Respect Lost, Respect Gained – Diving with Sharks
It all started out within my first month of diving in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
One of my first ever shark encounters on a reef called Tortugas (turtles in Spanish) this just so happened to be a bull shark. I wasn’t actually guiding the dive but following to learn the dive site.
This beautiful female surprised us after about 30 minutes, she came round to have a look and disappeared again. At that moment my heart started pounding double speed and for the rest of the dive I was watching my back in a rather paranoid manner. I may have forgotten to mention that I, like many people, grew up with a phobia of sharks.
Guiding shark Dives
That afternoon I was told by my manager that I would be guiding the twice weekly bull shark dive that we had just started doing as of the next day. I was told a few pointers and what to mention in my dive briefing.
The next morning I arrived at work a bit of a wreck, my stomach was doing strange things and I could hardly eat. I was trembling during my briefing which was ironic as I was telling everyone that there was no need to be frightened as they weren’t aggressive and they’re completely safe etc.
We arrived at the dive site and finally I had to take the backward roll plunge into “Jardines Deep”, from the surface I could not see any sharks, but as we made our descent I finally made out these dark shapes circling below. We reached the bottom at 25m, all knelt down in the sand and let the show commence.
After the first few minutes I didn’t even notice the sharks anymore although they were coming in closer and closer. Sometimes just a couple of meters away before turning, but I was too busy checking my guests were ok to notice.
After that the shark dives got easier and easierand I was more and more comfortable, unto the point of becoming a bit cocky. I started swimming around with them and on other reef dives trying to attract them by making vibrations with a plastic water bottle.
Basically, I started to lose respect for them.
They made sure that didn’t last too long, when a few months later I told my two guests that I would take them to see some bull sharks on Tortugas reef. I guaranteed at least one, knowing I could attract them with the vibrations.
We descended and straight away I started scrunching the water bottle, which I continued to do constantly until about 20 min into the dive, when the first shark decided to make an appearance. We all celebrated underwater grinning through our regulators and high fiving!
Shortly after another two came around and circled for a bit before disappearing, again the “ok’s” and high fives followed.
Why you should always respect sharks
Suddenly we had more and more bull sharks arriving circling and staying and surrounding us a total of about 7-8. Then out of nowhere three came round in front and came towards us in an army formation the one in the middle looking right at me, grin on his face.
Swimming right at me, I hovered in a stretched out position as close to the reef as possible without touching anything, my right hand was holding my alternate air sources with purge button ready and my left hand was hovering above my divers knife, although I knew I would never use it.
My heart was beating so fast it hurt, he then swam fast towards me and shot up above my head and disappeared. The other two went off around the side and up… at that moment I realized we weren’t supposed to be there.
I turned to my divers and gave them the thumbs up to end the dive, keeping constant vigilance whilst ascending.
During the safety stop I noticed they had gone for good, at that moment, I started to laugh hysterically from relief.
We got to the surface and all shouted for joy, although for me it was more relief. I later learnt from my divers that they weren’t scared for one minute as they trusted me completely… whilst I definitely learnt a lesson and the sharks gained back their respect.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love these amazing creatures, but now I will always respect them for what they are, powerful wild animals.