10 WAYS TO AVOID A SHARK ATTACK
Statistically, you have a far greater chance of being
injured while driving to the dive site than when you're
bobbing around in the water surrounded by hungry sharks.
However, it doesn't hurt to learn some basic shark diving
etiquette in order to minimize the risks.
RULE #1 BLACK
attracted to bright colors. Most sharks are fish eaters and
fish tend to be silvery, yellow or a variety of other
iridescent colors. Fortunately, modern wetsuit makers favor
black neoprene but fin, snorkel and mask manufacturers
delight in making
brightly hued accessories. Although you may look great in pink
fins, think like a ninja if you're attending a
The same principle applies to exposed skin.
Wear dark gloves to help the sharks distinguish between your
hands and the bait.
RULE #2 GET AWAY FROM THE SURFACE
If you're attending an organized shark feed,
the sharks will likely hear the boat arriving and start
circling long before the divers enter the water. In this
case, its important to get underwater as soon as possible.
Objects floating at the surface tend to be
either sick or dead animals or debris that host small
fishes. All of these attract the attention of sharks.
If you have to stay on the surface, keep your
head underwater at all times so that you can see what is approaching you from below.
RULE #3 AVOID
SHARK DIVING AT DUSK
Although shark diving operators entice sharks
to feed during the day, many sharks naturally start hunting
at dusk. Once the sun begins to sink towards the horizon
many species become more alert and agitated as they prepare
for their nightly hunt. Shark attacks are far more likely at
this time so its a good idea to get out of the water at
least an hour
RULE #4 WATCH FOR WARNING SIGNS
Not all sharks give warnings before they
attack but some do. Watch for agitated behavior in the form
of fast bursts of speed, jerky movements, lowered pectoral
fins and exaggerated side-to-side head movements. These all
indicate that a shark is feeling stressed. If you encounter
this no matter how subtle it may seem, slowly back away and
stop doing any activity that may make the shark feel
RULE #5 BECOME ONE WITH THE
Sharks respond to movement so it is a good
idea to remain as still as possible.
Most shark feeds take place on the sea floor.
Divers descend with a little more weight than they would
normally wear so that they can kneel comfortably on the sand
without bobbing around in the current or surge. Even better
than sitting on the sand is to put your back against the
reef but make sure you are not damaging any corals in the
In blue water feeds such as when chumming for
oceanic whitetip sharks
at Andros Island in the Bahamas, the seabed may
be more than 1000m below you. In this case, it is important to
maintain neutral buoyancy. Invariably, the diver that
descends deepest, gets the most attention from the attending
MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT
White sharks, tiger sharks and many types of
reef sharks hunt by sneaking up on their chosen prey. They
will often only attack if they have the advantage of
surprise so if you make it clear that you can see the sharks
around you, you have less chance that they will think of you
as potential prey.
RULE #7 NEVER CORNER A SHARK
If you see a shark in a cave or swimming
close to a reef wall, avoid blocking its exit. A shark
attack can take place simply because a shark is trying to
escape but has nowhere to go except through the diver.
RULE #8 AVOID
Diving in turbid water is asking for trouble.
Not only is it harder to keep an eye on where the sharks
are, they may have trouble differentiating between you and
the food if their vision is obscured.
RULE #9 BRING A BIG STICK
BUT DON'T USE IT
During a shark feed, its quite normal for the
attending sharks to approach all of the divers to see if
they have any food. More often than not, they pass
nonchalantly by but sometimes they give divers a little bump
with their noses to see what get dislodged or just to see
what we're all about - think of it as an exploratory prod
from an animal that has no fingers.
If you are uncomfortable with this level of contact, bring along a
short length of PVC pipe (or better still a big camera) and
hold it in the direction of the shark as it approaches. This
is usually enough of an incentive to make the shark turn
long before it makes contact.
Never jab the shark with the pole as this
could cause an aggressive response.
RULE #10 DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME
It may be tempting to throw a bag of chum in
your boat and head out to sea on your own but without proper
training and experience this is asking for trouble.
Attracting sharks that are not used to being fed is more
dangerous because they will be extremely unpredictable.
Always go shark diving with a reputable,
experienced operator. Each encounter is different, with its
own unique variables and potential risks. Rather than
learning the hard way, join a trip with a company that has a
track record of safe encounters.
Author: Andy Murch
Andy is a professional big animal photographer
and the founder of
Over the last two decades Andy has
photographed more species of sharks than virtually anyone
alive. His passion for sharks and their survival has led him
to create the
shark and ray field guide and