Sidebar - Five things you shouldn't do when feeding sharks
cutline - food falling out of shark's mouth at St Maarten's underwater feeding. Photo by Stephen Weir
5 things to avoid doing during a shark dive and their consequences if you do
1. Don’t pet the sharks.
They may nip at your hand thinking you are another shark trying to steal their food. Because of the sharp nature of those teeth, even a small nip requires immediate medical attention. If still have to stroke a shark, wear gloves, their skin is sandpaper rough.
2. Don’t pick up discarded meat and hand feed the sharks yourself.
Sharks rip, they don’t chew. When the meat is grabbed the shark will immediately shake its head back and forth with enough force to dislocate you shoulder (if you don’t let go).
3. Don’t point! These sharks aren’t interested in you, but, if you offer finger food ….
If you aren’t holding a camera, and hanging on to a cement block the experts advise you to put your hands under your armpits.
4. Don’t use an external power source for your underwater flash.
Sharks are very sensitive to electronic noise. The sound of a flash recharging can attract the unwanted attention of a shark (from personal experience, while in Florida my cameraman’s underwater housing was constant being bitten by angry sharks). Best is to use an underwater digital video camera with the light constantly on.
5. Don’t leave the dive until the food has gone.
The shark dives are usually held on a sand bottom. Both the fish and the spectators get rather excited during the feed and as a result the water gets very murky, what with the dust and the fish bits. It is hard to see and you don’t want to block their way to the buffet table! Always make sure you can see who has come to dinner before you decide to leave the dining area.
Diving in St Maartens by Stephen Weir
Published in Diver Magazine and the National Post Newspaper