We have two dive sites which consist of a wall dive and then a shallower pinnacle dive on which we see, encounter and interact with sharks, Shark Tease/Thick Finger reef & The Christmas Tree wall and Christmas Tree pinnacle dive sites. Having no formal training with sharks and wanting to insure our divers have the best possible and safest encounter with sharks at these sites I attended Dr. Erich Ritter’s Shark School. A five day class and diving/snorkeling experience designed to introduce and understand shark-human interaction.
After morning class it is off to Spiro Canyon for an extended one tank dive, where we encounter 6-7 sharks on a daily basis. Then off to Shark Beach, a shallow area (too deep to stand up) where Dr. Ritter does a lot of his observation and shark experiments. Shark beach is the area where the sharks are fed while the divers are in the water in groups of 3 or 4 with snorkel, mask and fins; you encounter up to 13 sharks at a time, consisting of Caribbean reef, black tips and nurse sharks. During both periods in the water the purpose is to do an assessment of the sharks intentions. Such as what type of approach, from what reference, the direction, appearance/attitude of the shark, size of the sharks inter circle and so forth. As Dr. Ritter says, “there are no dangerous sharks, only dangerous situations”. Having an understanding of shark behavior can go a long way to reducing or elimination of “shark attacks”.
On day one at Shark beach, the divers hold onto the boat and Barry, PADI instructor and Erich’s assistant, throws the food about 5-6 feet from the divers. Of course the sharks come close to the divers just checking to see if the divers are going to offer food.
This is day 4, when the “simulated carcass feeding” (aka the chumsicle, a popsicle for sharks) is lowered into the water and anchored on the sea floor. As the chumsicle thaws the sharks feed on the chum allowing for a more natural feeding hierarchy, which is important in shark feeding.
Here is a video summarizing of the activity of day one, plus a clip of the 2 hour boat ride from Freeport to Grand Cay, please don’t try this without proper training; “Incidents do not just happen. Every accident is provoked by humans, whereas the person does not have to be aware of the triggering factors”, Dr. Erich Ritter.
What a great experience, thanks to Erich and his tremendous experience and scientific research into shark behavior over the years. He is leading an effort to Save the Sharks, and at Ocean Fox Cotton Bay we support his efforts and will do our part by adding shark education to our diving program for the benefit of our guests and do our part to help save the sharks.