The most anticipated activity by any volunteer has got to be the reef shark dive. It’s one of the few times at the Bimini Biological Field Station that we’re not trying to catch and tag every single shark we can see, just observing their unadulterated beauty. I consider that day to be one of the most amazing days of my life.
Upon arrival at Turtle Rocks, all the volunteers jumped into the water wearing fins, snorkel, and a mask and lined up along a line floating parallel to the stern of the boat. When everyone was in place, a staff member on the boats chummed the water. Any reef sharks in the area immediately raced over to fill their bellies, causing a feeding frenzy just a few meters in front of our eager faces. My mother was more than a bit concerned when she saw the footage I took! After the chum was gone and the frenzy was over, the sharks settled down enough to take a slight curiosity in us. As we swam around these sentient beings, there was no level of fear in anyone’s faces, just pure adoration for the amazing creatures that could take off a limb in one bite. But of course, they wouldn’t. They had their fill of fish and professed no interest in our foreign shapes other than the occasional swim by. The water was once again calm as we became invasive spectators in the shark’s natural habitat.
That was my first close encounter with a mature shark in the water. I had held baby lemons and grabbed the fin of a juvenile tiger shark, but being at eye level with a shark as long as I am tall was a brand-new experience for me. I saw the white of the sharks’ eyes as they passed by me, sizing me up as I did to him. As one of them swam by, I could see a hook stuck in its mouth, just like a movie.
Eventually, the sharks became disinterested in the twelve snorkelers surrounding them. We became more of a nuisance than a novelty as we shoved underwater cameras in their faces. We were called back to the boat all too soon, but the smile on my face stayed for the rest of the day!
Caribbean Reef Sharks - Photo by Chelle Blais