Recently, I found myself in the open ocean with sharks, by choice. As part of a quest to find non-touristy things to do on Oahu, I was on the North Shore participating in a pelagic shark snorkel with marine biologists and shark conservationists at One Ocean Diving.
I was the first in my group to head into the water and threw myself in, similar to what I imagine it’s like jumping out of a plane to skydive. I didn’t know what to expect when I dove under the surface, and I had a “What the **** am I doing?” moment. Within seconds, I spotted at least five sharks circling under the boat, but when they didn’t instantly swim up to me, I quickly calmed down.
I then processed everything I had just learned with Ocean Ramsey, an internationally known shark biologist, researcher, and conservationist. The most important thing to remember is to make yourself look like an equal predator and not weak prey. This means swimming with your arms close to your body, swimming and diving streamlined (as opposed to flailing around), and constantly maintaining eye contact.
Swimming with sharks was eerily calming. It’s easy to feel threatened or scared of sharks based on movies and other media, but in reality, sharks kill about 10 humans per year, whereas humans annually kill more than 100 million sharks. According to Ocean Ramsey, “Sharks go to a bite for the last resort. They are smart and don’t want to get injured themselves so they try to warn their peers by saying ‘I don’t want you here get out of my space’ with their body language first. If you see a shark drop its pectoral fins, pop its gills, or open its mouth, it is a good idea to remove yourself from their area.”
The experience was humbling, educational, and completely changed my perspective of sharks.
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