Many people think scuba divers are crazy to WANT to be in the same ocean as a shark, let alone within touching distance.
We struggled on a recent vacation to accommodate our family of divers who go from 30 years experience to literally just certified. We found that all our boys were excited at the idea of diving with sharks. There was no dissention whatsoever. Shark diving in the Bahamas is great for all levels of divers.
We dived in a location off New Providence Island, just a short motor from the dock. Many of the Bahamas dive operators take you to the same area to experience the spectacular diving with sharks. This does not diminish the dive, it just gives you more of a chance to make sure the sharks will be there. The specific shark dives are different than a reef dive. It is clear from the beginning that you are there for sharks—and only sharks.
The dive operators in the Bahamas have it down to a perfect science and I think they employ the sharks as well—they showed up perfectly on queue. Of course, the queue is the boat motor and anchor chain. With shark diving trips available here for the last 20 years or so, the sharks do hear the dinner bell several times a week.
Shark diving is very controlled and very systemized, but you still have to jump in the water with them. One of our grown sons, jumped in the water, took one look beneath him, moved closer to me and said “I’m scared.”
The system is to get in the water, descend to approximately 40 feet and sit or kneel comfortably on the sandy bottom. Rocks have been placed in a semi-circle showing you where to go and to give you a border to stay behind. That does not prevent the sharks coming to you, but gives you the guideline of where to stay.
As you are settling into your place, the feeding box is brought down in the center of the circle. Mind you, all the while there are sharks in the water with you, several swimming back and forth over the sand as you descend, a few more as you settle in the sand. Once the bait box is in place a dozen more show up.
We dived with a guide and a shark feeder. The shark feeder wore a traditional chainmail suit. The food is kept in the bait box and brought out in a pvc pipe. The shark feeder uses a pole to feed the bait to the sharks from the pipe. The guide watches the divers to make sure that we stay where we are supposed to be, and the scene does not get too intense.
The water is clear so you can see all the sharks as they approach, but you can’t help but look behind you wondering just what they might like to eat today. The sharks come in all sizes. Small, some only three feet, but most are five-seven feet. That can be extremely intimidating. No wonder my grown children were scared. You find yourself breathing a little hard into the regulator and you keep telling yourself that they do this all the time. You might even rack your brain to remember if you saw any headlines about resort scuba divers being eaten on a shark dive. By the way, never. At least not here in the Bahamas.
By the time the feeding starts there are almost too many sharks to count. Besides, I am too busy watching where they are coming and going to, so I really don’t want to count them. They swim in and out of the circle, back and forth to the feeding box. The diver in the suit hand feeds them and pushes them away if they get too greedy or get a little out of control. As they swim in and out of the circle, they swim past you, over you; they nudge your mask as they swim by. You are not supposed to put your hands out, and you’re not supposed to touch them, but they definitely brush up against you and you can feel the softness of their skin. You can almost feel the electrifying feel of their muscular bodies as they get close up against you. They are so close you see that they do roll their eyes as they eat.
The offer to wear the suit and hand feed the sharks was available to the divers on board at an additional fee. In addition, the guide filmed the whole scene and we brought back great video of our family swimming with sharks to the Jaws theme.