From the time I learned how to read I was a book worm. My aunt would pick me up and take me to Barnes and Nobles and buy me stacks of books. Anything I wanted. Late at night my mom would come in my room and yell at me to go to sleep because I was reading. At that point I started to read by flash light underneath the covers. My choices weren’t exactly indicative to a young girls reading style – fairy tales, and happy fluff. Instead I had dozens of books on dinosaurs, animals, and underwater encyclopedias that I poured over endlessly.
Once, when I was 7, my parents and I were driving over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and I pointed out some dolphins and proceeded to comment that they are the only animals that have sex for fun besides humans and a couple species of monkeys. My mom almost choked, but I just continued reciting my knowledge of dolphins.
Fast forward quite a few years later where my underwater obsession inspired my love of diving, and more specifically my fascination with sharks.
A few years ago I dragged my husband down to Roatán, Honduras. Never mind Honduras had been the #1 murder capital of the world for years, I couldn’t be bothered with that, I had to dive the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS), and of course the shark dive.
Cara Cara is Spanish for “face to face”, also the name of the dive site we traveled to encounter, cage free, a group of Caribbean Reef Sharks. Cara Cara is off the coast of Roatán, one of the Bay Islands of Honduras. It is a paradise full of clear waters, swaying palm trees and feasts of fresh seafood. When we arrived we had a 30 minute brief on the dive before we went to test our equipment and hop on a little boat.
Let me take a minute on the boat. This boat is the type of boat that will get you thinking “will I make it to the dive site”? “How far out is the dive site, is it close enough for me to be able to swim back”? I have yet to experience a luxury dive adventure. Being greeted with champagne while boarding a fifty foot yacht is to travel to a shark dive hasn’t happened yet. I obviously need to buy a boat. The point is – if this is your idea of a vacation, then shark diving may not be your cup of tea.
We boarded the rickety boat and glided through the warm Caribbean waters. The sea spraying our faces so we could taste the salt in the water. While gearing up I quickly glance at the others, some had looks of terror, while others were stoically getting ready. My husband however was beaming from ear to ear. He had a look of a wild boy about to engage in trouble. As I started to chuckle the dive master started telling us to offload into the water and follow the line down. I climbed up to sit on the edge, and just fell back.
Once in the water I double checked my equipment, like always, and located the line – Matt was already half way down. Unlike other shark dives I didn’t see them immediately, it wasn’t until I hit 50 feet they came in to view. About 8 at first, with more moving into the surroundings. As I settled on to the embankment at 70ft down I took in the sight of these apex predators ranging from 6 – 10 ft long. They drifted effortlessly in font of us, watching us, studying us.
What most people may not realize is that sharks are intelligent, and smart creatures are curious. So when you dive with sharks they observe you as you observe them. I should point out that this particular dive is not chummed. These sharks have familiarized themselves with the sound of the boats and swim to the site. They know an easy snack is coming. Even though it isn’t chummed, they do bring a bucket of fresh fish for the sharks to dine on.
The dive mastered floated out among the sharks and gave the indication that we could move from our spot and swim with the inquisitive giants. The current can be strong in this area so some dives you aren’t allowed to move from the flat plateau due to safety. As I started to slowly move into the fray a movement occurred near my right ear. One had skated overhead with its fin missing my ear by centimeters. And so it was for another five minutes or so, a slow intimate ballet between sharks and divers. Once everyone settled back on to the embankment the sharks were given the buckets of fish and the frenzy ensued of sharks, grouper, and jacks. Even some angel fish moved in and out of the excitement.
With the feast over the sharks again descended into the warm depths of the Caribbean as we ascended back to our reality on land.
*All Photos in this post were taken with a GoPro Hero 2*