Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tubbataha Tale #2

Day 3 | Dive 1 | Location: Delsan Wreck

I was at -42m, once again the rest of the group were between 7-15 metres above me. Once again, I was in the blue – too far out to see the wall this time. I was checking my direction by watching the other divers above me, to my right. I was looking, once again, for Hammerheads and, once again, I was without success. But there were sharks around, many sharks actually: some beautiful White-tip Reef sharks, some Black-tips also, at least one Bamboo shark and quite a few Grey Reef, even a couple of fairly big ones. I was having a lovely morning!

Most of the sharks were below me, and so that was where I was looking… until I saw something move out of the corner of my eye… I look to up and to my right and there he was – a big shark, directly ahead. It was hard to tell exactly how big – because he was facing me, swimming towards me. I could clearly see the wide mouth and the teeth, which told me he was pretty big. I could see his tail swishing from side to side behind him and suddenly this triggers a memory of something I read recently about Grey Reef sharks: “when disturbed they show typically antagonistic behaviour, such as swimming with exaggerated movements.”

“Big teeth” I mused to myself. Then suddenly it hit me! There was a large shark swimming straight at me! I’m 42m underwater, being approached, at speed, by a large animal with big teeth! Oh!

But I was calm, I stayed motionless, I watched. He swam straight towards me until, at the last possible moment, he made a graceful swerve to the left. As he passed I could see he was, indeed, quite big – nearly 3m. He gave me a dismissive look: If the shark had a voice, it would have sounded like Robert de Niro and it would have said,
“Are you looking at me?”
Either that, or it would have sounded like Stephen Fry and said:
“How disappointing! You looked fatter from a distance.”

Too late, I realised I should have pointed it out to the other divers. It had taken another left swerve and was almost underneath them, I looked up to see my dive buddy already pointing.

Afterwards the Divemaster told me it was an Oceanic White-tip. This is what the Ocean Guide has to say about them:

Up to 350cm. Pelagic species, only sometimes venturing close to coral reef areas. One of the largest species of the family, it is easily distinguished by it's large rounded dorsal and pectoral fins with broad white tips. This elegant and fast swimmer lacks the hectic movements typical of many requiem sharks. Often accompanied by pilot fish or other sharks. Said to be one of the four sharks most dangerous to humans, but there are no confirmed reports of attacks.

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