Let Marine Conservationist Influencer Ocean Ramsey guide you to an underwater sharknardo.
Hawaii, the land of welcoming leis, enthused shakas and all-natural beauty to make you feel gooey inside is also one with a whole lot of bite.
Consenting to swim with sharks may sound crazy, if not dangerous but in Hawaii, that ultimate choice is yours to make. If you dare to live life pumped on adrenaline, knowingly pursuing and swimming amongst a shark manifestation is made possible with eco-tourism operator, One Ocean Diving, run by marine conservationist influencer Ocean Ramsey.
Ramsey made headlines around the world last year for her epic close encounter with a massive great white shark off the Oahu’s south shore and swam beside it. The softy spoken wildlife warrior’s fearless interaction of touching the back of the great white shark divided critics, some pointing out it sends a bad message to swim with wild sharks.
The great white is just one of 40 shark species that call Hawaii’s warm waters home. One-quarter of them are found inshore off the coast of island Oahu, including species tiger, sandbar, Galapagos, white-tipped reef and the hammerhead shark to name a few. It makes for a thrilling prospect of a close encounter a potential reality.
Hawaii is one of a few places in the world that offers a shark swim experience without a cage for protection (if swimming with a great white shark). Never did I think I would willingly allow myself to dive into a shark frenzy – but I did. I put my trust in the famous ‘Shark Whisperer’ to let me get close enough to the sharks and not to become their next meal.
The eco-tours are conducted along Oahu’s famous North Shore on board the Pelagic Shark Research Snorkel. Here, sharks gather naturally due to the upsurging of ocean nutrients. The tours aren’t just all about satisfying adventurous pulses; they aim to educate the behavioural patterns of sharks, and how to interact with them safely. Those on tour also contribute to current research efforts by onboard biologists to better understand these creatures (despite their predatory nature) and to better appreciate their existence and well doings for our oceans.
I appreciated their existence alright. Within half an hour from leaving the harbour, my small party of six travelling crew and I were looking down, wide-eyed at the number of sharks hurriedly swimming below us. Most of us were questioning our life decision at that point. Were we all insane? We are about to dive into a sea of sharks!
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I had to shake the thought that I was entering the danger zone. As Ramsey notably and intriguingly pointed out, there are more selfie-related deaths in the world than sharks per year. It boggles the mind. With that said, One Ocean Diving has an impeccable safety record.
“Sharks are able to feel the energy in the world around them,” Ramsey informed us.
“Sharks go by feeling.”
They were undoubtedly feeling our presence.
From the boat, we could see the sharks lurking about as there was roughly 10 metres visibility in the water. Eerily, some emerged at surface level for that extra scary ‘Jaws’ effect. The sharks appeared as if they were called, with the boat’s engine waking them up from their slumber below.
Quickly and carefully, Ramsey and her crew guided us nervous snorkelers to brazenly get into the water and observe the sharks in safe conduct. We were told it was paramount to stay within 20 feet of the boat and to follow instructions. This was no place to swim rogue.
It took a lot to get into the water, but once I was in the ocean, my fears disappeared. I was more enthralled with what I was witnessing below my frantic-moving fins than reasoning. I was snorkelling in the presence of animals that many feared.
So many sharks, wild and free within metres under my toes. It all so surreal to see them and not be scared despite being in their domain. There was no gimmick or baiting of sharks; it was them in their native habitat pacing the sea, and I was utterly mesmerised with their twitchy gliding movements. Ramsey had informed us that the dominant sharks usually swim almost at sea level with submissive sharks found deep below.
For the daring who were willing to make their hour with the sharks’ count, we had our moment recorded. (Because as if swimming with sharks was ever going to be something I would forget!)
The most chilling was looking at the fierceness in their eyes as they swam around us. It was insane to think that there were more sharks than people snorkelling with 37 sandbar and 5 Galapagos sharks spotted, as recorded by the crew. Sandbar sharks reach a length of 1.8 metres with Galapagos slightly larger at 3.3 metres maximum in length; both an intimidating presence.
Seeing snippets of the sharks’ petrifying sharp teeth and the constant pounding of waves made my stomach somersault. Soon enough, choppy waters got the better of me despite my continued curiosity to swim with these snappy ocean beasts.
I had to take a deep breath with what I just encountered. Swimming with 42 sharks was a dangerously remarkable feat. Conducting the swim in a responsible, respectful manner in the shark’s home makes One Ocean Diving’s conservation efforts of these endangered species all the easier to swallow.
Check out Ocean Ramsey’s Ted Talk – Why The World Needs Sharks
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Featured Image: Juan Sharks
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