Swimming With Bulls: Shark Diving In Fiji
By Matthew Karsten Date: 23 January 2017 Location: Beqa Island, Fiji Accommodation: Uprising Beach Resort Company: Beqa Adventure Divers Cost: $158 US (2 tank dive trip) Useful Notes: We saw Bulls, White Tips, Black Tips, Greys, and Nurses shark diving Fiji. At the right time of year, massive 15 foot Tiger Sharks can also be seen. Shark diving without a cage. Sounds insane, right? That’s what I thought too. Turns out sharks aren’t the terrifying monsters we think they are. For millions of years sharks have slowly evolved into nature’s most deadly assassins. Lethal eating machines with razor sharp teeth, lightning-quick speed, and an unquenchable thirst for human blood! (Ok, I made that last part up.) But we’ve all seen the movie “Jaws” — and Hollywood doesn’t lie. It’s why thousands of people around the world suffer from Selachophobia. Fear of sharks. But who can blame them? Why on earth would any rational person swim in the ocean not knowing what man-eating creatures may lurk beneath the waves? As for those who purposefully seek out the company of sharks — they clearly have a death wish. Seeking The Company Of Sharks As an adrenaline junkie, my tolerance level these days is high. Luckily Fiji delivered the goods. They have a Shark Reef Marine Reserve located off the coast of the island of Beqa, where you can go swimming with up to 8 species of shark. To help finance shark research and compensate local villagers for their lost fishing grounds, Beqa Adventure Divers offers scuba diving trips into the marine reserve’s shark-infested waters. They let you get face-to-face with these underwater killers. Killers of fish that is. Because shark attacks on humans around the world are exceedingly rare — despite popular belief to the contrary. Shark Attack Odds Let’s look at some examples. How likely is a shark attack in the United States? Odds are greater that one of these will happen to you first: • You will die from a dog attack. • You will die from a lightning strike. • You will get killed by bees or wasps. • You will be executed for a crime. • You will be bitten by a human. • You will die falling down in your home. • Dick Cheney will shoot you on a hunting trip. As for actual death by shark attack, that’s even rarer. Like 1 in 3,748,067 to be exact. You are more likely to die while digging a sand hole on the beach. So stop digging those stupid things. They’re dangerous! My First Shark Dive Knowing these statistics made it a bit easier to join the professionals at Beqa Adventure for my first ever shark dive. They’ve been doing this for over 10 years with no problems. I’ve been scuba diving in caves before, but diving with large Bull and possibly Tiger sharks was a big deal. These massive animals can grow 8 to 15 feet long and weigh hundreds of pounds. Both have a history (however rare) of attacks on humans. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t nervous to dive with them. But, as I’ve learned over & over again on my travels, breaking out of your comfort zone is a healthy thing to do. So down I went down below to meet these toothy phobia-inducing creatures in person. Shark Diving Fiji It was time to suit up and hop off the boat for a 100 foot descent into the ocean. Once at the bottom, local Fijian dive masters positioned us on top of a coral wall, looking down into a sandy pit. Then the feeding began. There was no turning back now! Two divers pull fish parts from plastic containers attracting a gigantic whirling mass of Jacks, Snappers, and other reef fish. It wasn’t long before the sharks appeared to get in on the action. First it was Nurses, Black Tips, and Grey Reef sharks. At 4 to 6 feet long, they were impressive enough. But then came the Bulls. Ten foot 400 pounders with menacing teeth. Most of the big guys kept their distance from us, but just watching their huge forms maneuver through the water was an awe-inspiring sight. After about 17 minutes of sharky fun, we ascended to a depth of 30 feet to continue the spectacle of motion. Black Tips, White Tips, Grey Reefs, and Nurses swam just a foot or two away from my face among hundreds of colorful red, blue, and yellow reef fish. Our dive masters used aluminum poles to keep some overly excited sharks from getting too close. Shark Feeding Controversy Now if you didn’t already know, feeding sharks like this is a bit controversial. Some say that it trains them to associate humans with food, increasing the odds of an attack. Yet there is zero hard proof of this yet. It’s only speculation. These diving trips pour much needed money into shark conservation & research projects. Without that money, shark populations around the world will continue to rapidly decline. If dive operators don’t pay to help save the sharks, who will? You? The government? That’s wishful thinking in my opinion. It won’t happen. The ONLY reason marine life is protected at Fiji’s Shark Reserve is because of the money flowing in from these dive trips. Beqa Adventure Divers teamed up with local villages to ban all fishing here in 2004. The result? A once dying reef is thriving and full of life again. After over 10 years of feeding sharks here, attacks in Fiji are still just as rare as anywhere else. Averaging 1-2 a year. It’s important to keep in mind that swimming with sharks is probably a bit more dangerous than watching them on the Discovery Channel. But don’t fall for all the media sensationalism. Math doesn’t lie. The odds are in your favor. These beautiful and powerful creatures are better seen in person anyway.