As we recount our shark diving experience in Hawaii, we're met with a range of reactions from our listeners.
We've heard everything from, "that's so freaking cool" to "you're crazy, I would never do that!" I can understand people's confusion as to WHY we would intentionally drop ourselves in the water with sharks. Media has done a fantastic job at stimulating our fear around them. Even I admit that the night before the dive, I had flashes of scenes from JAWS.
A week before we flew to Oahu, I booked a morning tour with Islandview Hawaii. With plenty of companies to choose from, I connected with Islandview's mission to help people gain a deeper understanding of sharks and dispose of the fears we hold against them.
At 8 am on dive day, we boarded the boat with our captain, dive escort, and 4 other people. After reviewing safety instructions and what to expect, we ventured outside the harbor about three miles off the coast of Haleiwa. One by one we quietly slipped off the boat and into the ocean. As soon as I put my face down into the water, I saw a group swimming near the boat. I was expecting my first encounter with a shark to be semi-alarming but seeing how graceful they moved only made me want to get closer.
"Be aware of your energy. The sharks can feel it."
This was the advice given at the beginning of the tour. Act how you want the animal to act. Stay calm, slow down your breathing, and hold your ground. We spent the next 45 minutes surrounded by sandbar and hammerhead sharks. Some would curiously approach until they were an arm's length away. Others would swim in circles below, giving the impression they weren't actually that interested in us. I felt peacefully content and humbled to be allowed to observe them in their home.
Interesting facts about sharks
- There are over 450 known species of sharks in the world. 40 of those species inhabit Hawaii and the surrounding islands.
- Research has revealed that the existence of sharks dates back more than 400 million years.
- Sharks mature slowly and reach reproductive age anywhere from 12-15 years old. Soon after birth, shark pups swim away and fend for themselves as they are able to live and feed on their own.
- The average shark has 40-45 teeth and can have up to seven rows of replacement teeth. Sharks lose a lot of teeth and grow them back quickly, they often go through more than 30,000 teeth in a lifetime.
- People are sharks deadliest predators. Humans kill more than 1 million sharks each year.
Sadly, human apathy and fishing (usually for their valuable fins) are the biggest threat facing conservation right now. Sharks are apex predators, meaning they regulate the population of species below them in the food chain. The loss of these predators can cause cascading changes in the ecosystem that flow all the way down to marine plants. If you're interested in learning more about sharks and conservation, check out these websites!
**All photos were taken from Islandview Hawaii crew.