I recently visited our friend and ambassador Chris Gillette in South Florida. Chris is a marine biologist and animal lover that was born and raised in south Florida. To call Chris an alligator wrestler would only partially describe his many talents. He’s more of an alligator whisperer, who also happens to charm snakes, sharks, and other local native species of the area. You can learn more about Chris in our Pro page profile. So when Chris invited me to go for a swim with sharks off the coast with a few of his friends it was an offer I could not resist.
There’s something about being out on a small boat about 5 miles offshore with a couple of alligator wrestlers, GI-Joe, and 2 complete strangers that unnerving enough. But when they start chumming, attract more than a dozen swirling sharks of various kinds, then jump in the water and say “Come in!” that makes you think twice. (Insert some images and chumming video clip from Facebook posts) Sea-sickness and that aside, I ventured in for a memorable experience. All in we saw 12+ lemon sharks, 1 infant hammerhead shark, and a large bull shark from which I kept a good distance.
Sharks sense you in multiple ways. They have visual, olfactory, and electromagnetic sensors that detect your location, heartbeat, and behavior from far away, and it’s not too difficult to tell their mouth is the way they “explore” and try things out. And they are curious beings. Chris could tell you all about the different environments, behaviors, and habits of many different sharks and sea creatures. But while feeding they are often somewhat agitated, so you have to be extra careful. Being in their midst is overwhelming, not only because of the speed discrepancy between their movements and ours, but because they are accustomed to sneak up on their prey. They are coming not only from every direction on a 360-degree plane, but also above and below at various angles, so keeping calm, and maintaining eye contact in multiple directions supersedes your desire to take pictures.
If I’m able to do it again I hope I’ll have better practice and shooting skills to compare with Chris’.