OF THE PACIFIC AND INDIAN OCEANS
Top Sharks Encounters by Various Authors
Sharks were once considered mindless eating machines and a real menace to people. Time has disproved these theories. Now people travel the world to dive with and photograph sharks. It is always an exhilarating and, usually, an enlightening experience. New things are being learned about sharks every day. And, we have realized it is not sharks that threaten humans but we who threaten sharks' very existence. What follows are the top shark encounters of the Pacific and the Indian Oceans; ten articles on ten areas by nine authors. We asked for classic dives on classic sites. Read on to find out what these are off California, Mexico, Costa Rica, Tahiti, Fiji, the Solomons, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Australia and Thailand.
Our Zodiac inflatable slowed to an idle and, when our French dive instructor gave the signal, we rolled effortlessly backward off the rubbery gunwale. The water was deliciously warm and crystal clear.
I was astounded by the underwater visibility! It was easily 200 feet-an awesome sight for a first dive. This was the legendary Tahiti of which I had always dreamed.
We made a casual falling leaf descent, floating with the incoming current. With such visibility, I could not help comparing the experience to my skydiving adventure. It was freefall in slow motion.
At first, I did not see them, but as my eyes adjusted to the increasingly dim lighting conditions, I began to see a number of sharks swimming along with us. They were on both sides, ahead of us, below us, in back of us and above us. We were actually immersed in a school of Gray Reef Sharks. We could see (and count) more than 200 sharks spread across Tiputa Pass, Rangiroa's best shark diving location.
It took all the control I could muster to refrain from shooting the entire roll of film during the descent. Each shark was an exquisite form that begged for a photo session. I kept telling myself, not yet, not yet. Our photo shoot was still below and ahead of us.
At 110 feet we reached our destination, a small coral cave embedded in the slope on the north side of Tiputa Pass. The three of us slipped inside the small cave and kneeled on the sandy floor. From the cave entrance, the view was awesome.
Gray Reef Sharks began gathering in great numbers, swimming faster and packing close together. It was as if someone had rung a silent dinner bell. Our presence in the cave was the sharks' signal that lunch was about to be served.
Our dive guide opened the food bucket and the dance began. Sharks began snapping up the bits of fish chunks, out maneuvering each other and occasionally colliding. For two minutes, it was a magnificent ballet as the sharks executed acrobatic twists and turns, rolls and loops. Then it was over. The food was gone and the sharks were once again swimming serenely, almost ignoring our presence.
We left the protection of our small cave and continued to drift with the incoming tide, while dozens of sharks coasted along with us. During the drift and safety stop, I couldn't help noticing how well man and sharks co-exist when each knows what the other wants-Geri Murphy.