When I tell people that I freedive with sharks I’m usually met with a look of disbelief followed with a “why on earth would you want to do that?”
I never really know how to answer this question in words, so I always tell people they just need to get in the water with these creatures to truly understand why I love doing it so much. There is just something about being in the ocean alongside such a huge animal that really puts things into perspective. Your entire life you’re taught to fear sharks; they’re the apex predator of the ocean and they will bite you if they encounter you. But all of a sudden your swimming next to one and it doesn’t want to hurt you and it’s moving so peacefully through the water you’re wondering what there ever was to be afraid of.
I really think it’s something that everyone should experience at least once in their lives, even more so if you have a fear of sharks or pretense that they’re vicious animals – one dive with them and I promise your mind will be changed forever.
You can check out some of the people I recommend to go diving with in Monday’s post!
Regardless of who you dive with, where you dive, or what sharks you’re diving with there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you have the best shark diving experience possible. I want to share a few of my top tips for freediving with sharks to make sure your shark encounter is an unforgettable experience.
Wearing a wetsuit will help to protect you in the event that a shark does bump into you. Being covered up will also prevent a shark for mistaking your fleshy looking calves or arms for a fish they can eat. Even just wearing leggings or a rash guard will work and they’re also helpful for protecting your skin against jellyfish. I personally find diving with a wetsuit just a lot more comfortable and it gives me the peace of mind I need to truly enjoy my dive.
Fins will not only protect your feet, but they’ll make it a lot easier to swim smoothly. When swimming with sharks you want to try minimize your movements and not splash in the water as this tends to excite the sharks. Using fins will make it easier to float using minimal movement, so you don’t thrash around.
Sharks can sense when you’re nervous or anxious and they’ll feed off of that emotion and become anxious themselves. To keep the sharks calm, you need to stay calm. Take deep breaths and keep reminding yourself that sharks are gentle creatures. They’re not going to hurt you so there is nothing to be worried about!
Head on a Swivel
Be sure to always be looking around when you’re in the water as sharks can sneak up behind you pretty easily. Being aware and alert will ensure you know where all the sharks are at all times so you’re not caught off guard. Knowing where the sharks are and looking at them is also a crucial method in establishing control. Maintaining eye contact is a way to establish yourself as the alpha in the water, so the sharks know that you’re in charge and they won’t try to mess with you.
Stay Away from the Chum
Most shark diving operators feed the sharks in order to pull them to the surface. Sharks are naturally a pelagic species, so they tend to stay near the bottom of the water column, unless there is food for them near the surface. The sharks are coming to the surface to eat this chum, so unless you want to get caught in between a hungry shark and a piece of fish, it’s best to stay out of the chum.
You Can Touch, but Don’t Reach
If you want to pet a shark, you should always do so once they’re close enough to you so that you don’t need to reach your arm out very far. Always try to pet them from above or behind them, so you’re not putting your hands anywhere close to their mouth. It’s more important now than ever to keep your head on a swivel as well. It’s not the shark you’re petting that might run into you, but one coming up from behind you that you didn’t see because you were so focussed in on the one shark you’re trying to pet. It’s definitely okay to touch the sharks while you’re in the water with them as long as you do so safely. And make sure not to pull or tug on their fins – just pet them gently like you would any other adorable creature!
At the end of the day, sharks are big and curious animals, and the ocean is their home. Every time we enter the water, we are doing so as guests and it’s important we never forget that. Being able to swim alongside these amazing animals has been one of the highlights of my life and I want to share that with as many people as I possibly can.