When you’re under water and you see the thing you were taught your whole life to fear, and it doesn’t want to hurt you, and it is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen; your whole world changes.
— Rob Stewart, Sharkwater
Diving with sharks can be potentially dangerous. Do NOT closely interact with sharks, touch them, feed them unless you are very experienced and know exactly how to interpret their body language. While it might look easy and harmless to interact with sharks the way we do, we do NOT encourage this type of underwater activity. (Felix Leander)
Swimming with sharks is one of the most exciting things I have ever done. It is like going into another world, and that’s what we seem to forget most of the time. Because, whenever we enter the ocean, we are guests in another unfamiliar world – not in ours; and we need to show the necessary respect.
It is a rare privilege to encounter a shark while diving and it is not easy to give advice on what to do if one comes face to face with one. It all depends on the situation and the location. Different sharks react differently. In most cases you will find that sharks are inquisitive but not aggressive. They want to know who we are and might circle us several times in order to find out. Sharks are rarely the aggressor, they react to situations rather than cause them.
There are, however, some points of common sense, about what to do when you suddenly face a shark in the ocean:
Most importantly: Stay calm! This sounds crazy but you won’t be able to out-swim a shark anyway. Fleeing objects may look like prey to a shark and it might therefore come after you. A shark can swim a lot faster than a person and swimming away hectically is a waste of energy.
While swimming in the ocean it makes very good sense to always wear goggles and a snorkel, so that you can look down into the water below.
Take a vertical position, feet down and always keep an eye on the shark.
Don’t try to touch the animal if it comes close unless it is an aggressive move on the sharks part.
Stay where you are and don’t move!
Don’t splash with your hands or feet, because that will attract more sharks.
Make sure the shark has enough room to maneuver on the sides and below you. That way he will not panic and can get away easy.
Never swim in the ocean early in the morning or late in the afternoon, not in murky water or near the mouth of a river. That’s where sharks often hunt for smaller fish.
Sometimes a shark might circle you to check you out; or swim straight at you and turn shortly before he reaches you. In 99.9% of all cases he will eventually swim away. Always keep eye-contact with the shark, he will notice that you are looking at him and stay back. Sharks are predators, they cannot afford to get injured. They are probably just as scared of us as we are of them.
Low frequency sounds like splashing or hectic movements will attract sharks. The distress movements of a dying fish are one of the most interesting sounds to a shark. If you are spear-fishing, and see a shark approaching, drop the fish, because the shark might bite you to get it. He really wants the fish, not you.
In some cases, swimming slowly straight at the shark will keep him at a distance and in the unlikely event that he attacks you, don’t hit him on the nose – that’s dangerously close to his mouth. Instead, try to grab his gill slits; then there is a better chance that he’ll let go.
Before swimming in the ocean you should get some advice from experts about situations that could occur. We need a license to drive a car; to go hunting we need to have a safety course, we need a license for fishing, we need a license for about everything we want to do. Why don’t we want to learn how to behave and how to avoid accidents when we swim in the ocean? Many accidents could be prevented if people would bother to educate themselves about the ocean and the marine life in it.
If you talk to the animals they will talk to you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them and what you don’t know you will fear. What we fear we want to destroy.”
— Salish Indian Chief Dan George