10 Shark Diving Tips
When it comes to diving with sharks the brief should always be safety first. Here are our Top 10 tips for diving with sharks
1 Safety in numbers
When diving with sharks always stay in a group – sharks typically target a solitary individual.
2 Watch what you wear
Always wear a mask, fin and snorkel and preferably a wetsuit when swimming with sharks. Obviously the mask lets you see any sharks, while fins and snorkel will allow you to swim relatively calmly and efficiently. The wetsuit will offer protection, should a curious shark bump into you. But, don't wear brightly coloured diving equipment: sharks are thought to be colour-blind but are attracted to colours that contrast with the background. Yellow is thought to be particularly attractive to sharks and has been called the 'yum yum' colour.
3 Avoid mammals
Never free-dive or snorkel with marine mammals where there is the possibility encountering sharks, as the sharks may mistake you for their natural prey. If sharks do appear, do not thrash about but instead swim calmly and leave the water.
4 Not dusk or dawn
Avoid swimming with sharks at dusk or dawn, many sharks are crepuscular in their feeding patterns, meaning they feed at dawn and dusk unless other opportunities arrive. I have on occasion been harassed by grey reef sharks at dusk which during the day had been timid and kept their distance.
5 Know what you're dealing with
Be able to identify the species you see so that you can make a preliminary estimate of the threat it is likely to pose. Tiger sharks are known to have an unspecialised diet, but many species of shark will only feed on certain animals – a shark that specialises in eating shellfish or lobsters, for example, such as the tawny shark, has teeth designed for crushing shells. Such an animal is no more likely to try to eat a human than is a goldfish. Nevertheless, it can bite defensively if threatened – and to considerably more effect than a goldfish. Defensive biting is a natural response by many animals, and sharks are no exception. The fact that a shark has no intention of eating you does not mean that it will not bite you.
6 Stick to the reed
Always swim back to the reef wall at the end of a dive and wait to be collected there. Never swim so far from the reef that you cannot quickly return to it – do not allow yourself to be sept away from the reef into open water. In the event that you are swept off a reef into deep water, you may need to collected quickly, so when you are in the water always carry a fluorescent orang safety flag or tube.
7 Flash off
Never attempt to follow or photograph a shark that appears to be swimming strangely. If you find during a shark feed that the sharks seem especially interested in your underwater flashgun, turn it off. The 'whine' of the flashgun recharging seem to attract their reaction.
8 Abort if necessary
Do not hesitate to abort a dive if the sharks are swimming rapidly or showing an interest in you. You might have to make a rapid exit, so if you are in an area where sharks are likely to be, never snorkel or dive in open water without a boat close at hand.
9 Keep a lookout
If a large shark such as a tiger shark appears and then vanishes, keep a good look out for it, as it may return.
10 Remember the risks
Never allow the excitement of diving with sharks to cloud your common sense – think through the risks.