Shark, Gator, Eel? How Do You React When You See One Diving?


There’s a saying that civilization ends at the water line. It can be daunting being in the open water. But should you be afraid?

While the risk of being bitten by dangerous marine life is there, if you’re careful, it’s highly unlikely to happen. However, what do you do when the worst case scenario DOES happen? Just in case, we’ve put together a game plan for handling bite-y creatures whether they live in freshwater or saltwater.

Avoid It!

The easiest path is the one of least resistance. Try to avoid:

  • Places known or likely to be home to aggressive marine life such as areas with documented attacks, near sanitation outlets and breeding inlets
  • Diving in murky water
  • Diving at night or early morning
  • Diving alongside the predator’s usual dinner (seals, sea lions)
  • Hanging out at the surface
  • Splashing around or swimming erratically
  • Mating/nesting season – especially freshwater
  • Wearing shiny jewelry

If you do see a beast, chances are, it doesn’t want anything to do with you either. The best thing is to calmly and slowly move out of its way. Try not to turn your back on it until it is out of sight!

If you have enough air to hang out for few minutes, you can also back yourself up against a rock or coral to prevent an attack from behind, and chances are the animal will swim away. Get out of the water — calmly — as soon as its feasible if you think the animal may return.

Have A Game Plan

Dive With Friends

There’s safety in numbers. The chances of an attack by aquatic animals drop significantly with friends in tow — so grab your buddies, the more the merrier.

Know What To Expect

Know the dangerous sea creatures you’ll likely to face in your adventures, both in saltwater and freshwater.

  • Gator and crocodile attacks usually occur when snorkeling or entering / leaving the water so be aware when on the surface.
  • Eels and octopi have been known to attack and damselfish are known to nibble!
  • Never assume you are safe with any wild animal, even a seemingly harmless one.
  • Tiger_sharkOnly three species of shark (bull, tiger, and great white) cause the majority of fatalities, so if you see one, it might be time to get out of the water.
  • It’s a good idea to be able to quickly identify the shark species you’re seeing, so you know whether you should be concerned.The photo at the top is a bull shark and photo on the right, a tiger shark. Both are more common in warm water, whereas great white’s are more common in cold water.

It’s also important to know the signs of aggression. While they are calm, sharks appear streamlined and casual, but when aggravated their movements are rigid and jagged. Alligators and crocodiles bellow, though they give very little warning.

Don’t Feed Aquatic Animals

By feeding, you entice the animal closer and reduce it’s natural desire to avoid you.

Don’t Taunt or Try to Touch Aquatic Animals

Many of the documented attacks by eels, octopi, otters and seals are defense reactions, so avoid cornering them or getting too close.

Carry A Weapon

Your utility dive knives can be an asset if you are up against hazardous marine life. Need a knife? Click to view a great selection of dive knives online.


So the worst HAS happened…a sea creature is attacking! If it lets go and you’re injured, try to get out of the water as calmly and quickly as is safe.

If it hangs on, don’t give up, but instead fight the animal. In general, regardless of species, aiming for the eyes and head is ideal. Although hitting a shark on the nose is suggested, a weaker point is the gills, which may be more accessible. Although the odds of an attack are extremely rare, it’s not a bad idea to keep a game plan in mind.

Rest easy knowing that, chances are seriously high that your dive will be a safe one. Animal attacks on divers are a rarity — many occurring due to the diver’s own negligence. Still, there’s no such thing as being too prepared, or knowing too much in order to enjoy scuba safely.

Rescue Course

Consider taking a Rescue course, where you’ll learn how to better handle medical emergencies and administer diving-related first aid.

If you’re in the Dallas area, Scuba Toys offers several Rescue courses each year. Stop by our Carrollton shop, call us at  877-728-2243 or visit us online!


Article Name
Shark, Gator, Eel? How Do You React When You See One Diving?
While extremely rare, marine animals have been known to attack divers. Learn about how to minimize your chances of becoming a snack!

3 responses to “Shark, Gator, Eel? How Do You React When You See One Diving?”

  1. Wes says:

    I’ve encountered sharks while diving a couple of times. The most important thing to remember is that you don’t want to panic. Sharks typically aren’t interested in humans, but if you act erratically, they’re more likely to take interest in you.

  2. Seth says:

    It took forever for me to get my wife into the water because she had an irrational fear of dangerous marine life. 5 years later, she is regretful that she didn’t start diving sooner.

  3. Christina M. says:

    I have yet to encounter a “dangerous” creature…knock on wood!

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