The answer to the question, “Aren’t you afraid of sharks when you dive?”, is “That depends.” Was I a little nervous the first time? Yes. On the other hand, it doesn’t take long to learn the reality about this aspect of diving. There are a lot of varieties of sharks and that’s one factor I’ll get to. Because of the gear a diver wears, we simply don’t look like prey and especially not if we have regular scuba where you exhale a constant stream of bubbles. Sharks don’t expend unnecessary energy and they don’t eat if they aren’t hungry. If a person is on something like a surfboard or a boogie board, then from below, that resembles a seal or turtle shape, both of which are favored by sharks. The reason people who are attacked aren’t usually “consumed” is because as soon as the shark realizes this isn’t a food they like, they move on. The problem, of course, is they may have inflicted lethal damage in their exploratory “bite”. Anyway back to the diving part.
The predominant shark on the reefs here are nurse sharks and they are quite docile. If someone gets bitten by a nurse shark, the odds are 99% the individual was doing something inappropriate. There has been an increase in the number of Caribbean reef sharks around (saw one the other day), but they tend to run 5-8 feet and they’re not aggressive. There’s plenty of their preferred food to keep them happy. An exception can be divers who spear fish. Here’s the thing. If a shark wants to take a fish you just speared – you really should give it up. We do get the larger bull sharks (not a type I want to be around) on the deeper wrecks as well as in the backcountry which is too shallow for diving. Then there are the occasional sightings of hammerheads that breeze through – always a thrill, but also not generally aggressive. The presence of a great white does cause a stir. The water here is too warm, but they swing in sometimes and can hang around for a short while. That’s not one I have any desire to be in the water with, but again, attacks on divers haven’t been an issue.
What about shark feedings? That is a whole different subject and I think I’ll save it for a future post.