Shark School with Dr. Erich Ritter at Oceanfox

How to interact with & understand shark behavior

Properly understanding each shark situation and being able to interpret the shark’s actions makes every shark encounter an absolutely fascinating and safe experience. After more than 20 years of scientific study and field work with sharks in their natural habitat, Dr. Erich Ritter was able to determine the factors depicting dangerous situations. From this he deduced an easy-to-learn Shark-Human Interaction concept that allows each diver, snorkeler or swimmer to have a safe and fascinating interaction any time the in the presence of sharks.

Tiger Beach

Shark School - the organization

In 1996, ”Green Marine" (Global Green Marine, Inc.) established the SharkSchool™ in Miami, Florida. SharkSchool™’s main purpose is to bring humans closer to sharks, focusing on how to interact with these animals while emphasizing their crucial position and importance in the marine realm. SharkSchool™ is run by Dr. Erich K. Ritter Ph.D., a shark behaviorist and avid conservationist. His teachings are largely based on his research in shark-human interaction where he examines factors that affect this relationship. He further analyzes incidents with sharks–erroneously labeled as ‘shark attacks’–and also recreates these scenarios to better understand the all too often misinterpreted incidents.

Diving and swimming with sharks

Challenge yourself by encountering these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat, knowing that sharks are top marine predators and physically far superior to humans. Once you have learned to interpret shark behavior,  you’ll put your own fear / anxiety aside and be comfortable with sharks.  In addition, you'll be able to enjoy the entire encounter and to act accordingly and to respond on the basis of scientific knowledge learned, rather than on the basis of presumptions and fear. In this way, your shark encounters are pleasant, incredibly fascinating and safe.

The scientific side of the shark-human interaction

Shark behavior / communication with sharks

Dr. Erich Ritter has specialized in the study of shark behavior. Shark accidents happen in dangerous situations which are knowingly, or unknowingly caused by the actions of third parties. To collect complete and reliable Possible Shark Encounter situations is an integral part of every workshop. Therefore, Dr. Ritter has developed the world's first and only shark-human interaction concept. It is ADORE-SANE and helps even shark-inexperienced people to take all the factors encountered in a situation and to quantify the situation (ADORE the shark; SANE the person in the water). In addition, you will learn to assess factors that influence the sharks behavior and adjust accordingly.

Thanks to Dr. Ritter’s work, countless theories about the behavior of sharks have been exposed as untrue and outdated. Accordingly, it has been found that many inventions and mechanisms for shark-defense and common security recommendations in the case of shark encounters are useless and sometimes even counterproductive. From research, 5 basic rules have been developed in the event  you need to deal with a potential confrontation when a shark comes too close, FACE - GUIDE - PUSH - MOVE (- GILLS) .

 

What's ADORE-SANE?

Animals communicate in their special way when they interact with people. So, most everyone understands as the owner of a pet, what your pet is expressing with its special signals. Such signals may, for example, be the purring and rubbing around the legs with cats or the excited tail wagging of the dog.

With sharks, it is no different. Sharks send signals when they come in contact with people, but unfortunately until now only in extremely rare cases could we correctly interpret the sharks signals. Accordingly, it is not surprising that until   not too long ago we had no choice but to wait passively until the shark had lost interest in us and departed.

A few years ago Dr. Ritter, working in Walker's Cay, Bahamas, begin to analyze the body language of sharks. He tried to figure out what moves people made that would trigger a reaction in sharks and how these reactions could be interpreted. The aim of this research was to develop a method that would enable swimmers, snorkelers or divers to interact with sharks in order to approach the sharks without fear of danger, and to simply better understand the body language of the shark.

After developing this interaction concept in a concept phase, it was time to  test this in different circumstances and with different species of sharks. Accordingly, he traveled to the most remote places in order to check out all possible limits of this concept. He tested it on all potentially dangerous species, including the great white shark, with no cage or other protective measures. His interaction concept was named "ADORE-SANE", where each letter stands for a very specific term within the concept. "A" stands for “Attitude or Appearance", the attitude or demeanor of the shark. Here, for example, he paid attention to how the tail moves in relation to the speed or the stiffness, or as the angle of the pectoral fins is to the body. All of these observations have a very specific meaning in the body language of a shark. Accordingly, it is also with the letter "D". This stands for "Direction". It is important, at what angle a shark swims towards a human or a larger object. This of course relates to the attitude of the shark. And so it goes with all the other characters in this concept.

Each letter includes a complex set of concepts and helps to quickly analyze the situation in which one finds oneself with a shark and the ability to react appropriately. The concept can be viewed either from ADORE, or SANE. The first term refers to the shark, the second to the person observing or interacting.

Studies have shown that we humans are the real triggers and drivers of a situation, even if we do not do this intentionally. It is therefore important to realize how to behave and feel during an encounter with a shark. "S" stands for "Scenario" and covers the situation in which one finds oneself. This can go from "lost fin" or problems with the mask to a cut. Different situations have different effects on our psyche and our movements. This in turn triggers different reactions in a shark.

Often the situation is such that there is no time to play through all 9 points of the concept. Accordingly, we developed a short process that singles out only just the key points in order to react appropriately to a situation. This part of the concept was "QAI" called - Quick Assessment of Intention. This part only concerns the shark. One deals here with his posture, his spatial relation to the person and its swimming direction. The QAI gives a person a fast and relatively reliable picture of the current situation.

 

Do sharks of all types in all regions respond the same?

No. As for our own languages and dialects, the body language of sharks subject to change depending on the region. Some types of sharks exhibit the same behavioral pattern anywhere in comparable situations. But thresholds that trigger specific behaviors, can be higher or lower depending upon the region. ADORE-SANE is a dynamic concept that expands, but can also be changed and should not be seen as a rigid interpretation tool. Not least because the body language may vary from species regionally and varies from species to species.

 

Why is application of the concept important?

Sharks have a rather bad reputation in most media, perpetuated by many blood thirsty films shown in cinemas and on television for years resulting in myths or nonfactual concepts of sharks. The media report almost every shark accident, regardless of whether the shark in the accident was to blame or the person should be held accountable. In most cases, the behavior of the person involved in the attack is the main reason for the accident. Part of ADORE-SANE concept was to test such situations that had previously been considered dangerous and supposedly lead to a bite or attack. Reacting correctly can prevent, in most cases, an accident. But ADORE-SANE has another aspect. For people who are fearful of sharks, we want to provide a method  which will allow them to approach sharks without the fear of sharks and thus enjoy the shark - human interaction.

 

What is the future?

The ADORE-SANE concept should be learned by people who are occasionally or on a daily basis in and around the water and possibly faced with a shark encounter. Further, this concept can be refined and expanded as no two shark encounters are exactly the same. There are slightly different reactions in behavior for males, females, adults and juveniles of the same species. We have attempted to analyze as many of these small differences as possible to help the image of sharks by demonstrating that most accidents are avoidable and likely provoked by third parties.

Shark School Eleuthera, Bahamas

Shark School on the island of Eleuthera is held at the world renowned Cape Eleuthera Resort & Marina on the south end of the island of Eleuthera,  where Ocean Fox Cotton Bay’s scuba diving and deep sea fishing operation is located, from which it is a short 30 minute boat ride to the dive site and the shallow shark training area.

Frequently asked question about Shark School, logistics, accommodations, diving, communications, shopping and activities

Can I also participate, as a non-diver, in the course?
Yes, even non-divers are welcome. For the practical in the water training, after the scuba dive is completed, you typically spend 20-30 minutes each day in the water with the sharks in groups of 4, with mask, fins and snorkel, while the sharks are being fed from the boat. For this you need to be a good swimmer and comfortable with snorkeling. Language, the Ocean Fox Cotton Bay sponsored courses are taught in English. Dr. Ritter is fluent in English and German.

Can I apply what I have learned to sharks in other locations or other bodies of water?
Absolutely! The language of the sharks is a universal language! What you learn with us, can be applied to any situation, applied to  each shark.

I'm afraid of sharks. Will I overcome them?
For most participants, your fear of sharks disappears after no more than 2-3 days. You will learn the theory and then practice with the sharks daily and quickly see how unfounded was the fear.

I have no experience with sharks, I can still participate?
But of course! Our basic course is exciting for every person interested in sharks, regardless of your experience or qualifications with sharks. For certified divers, we do a one tank dive at the feeding site daily, where you will interact with the sharks based on the theoretical presentation made the day prior, then we do the practical in the water training while feeding the sharks.

When is the theoretical presentation?
Typically, we do 2 hours (with intermission) of theory presentation in the early evening from 3:00 PM. The start time may vary somewhat depending on the previous set of activities. The tutorials provide plenty of insight into the shark-human interaction and can be extended or more detail presented depending upon the group request. 

Can I complete my diving certification before the course at SharkSchool™?
If you arrive several days before, we can do your 4 open water certification dives, for PADI courses only, assuming we have 2 or more divers wanting to do the certification. Please let us know when booking!

Can I extend my stay at Cape Eleuthera Resort?
Yes, that is possible. Let us know how many days before or after the school you would like to stay and we can help with the reservation; as an option we recommend staying at Pineapple Fields in Governor’s Harbour before or after shark school, or we can provide some other recommendations.

Can I arrive early and go diving?
On your extended stay you can dive with Ocean Fox Cotton Bay, diving trips require a minimum of 5 divers with a maximum of 10 divers.

Is there a restaurant and bar at the Resort?
Yes they have a restaurant and bar at Cape Eleuthera Resort, High Pointe Restaurant right next to the pool and beach. You can also visit the settlement of Rock Sound and purchase what ever you need to drink or cook for meals, as there are full kitchens in the Condo’s at Cape Eleuthera.

Is there a post office on Eleuthera?
Yes there is a post office in Rock Sound, as well as several other settlements (thats what they call the small island towns).

How is the internet connection on the island?
All of the rooms at Cape Eleuthera have internet and phone as well as T.V.

Can I use my cell phone in the Bahamas?
Yes, provided you have a modern phone and the relevant roaming agreement with your provider. 

Can I pay by credit card in stores on Eleuthera?
The resort and restaurant take credit cards, as well at the Rock Sound Market. Master or Visa card., Also debit cards are not accepted. You can put your drinks and meals etc. on your room and settle everything when you check out. Most other stores only accept cash. Ocean Fox Cotton Bay can accept your credit card as well.

Does it have a safe in my room at Cape Eleuthera Resort?
Yes. Please know, however, that theft is rare.

What a Currency is common in the Bahamas?
The official currency in the Bahamas is the Bahamian dollar. The is in the ratio 1: 1 with the US dollar. Before your departure you can swap back your Bahamas Dollars in US Dollars with the office. 

Is there a bank or an ATM?
Yes in Rock Sound there is a bank and an ATM, there are also 2 banks with ATM’s located in Governor’s Harbour.

Are there stores for shopping?
Yes, however, by US standards, the stores are small. Please keep in mind that you have come to a small island, lots of beaches but not a lot of people.

How is the Resort?
The resort is 1st class, each Condo unit has complete kitchen, 2 bedrooms (one with a king bed and the other with 2 twins), 2 1/2 baths, living room with fold out sleeping couch, porch overlooking the harbor, swimming pool, several nice beaches.

What about Eleuthera?
Eleuthera, which is located about 50 miles east of Nassau Bahamas, is 110 miles north to south, it has 3 airports (North Eleuthera, ELH; Governor’s Harbour in middle of the island, GHB; Rock Sound to the south, RSD) , several boutique rental car companies, several banks, a lot of liquor stores, several grocery stores (very small by USA standards), gas stations and an abundance of beautiful beaches with no one on them.

Is there any food on board the boat, or do we come back at lunchtime?
We leave the dock at Cape Eleuthera Resort & Marina around 8:30am and should be back by 1-1:30pm from the practical application. You bring your lunch or have one made up at the restaurant, a packed lunch for about US $12, - the restaurant is not open for breakfast, you can pick up your lunch the evening before.

Are we doing night dives?
No. Accordingly, you also do not need to bring a dive light. Unless you are coming early or extending your stay and we have enough divers to organize a night dive.

Can we do the course and only snorkel?
Yes, but the course is really set up for scuba divers. You can snorkel around the resort in the afternoons.

Do I need gloves?
Yes! The sharks are very curious and white hands look a little like chum being thrown into the water. If you are waiving your hands around or even if you are still, the sharks will come close just to make sure the white is not food. In all the years of school we have never had a hand bitten by a shark. It is recommended to bring all black gloves. (* Colors are generally not important to the sharks, but white hands resemble open sores on fish and marine mammals which sometime can be seen as potential food.)

Can I rent equipment?
Yes you can rent equipment from Ocean Fox Cotton Bay, all Scuba Pro equipment. However, we recommend that you bring your own equipment, along with your wetsuit, normally 3mm is fine, in winter bring a hood. And don’t forget the  black gloves!

Is there Nitrox at SharkSchool ™?
No.

Do we have strong currents?
We have very little current at the dive sites. Possibly You may feel a little bit of tidal movement.

I am novice diver, can I still participate?
Definitely! The diving here is straight forward, visibility is usually around 100’, and can be mastered with minimal diving skills.

What depth are the dives & what are the sites called?
The shark feeding site, called the Xmas Tree, where we practice the theoretical interaction with the sharks while scuba diving, is around 50’. The interaction practice with fins, mask and snorkel is done in 15-20’ of water and known as Shark Beach because we are in shallow water.

How much time do we spend in the water each day?
The scuba dive is typically 40-50 minutes depending on your air consumption; the interaction practice is in groups of 4 for up to 30 minutes and some full group participation after the feeding stops..

What regulator connections are there?
Our bottles have an INT connection, we can also handle DIN.

Shark School Package and Costs

The Shark School package includes:

1. Seven (7) nights at Cape Eleuthera Resort, four (4) person occupancy per condo.

2. Five (5) days of lecture with a copy of Dr. Ritter’s book, “Shark-Human Interaction”.

3. Five (5) days of one (1) tank dive with the sharks, followed by in the water interaction with the sharks at the shallow water interaction site.

4. Rental car for each four (4) divers for seven (7) days, gas is the guest responsibility, pick up and return at Governor’s Harbour Airport; arrangements can be made for the other airports.

5. Daily gear storage, fresh water rinse and daily gear set up on the boat at Ocean Fox Cotton Bay dive shop.

Cost for the one week stay and shark school is $2,195 plus VAT. Deposit of $600 required, no refunds within 30 days of the school, with the balance due prior to arrival. Can be paid by credit card, Visa or Master Card.

If the school is fully booked and you would like to be on the cancellation list, a deposit of $200 is required, if a spot does not open up, your deposit is returned.