Shark diving is high on many divers wish lists and rightly so; it’s an incredible experience – both relaxing and exhilarating getting close to nature’s perfect predators. Whilst the risk of injury during shark dives is low, there are some precautions you can take to be safe and get the most out of every shark encounter.
#1 - Dive in a group
If you’re going on an unguided dive where large sharks are found, it’s best to dive in a group. Sharks such as great whites prefer not to be seen when they’re approaching, and are well camouflaged, so it’s important to be on the lookout for them. You can look in all directions as a dive group and monitor approaching sharks’ behaviour to keep yourselves safe.
#2 - Don’t dive at dawn or dusk
Many sharks hunt at dawn and dusk, taking advantage of the low light levels to approach prey without being spotted. You want to avoid those natural hunting times and low light levels, to prevent a shark mistaking you for food or being surprised by your presence.
#3 - Avoid shiny cameras and jewellery
A shark can easily mistake a silver camera or shiny jewellery as food or an object worth investigating. It is a good idea to avoid any photography kit of jewellery that reflects the light like fish scales, especially if you’re diving with feeding sharks. It’s also a good idea to keep cameras close to your body to prevent a shark taking a bite out of expensive flashes or housing. The noise and light of flashes can attract sharks to investigate closer, so be prepared for that.
#4 - Know your dive environment
Before you dive in a new area, find out if sharks actively hunt or feed there. A seal colony with kelp forest might seem attractive as a dive site but it may also be prime hunting ground for large sharks. Be sure to also avoid areas where fishing has recently been undertaken, so you’re not diving in an area where sharks have been feeding. It’s also a great idea to get to know the dive site topography, currents and depths beforehand – so if you need to make a swift exit you can do so without getting into trouble.
#5 - Dive in clear water
Always dive with sharks in clear water. Diving in murky water increases the chances of a shark not being able to see you clearly and potentially mistaking you as a food source.
#6 - Keep your catch bag separate
If you’re spearfishing in an area known for sharks, keep your catch bag separate. Sharks are attracted to fish blood and you don’t want to be bitten accidentally whilst a shark investigates your catch.
#7 - Get to know your shark behaviours
Sharks are intelligent animals that use body language to signal when they feel threatened by a diver’s presence; including mouth gaping, an arched back, exaggerated body movements, and dipping their pectoral fins down. Get to know these behaviours before you dive. Different species of sharks also react in different ways to divers behaviours. Find out more about where to place yourself in relation to a shark in the water column to signal you are not a threat, plus how to deal with a shark approaching closely. It varies from species to species.
#8 - Plan your exit
It’s a good idea to plan what you will do if you encounter a shark that is threatened by your presence. It might be best to descend to the reef floor until the shark has passed (if safe to do so), or exit the water slowly whilst watching the shark. Know your options and make a plan before you dive.
#9 - Watch your depth
Seeing a shark is always exciting and on many divers wish list. In the excitement, it’s easy to lose track of your depth and air consumption. Remember to keep an eye on both, watch your buddy and try not to fin excessively.
#10 - Enjoy!
Whilst extra considerations like those above are helpful, remember that humans are more of a threat to sharks than vice versa. The chances of an accident are extremely low. There is a reason people return each year to shark diving hotspots such as Guadalupe and the Bahamas. It is an incredible, life-changing experience. Stay calm, breathe, and enjoy!
This article was written by divers and writers for LiveAboard.com