situation that it should likely never become an issue, but it is important to know that should you need to defend yourself, then aim for the eye.
If you follow the above tips, though, you should be far less likely to run into such a rare situation.
Enjoying Scuba Diving With Sharks Is All About Gaining Experience
Thanks to the movie industry, it is common for people to see sharks as predators – pure killing machines that put us and others at risk. That, though, is not the case. Sharks are often more scared of us than we are of them if you can believe that. And many forms of sharks are quite shy creatures.
The risk of an attack is very small, and the risk of an unprovoked attack is smaller again. As such, so long as you follow the general tips above and listen to your guide closely, you should have a wonderful time scuba diving with sharks. Respect their ownership of the sea, appreciate that this is their habitat, and avoid taking extreme movements. Stick to the above, and you should enjoy your scuba diving experience!