“Make eye contact and don’t flail my arms around like an injured, sick animal.” That phrase repeated in my head over and over again as I made my way off the One Ocean Diving vessel into the deep blue ocean. Within seconds I was face to face with a shark. I always imagined what I would do in this situation. I would freeze in fear and drown. (Yes I am a little dramatic) but in reality, I found myself in awe of how beautiful, graceful and unthreatening the sharks were. I was in 200 ft of water, floating free surrounded in all directions by dozens of sharks – and I was more alive than I have ever felt.
Of course hours earlier I was not this calm or comfortable. In fact, the night before I couldn’t sleep because I was so anxious of my plans to do what my 90-year-old grandma called “live dangerously”. If it wasn’t for Shark Experts Ocean Ramsey and Juan Oliphant’s helpful and interesting information they gave before the swim, I wouldn’t have been so brave to jump in.
Ocean and Juan are actually studying the sharks’ behavior on every Oahu shark dive and are filled with shark facts. They explained how the sharks coexist in the specific group we were visiting. There is an alpha male named Bully and he stays at the top of the water. If you are alpha or the dominant animal you are at the top. Other sharks lower in ranks stay deeper in the water. When we go into the sharks’ territory we are at the top, which means we take the alpha position.
“You need to make eye contact with every shark. They are going to be curious and want to know what you are. You make eye contact out of respect.”
Most shark attacks are made out of mistaken identity. Sharks will bite humans when they mistake us for their favorite dishes (turtles and seals). Fishermen and spear fishers who chum the water or have dead fish on them also increase risks of a shark bite. Sharks help keep the marine food chain healthy by picking off the sick and weak animals, so if you are making noise or behaving like an injured animal you may also be mistaken for lunch.
In reality sharks are curious about us. They didn’t hesitate to get close to me and even bump my husband Kristofor’s camera during the swim. We watched for body language we learned about on the ride out. Sharks will pop their gills and even arch their fins when they are going into aggressive mode.
None of the big fishes tried to bite us. The only battle scar I was left with after swimming with sharks in Oahu, was a jellyfish sting on my right arm.
I was lucky to see sea turtles, several humpback whales and booby birds, but the most exciting animal was the one I always dreaded encountering, the shark.
When I returned to the boat I was relieved and surprised at how much I now respected sharks. It was special to swim with them, and look into so many of their eyes. Especially since they are a threatened species due to shark finning and their unfair reputation. Don’t believe all the hype from the media and Hollywood. Jump in for yourself and see how amazing, intelligent and peaceful they really are, you won’t regret it.
Stop by the Guidepost in our lobby to book your life changing Oahu shark dive today!
Photo Credit: Kristofor Gellert