Swimming with Sharks

Two sharks parking on the bottom of the ocean around pinnacle rock, Komodo National Park
Two sharks parking on the bottom of the ocean around pinnacle rock, Komodo National Park

There are few things that excite divers underwater than the sight of a shark. Or two. Or more. There’s something about an encounter with the lion of the seas, the top of the food chain. Personally, I have never been afraid of them when I’m diving or snorkeling in the tropics, and do not hesitate swimming far out from shore. When your usual meal is chicken, do you automatically see a frog and drool? My point exactly.

I’ve actually met a lot of sharks, even while snorkeling. The closest I’ve been to one was probably last year, March 2013, around the underwater wall of Gili Tepekong, off the eastern coast of Bali. I was at the heel of everyone who were crowding around something small. Awaiting my turn, I took a look right and left in the surrounding walls, and there it was, just a couple of arm lengths away to my left, resting in the nook of a small and narrow cave. Our eyes met and I did not take my eyes off it while my right arm was flailing frantically on the other side to alert other divers of the magnificent view. Sadly, I did not bring a camera then.

But in the northern USA and Australia, I’m wary. Very wary. Of swimming too far out from the shore. Of swimming at dawn or dusk in the ocean. And when I see shark netting, I don’t even want to go into the water. I do not want sharks to mistake me for a sea lion.

But do shark attacks happen because sharks made an error about the nature of their prey? This research summarized in The Economist says no, sharks know exactly what they’re doing. Researchers even have proof to back it up.

Very well. All the more reason to be wary, while enjoying the encounter.

 

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