One of the most interesting dives for any certified scuba diver is the shark dive. During most dives in the Caribbean, seeing a shark is actually a rare occurrence and considered a bonus since they don’t tend to stay around very long if they are sighted anyway. One quick glimpse and they are gone in the distance. This is why the shark dives in the Bahamas were developed. It’s a way to give daring scuba divers a chance to see many sharks up close. These shark dives are available in both Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas. I had an opportunity to do one of these shark dives during a dive trip to Nassau in the island of Providence. |
I went with the scuba operator Dive Dive Dive although Stuart Cove’s also offers shark dives. It was a two tank dive and when we got to the first dive site called Williams Wreck, there were already a few Caribbean reef sharks circling underneath the boat. The music from the movie Jaws started to play in my head. The first dive was a reef site with a small wreck with ample marine life including the sharks that were nearby. They came close to the divers but not too close, much like barracudas. Deepest depth here was 69 feet and the duration of the dive was 36 minutes. The ascent was interesting because at the 15 feet safety stop, the sharks were there checking us out. At one point, there was a shark in between myself and the boat. I was wondering how I was going to get back with the shark in the way but it eventually moved out of the way.
After the first dive, we went over to the dive site close by that would be the location for the actual shark feeding. This dive site was appropriately named Shark Alley. We were told to use a little more weight than usual since we were to spend most of our time during our second dive at the bottom. So I added three more pounds to my weight belt. Again, we could see the sharks in the water during the surface interval but this time, there were more of them. We were instructed to descend to the bottom as quickly as possible and once at the bottom about 50 feet down, we were huddled by one of the divemasters into a single line semi-circle in a sandy open area. Once we were in formation, another divemaster descended from the boat. This was the one who would do the feeding and he was carrying a bucket of treats for the sharks. Almost immediately, over 20 sharks came out of nowhere. My heart started to pound with excitement at this point.
The divemaster with the food was wearing a chain mesh suit and gloves over his wetsuit. He settled at the bottom about ten feet or so in front of us. For the next 30 minutes, he orchestrated a feeding frenzy as the sharks averaging about 12 feet in length came to him from all angles. He used a steel rod to feed the sharks. Sometimes he would actually tease the sharks with the rod before feeding them. The sharks darted around like torpedoes. I was impressed by how fast and agile they were. Meanwhile, a third divemaster was nearby videotaping the entire scene.
We were told to keep our arms folded in front of us in order not to confuse any shark who might mistake our limbs as lunch. The sharks came so close to us that sometimes they bumped and made contact with a few divers. One shark actually came into the feeding area from behind me and its belly brushed the top of my head. Now that was certainly an experience I’ll never forget! We were told that these sharks were only interested in the food that the divemaster had rather than us. These sharks have been conditioned to these feedings twice per day all week long so they were quite used to the routine now. We all hoped that this was true. A few sharks circled right in front of our semi-circle and when their tails were out in front of us, some divers including myself couldn’t resist reaching out to touch them even though we were not suppose to.
In addition to the sharks, there were also these two groupers who parked themselves in front of our semi-circle as they watched all the activity. They didn’t seem to have any fear of the sharks or divers at all and at one point, one of these groupers actually darted in and took the food from the divemaster’s rod before any of the sharks did.
When the divemaster ran out of food, he tipped the bucket over on its side and almost on cue, all the sharks swam off. It’s like they knew that the feeding had ended and therefore had no more interest in sticking around. When they all left, we still had some time left to search the sand bottom for any shark teeth before returning back to the boat. Of course, most of us eventually did buy the video of our shark dive when we got back to the dive shop. I have played this video to many of my non-diving friends who just watched in horror and disbelief. They just couldn’t understand why anyone would want to jump into the water with sharks around. Of course, experienced scuba divers have a better understanding of shark behavior than the average person but it’s always fun to entertain my non-diving friends with this video. The shark dive is certainly one of the most exciting and memorable dives a scuba diver will ever do.
Clint Leung is a NAUI certified Master and Rescue Scuba Diver. He is also owner of Free Spirit Activewear (http://www.FreeSpiritActivewear.com) , an online retailer/designer specializing in premium quality scuba diving activewear. Free Spirit Activewear has numerous information resource articles on scuba diving as well as free eCards.
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