Safe diving with tiger sharks

Safe Diving with Tigers - Article for Ultimate Depth Magazine

My name is Petr Britanov and I work as an instructor and safety diver in the far south of the Maldives, on the island of Fuvahmulah. This is far from civilized countries, a lonely island of volcanic origin in the equatorial zone of the Indian Ocean.

Here we dive with tiger sharks and provide safety for both scuba divers and freedivers. Not so long ago in the diving world, in countries where they do commercial dives with potentially dangerous sharks, they began to practice dives to these predators without cages. In some places, to ensure the safety of divers, so-called sticks are used - metal sticks that are given to each participant before diving.

Proponents of this technique believe that the stick creates a barrier, a kind of indicator for the shark that it will not be able to swallow so large object, it should appear to her like that when the diver holds it in an upright position. It also gives for safety divers a false illusion that in direct control of the dive a the guests are safe. As seen in this image by underwater photographer Anatoly Beloshchin, a tiger shark easily get the stick out of the diver's hands. The picture clearly shows that this does not stop curious sharks. Moreover, the stick shines in the sun, which is create curiosity of striped predators. Of course, there is nothing terrible in this, professional underwater photographic equipment in the hands of a diver attracts no less, and this can be considered a plus if you want to take a close-up photo of a shark.

Then what can stop them? Eye contact with the predator plays an important role. The shark will not launch an attack if it makes eye contact with a potential enemy - the object of its curiosity. Self-control is also very important, you must breathe calmly and maintain an even heartbeat. In the nasal and lateral parts of the shark's head are the ampullae of Lorenzini - a powerful sensory apparatus that gives it information about the size of the object, its heart rate and distance to it. Sharks are not bloodthirsty, as they like to be shown in tabloids and Hollywood horror films. People are not included in the diet of sharks, it was formed hundreds of millions of years ago, when there were no people in sight. However, do not forget that these are powerful predators, and they can cause serious damage if safety precautions are not observed in their presence. Only calmness and clear eye contact! We convey all this and other useful information at our briefings, when we prepare guests for diving with these predators. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, there is never a 100% certainty that all the information necessary for security has been fully assimilated. People are people, you can not write off the human factor. That is why it is so important that the teamwork of the safety and divers is flawlessly debugged.

Diving time with tiger sharks is limited by the schedule coordinated with other diving centers. Since the tiger point \ tiger point (it’s hard to call this place a zoo) is located directly under the entrance to the harbor, we start and end dives 15-20 meters from the position we need. Due to its location, diving conditions can be safely equated with conditions with an overhead environment. We cannot dive and surface directly on this site. There is quite heavy shipping here and it is not safe to float directly over this place.

One of the safety guides dives first to check the current and conduct a reconnaissance to select the correct position on the bottom. In choosing a place, visibility under water plays a major role. All this gives us an understanding of where to seat a group of divers, where to give a sign to the captain of the dive boat to dump fish and under what stones to hide some of the tuna heads to make this dive as spectacular as possible. After all, it is entertainment that annually attracts hundreds and thousands of photographers and videographers from all over the world! Don't forget divers' safety, it's our number one priority! After reconnaissance, in an organized group we dive to 5-8 meters and follow to the seating place, which is chosen by one of the guides. We then seat the divers in a line, practically shoulder to shoulder, surrounding the group and providing front and back control. As mentioned earlier, we cannot be 100% sure that the briefing was equally understood by all participants in the dive. Many divers, and especially creative individuals such as photographers and videographers, can easily be distracted by a small colorful fish or moray eel, or get stuck on the settings of the equipment.

Some female tiger sharks, most of which we can identify, can be quite intrusive at times and get too close, especially if they see a diver distracted by a fish or a photographer busy setting up their camera. In such cases, and this happens very rarely, we redirect the sharks with our hands, without doing them any physical damage, in contrast to the poking with sticks used by their supporters. No matter how naive it may sound, I am completely sure that sharks need to be felt, respected and in no case should they be given even the slightest discomfort!

Private diving is, of course, much more interesting. With one or two guests, we can get much closer to the sharks while still keeping our divers and sharks safe. We also organize freediving with tiger sharks. Recently, the world record holder, Russian Igor Azhikin, came to us with his group. These were the brightest emotions and impressions, but I will tell about this some other time.

What I would like to say in the end, fly to our wonderful island - Fuvahmulah, for a close and safe acquaintance with tiger sharks and other large pelagic animals.

Our crew of tigersharkprofi can organize and accommodate comfortable and safe diving for groups of up to forty people. We have two diving boats, two pickups for transfers, a cozy diving center with a sufficient number of compressors, cylinders and other equipment. But the main thing is a sensitive and friendly staff who love their work and do everything possible to make our guests satisfied! Come! We will warmly welcome you regardless of the season!