The Bat Islands (Islas Murcielagos) were, are and will always be THE highlight for our experienced divers! Just yesterday a small group of divers have stood the experience again...
After an ugly month of September with wind, waves and low visibility, we were already afraid that the Bats season had ended for this year. But no! All of October has blessed us with nice, sunny weather and a calm sea with a nice breeze, so we went again on Monday, October 11th!
The dive site "Big Scare" has honored its name from the beginning of the dive. Reasonable or not, whatever went through the diver's minds, they did come close, very close! But besides a shiver in the back and an increased heart-beat, nothing happened, just pure enjoyment all along the dive accompanied with several Manta sightings to enhance the experience!
Bull Sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) are known to be one of the most dangerous sharks in the world with similar opportunist behavior like Tiger Sharks. They have a very wide menu, including fresh-water fish that they catch at river mouths or even hundreds of miles up fresh water streams. This indeed makes them to one of the most efficient predators in the Seas. Even if humans enter the size of their preys, they do not mean to neither hunt nor eat us!
Today it's very well known that one might get hurt or even killed by much weirder things like lightnings, coco nuts or your hair-dryer! Nevertheless, never lose your respect to the sharks and follow the general rules for shark-diving:
Stay calm and enjoy! Sharks are very sensible animals and will know exactly how you feel, if you're comfortable, they are!
Do not approach or worse, try to touch them or have any other physical contact! Even if you'll probably just chase them away with such behavior and lose the experience, they might change their mind and answer the threat with defense just as any other animal. Let them check you out instead, keeping the first rule in mind.
Do not feed sharks! It might change their behavior and associate divers with food...There are many places where it can be guaranteed to see sharks without any need to attract them with feeding practices. Do you really have to prove how tough a guy you are?
Stay grouped with your bodies! Rather than a bunch of snacks, you will appear as a large, single organism which is rather "frightening" the shark.
Keep an eye on the shark! Some people say they don't like to be watched straight at their face, however, make sure you know where it is / they are to adapt to their behavior.
Know about their behavior! Take some distance when a shark appears to be excited or agitated until it calms down. This expresses - but not only - by: quick, jerky movements; pectoral fins held stiffly downwards; abrupt change of swimming style; muscular tension and S-shaped body. Being charged (accelerated swim towards the diver) and being bumped into are imminent signs of an "attack" (defense). Sharks are supposed to behave just like divers with calm and slow, wide movements. If this is not the case, consider to end the dive. Surface as usual (slow with safety stop) and remain calm on the surface until you exit.
Avoid circumstances that can make a shark bite you! There are 3 reasons why a shark might actually attack a human: By mistake, by curiosity and by territorial behavior or defense. As a diver you are unlikely to be miss-taken as a prey, you'll rather appear as a healthy fish (if you dive as you've learned it) that further more makes a rather scary noise with your bubbles (and which make you appear even bigger in the shark's perception of things). Surfers alike and swimmers are more likely to confuse a shark who might consider them as a turtle, a seal or a distressed animal. Divers can attract the attention of a shark (or scare him away, but don't take a chance on that) with irregular noises that they cannot identify such as flicking of a camera, flashlights, cracking pet bottles, free flowing regulator, shakers, irregular breathing and those provoked by jerky movements. Simply avoid these! The shark's behavior will tell you when you get too close and when he gets stressed, keep in mind the previous rule and observe!
And last but not least, don't "pi" in your suit! Studies have shown that surfers who do, are more likely to be bit...well, whatever, just don't, remember that we'll have to clean them ;-D!
This is the real "last but not least": Remember that sharks accidentally kill a handful of humans while humans kill around 100'000'000 (one hundred million) sharks a year, many of them "accidentally" because we are not smart enough to improve our fishing techniques but the majority for their fins (which are culinarily tasteless and scientifically unhealthy for us). Knowing this statistic, how can we not stop this? Who's the bad guy here?