Seeing sharks while diving is arguably one of the most thrilling excursions under the water, but for divers who haven’t yet taken the plunge, or who have seen Jaws one too many times, the major internal question always arises:
The short answer is yes, usually. There are an average of 65 worldwide shark attacks every year, and a person’s chances of being killed by a shark are 1 in 65 million – or about the same as dying from digging a hole in the sand.
But with that being said, the odds obviously increase when your ocean encounter goes from dipping your toes into the water to actually submerging near an ancient wreck or reef wall where sharks tend to congregate.
So the trick for divers who want to dive with sharks, (or who didn’t plan to but local sharks had other plans), is to do it safely, and smartly.
Thinking of signing up for a close encounter of the shark variety? Then keep these tips and considerations in mind to make sure your dive trip doesn’t make the cut for next summer’s Shark Week.
Every shark’s behavior is a little different and an encounter with a whale shark, reef shark, or nurse shark can be much different than with, say, a bull shark. Read up on the types of sharks that frequent the area, and don’t be afraid to ask your diving guide on what to expect. The more you know before going into the water, the better off you’ll be.
Sharks notoriously feed at dawn and dusk, and are more likely to be aggravated, or at least confused as to what constitutes as food, in murkier waters. Avoid prime feeding times whenever possible, and try to head to the dive site when the water is as clear as possible.
Meeting a shark can be a heart-pounding experience, but one of the worst things a diver can do is to start to panic and flail around. By focusing on your movements, and keeping them slow and deliberate, the shark is less likely to mistake you for a trapped, injured or threatened animal – (even if that’s exactly what you feel like at the moment.)
Many shark diving experts believe color-blocked or zebra-striped wet suits help protect a diver from appearing like food, as the pattern mimics a banded sea snake – an unappetizing and deadly local resident. Divers can also invest in electromagnetic bands, which reportedly disturb the shark’s inherent electroreceptors, and which turn the sharks away if they get a little too close for comfort.
From chain-mail “armor” to personal shark cages, there is a lot of professional-quality shark protection on the market available to divers who intend to make multiple shark dives. If diving with sharks is your favorite passion or the places you dive are popular with sharks, then go ahead and invest in something substantial to make you feel safe and secure throughout the dives.
Feeling safe and relaxed will go a long way in diving with creatures who are internally driven to look for signs of trouble or fear. Breathe, keep it slow, and enjoy the dive, and chances are good you’ll come home with an awesome shark story that, thankfully, doesn’t make the local front page news.
Need a refresher course to remember what you learned in your Open Water course or want to improve your diving skills?
Scuba Toys offers year-round dive educations courses, so call us at (972) 820-7667 or swing by our shop in Carrollton, Texas!
Have you encountered sharks, either intentionally or unintentionally while diving? Let us know in the comments section below!