I’m Tidewater Teddy, and I’ve spent a lot of time above and beneath the sea. In the deep, blue ocean, I’ve seen my share of sea creatures, but of all of them, sharks are my favorite. Over the years, I’ve had some incredible encounters with these toothy fish. Here are my top 5 shark encounters!
5. Whitetip reef shark
This was my first ever shark encounter in the ocean. Before then, I’d only seen sharks in aquariums or caught sharks while fishing. I was so freaking excited to see this little guy on the Great Barrier Reef. This species is known as the whitetip reef shark.
I’m not a marine biologist, but I know my sharks, and I knew this species wouldn’t harm me. Whitetip reef sharks rarely grow longer than 1.6 meters (5.2 feet) and prefer to lounge on the seafloor and in crevices during the day. I ended up seeing a lot of these little guys in the South Pacific.
4. Gray reef shark
The gray reef shark was the second species of shark I saw in the wild. Like the whitetip reef shark, I also saw this species on the Great Barrier Reef. However, this encounter took place at night. See those sharks in the water? Yeah, those are gray reef sharks.
Gray reef sharks are a little more feisty than whitetip reef sharks. For the most part, they are not a threat, but they can become aggressive under certain circumstances. They’ll even use body language to warn you before they attack. So you’ve really gotta respect their personal space.
This encounter was pretty brief. I basically saw the sharks before I jumped into the water, caught a few glimpses of them in the darkness, and then, I didn’t see them again. But I’m certain they saw me at all times.
3. Sandtiger shark
Sandtiger sharks look WAY scarier than they act. Yet, as terrifying as they appear, they are actually quite peaceful. If you’ve ever been to an aquarium, you’ve probably seen these sharks.
In the endless aquarium known as the sea, I’ve seen more of these sharks than any other species. I’ve seen literally hundreds of them on the shipwrecks off North Carolina. They are present en masse out there. I’ve been surrounded by them in midwater, and I’ve even sat on my knees inside a shipwreck and watched them circle around me. Because they live so close to my home, these sharks are very special to me.
2. Great white shark
How can I have a list of top shark encounters without including the great white shark? I saw great whites on the Neptune Islands off South Australia. I was in the safety of a cage, but unlike other cage diving experiences, there was an interesting twist. Instead of using chum and bait to attract the sharks, the boat put speakers in the water and played music. I’m not kidding.
That said, even without the allure of bait, the sharks still came, and they did not touch the cage at all. Not even when I banged a metal weight against the cage in a bid to attract their attention. Without the temptation of food, the natural behavior of these sharks is not aggression.
That said, the atmosphere was a bit spooky. I’d see one shark in plain sight, and then, I’d glance down and see two more prowling in the depths below. It made me very thankful to be in the cage. When I was younger, I wanted to dive with great whites without a cage. After this experience, I changed my mind. I love great whites, but I’m not going to assume they love me back.
Now, you may wonder why I put great whites at number 2. Well, that’s because number one is even crazier.
1. Bull shark
In my number one shark encounter, I went scuba diving with bull sharks in Pacific Harbor, Fiji. This was, by far, my most incredible (and frightening) shark encounter. Bull sharks are often considered the most dangerous of all sharks because they are extremely territorial, regularly enter shallow water, and can swim thousands of miles up rivers. So, with that in mind, the stakes couldn’t have been higher.
At the dive site, the divers had set up an “arena” at about 30 meters (98 feet), where they feed bull sharks and six other shark species. Nothing gets the blood pumping quite like a pack of bull sharks zooming around you. There was even this one bull shark named Zoom, who was a real wild card. Zoom would literally zoom in and out of the arena and pass extremely close to you. Here, you can see Zoom making a couple close passes around me. I won’t lie; I was pretty freaked out.
What further solidified this as my top shark dive was the sheer number of shark species at this site. Not only did I encounter bull sharks, but I also encountered whitetip, blacktip and grey reef sharks, silvertip sharks, tawny nurse sharks, and sicklefin lemon sharks. That’s quite a shark roster right there. It’s been nearly ten years since that incredible experience, and I have yet to see than many shark species in one place. I’m very thankful I was able to dive in Pacific Harbor.
Sharks may not be mindless killing machines, but they are still wild, unpredictable animals that deserve our respect. I’d give a whole speech about how “In the ocean, we’re just visitors, blah, blah, blah”, but you’ve probably heard that a million times, so I’ll spare you the soliloquy.
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