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Rules To Safely Scuba Dive With Sharks

by Arjan Ligtermoet
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In my fifteen years in the diving industry I’ve yet to come across a more polarizing topic than sharks. Some divers can’t wait to get in the water with them. Others are scared to their bones if there is even a small chance of encountering one. It seems that being scared of sharks is a primal fear which exceeds other land-based predators like lions, tigers and snakes. With some tips and rules to follow you can also safely scuba dive with sharks.

Sharks are formidable predators and should be threaten with respect. A little knowledge does come a long way and may help you to set aside some of your terrors towards them. If you know how to behave underwater, know how to engage with these beautiful animals, you might even enjoy seeing one some day and above all to safely scuba dive with sharks.

Sharks think you are weird

Yep, sharks think you are a weirdo. As a matter of fact most underwater creatures think you’re a weirdo. What is this slow moving, blob like figure, which is blowing bubbles and making horrendous sounds doing in my ocean? I can assure you that you are definitely one of the strangest things a shark will see in it’s live.

Because of this sharks may get curious, since their curious creatures, but mostly scared. This means that when the shark senses a hint of danger they will make a b-line straight away from you. Even something small like clapping your hands or yelling from excitement through your regulator will probably scare them away.

Safely Scuba Dive With Sharks

Because of the reasons above most sharks, especially the smaller ones, will leave you alone. They will act like you aren’t even there and go about their business. Enjoy the sight of these beautiful animals and try not to accidentally scare them away.

The bigger boys

Bigger sharks don’t see you as much of a treat and tend to be a bit more curious. This will give you an excellent opportunity to get up close and personal with one of the most impressive predators roaming this earth. As long as there is no feeding of the sharks and you follow a simple set of rules you will be okay. An important part of this is that you are comfortable and don’t panic. If you follow the rules below you will be safe in almost all cases:

  • Keep your hands to yourself.
    • Hands lit by the sun underwater look a lot like the side of a fish. Sharks eat fish and they may mistake your hand for a wounded fish. Keeping your hands tucked under your armpits prevents such a mishap.
  • Stay upright underwater.
    • This tip only applies to larger sharks since you are simply to big to even consider a attack for smaller sharks. Remember being a weirdo to sharks? Being upright underwater amps the weirdness greatly for sharks simply because there is no other animal swimming upright in the ocean
  • Keep your eyes on the shark
    • Larger sharks tend to attack their prey from the back and from below. By keeping your eyes on the shark at all time you will cut off this route.
  • Stay with your group.
    • Being singled out from your group can make you a target. If you stay with your diving group the shark will see you as a whole which is more intimidating for it.

When sharks get to curious

Al tough rare it does happen that divers get attacked by sharks. More often than not it’s because sharks are being fed or their is a food source nearby which sends it in attack mode. There is a clear pattern to shark attacks among scuba divers and there is a way to stop it.

Much like a dog, sharks can sense fear and will check out the diver which seems to be scared. They usually will give you a lot of signals before proceeding to a attack. A shark will circle round and will swim straight for you only to divert at a certain distance. The next circle will be tighter and the shark will take longer to divert. Next circle will even be smaller and so on. After a number of circles the shark likely will bump you to check out what you are. Most of the times it will decide that you are not on it’s menu and swim on. Sometimes it may decide to attack.

What to do when a shark becomes to curious

What you want to do is stop the cycle early on. As soon as the sharks comes within 2 meters it’s time to intervene. Panicking and trying to swim away will only make you look like prey and is usually not the wisest of options. Following the rules below is:

  • Make a lot of sound and bubbles
    • If the shark comes in for another drive by, yell through your regulator and make a lot of bubbles. Most likely this is all it takes to break the pattern.
  • Go to the seabed if you can
    • In addition you can go and sit on the seabed which totally cuts of any attack route of the shark.
  • The good old punch to the nose
    • If all fails the good old punch in the nose is the equivalent of a kick in the nuts. The nose of a shark has millions of nerve endings which are highly sensitive and a punch there will most definitely scare them away.

Just enjoy

All in all the chance of running into a shark becomes smaller every year. They are killed by the millions and becoming endangered everywhere around the globe. Enjoy the time which you get with them instead of fearing them.

If you want to help preserve these great animals for future generations and score a awesome t-shirt in the proces check out our webshop. 10 procent of all proceeds are donate towards shark protection. You can also head straight to Shark Trust and donate there.

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