Diving with bull sharks – a good or a bad thing

bull sharks-absolute-adventure-mexico

Picture by Absolute Adventure Mexico

Bull sharks cruise the shallow, warm waters of the world and have a bad reputation. A few years ago even I was worried about encountering such a predator in the tropical shorelines during a swim. However, I’ve become intrigued by the bull shark and the many other magnificent sharks. I’d like to meet them.

Diving with bull sharks

We’re in Playa del Carmen and this visit to Mexico is all about diving. Now as you might now from my previous post, we stayed here to do our IDC and unfortunately that didn’t happen. In the mean while though we got to learn about the many bull shark dives they have in the area and almost got a chance to join one. Sadly we didn’t get to do the bull shark dives, but I’m still curious if it’s actually a good thing we didn’t dive with them.

After the movie Jaws everyone got afraid of sharks. They had been stereotyped as aggressive animals who attack humans. Bull sh** – it’s not true. That was only put into your head because of the movie. This fact is becoming more and more known to many people. Especially in the world of divers. People get killed more by car accidents than by sharks. We’re not on their menu.

bull sharks-Alexander Safonov

Picture by Alexander Safonov

Pit bulls of the ocean

Bull sharks have an unusual ability and that is that they can survive in salt AND fresh water. They prefer the colder waters in tropical regions. From November to March the bull sharks come to Playa del Carmen to give birth. The water that time a year is a bit cooler and that makes these pit bulls of the ocean migrate to Playa del Carmen.

Divers have been encountering bull sharks frequently in Playa del Carmen, but not elsewhere in the world. A special dive you’d say as you’d expect an attack, but really, they’re just a bit curious and then leave you alone. Nowadays there are plenty of dive centers who organize these bull shark dives, some without bait, but most with bait. That’s where I sense a problem. If the sharks keep on being attracted to the shallower parts of Playa’s reefs by divers who hold bait in their hand, then the bulls might start to see hands as something that gives them food. People give them food. As they don’t have the best sight either, they might recognize a human being, but don’t see if its holding food or not. So, why not let’s just have a bite and find out?

bull sharks-Brian Goode

Feeding a bull shark – Picture by Brian Goode

I feel that feeding these big predators during dives eventually might get swimmers of snorkelers into danger. Sooner or later. I’m sure it gets you great underwater pictures of the sharks and it must be an amazing encounter, but still. The question remains if it is okay to dive with them with or without bait. I have seen white tip reef sharks and black tip reed sharks a few meters away from me during my dives, but nobody was ever feeding them before. The bulls are being fed and I still wonder how big of a difference they can make between divers and a snack, having such bad sight.

Have you ever been diving with sharks? What about bull sharks? Do you think feeding is bad? Would you dive with them? What about if you’d suddenly encounter a shark during a “normal” dive?

bull sharks-Albert Kok

Bull sharks in the Bahamas near the beach – Picture by Albert Kok

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Ever since I left my home country I felt at home at any other place I went to. I enjoy getting to know more cultures by talking to strangers and hearing their philosophy about life. Speaking with gestures when you can not find a shared language, finding places only the locals go to and learn about their customs and values. Hanging out with local people makes me happy. The experience of every new place is a step out of your comfort zone where I like to wander around until it feels like a second home.

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