We had not been scuba diving for that long, so when we embarked on our most adventurous dive yet at dive number 16 we weren’t quite sure what to expect. How would we feel about coming face to face with a Tiger Shark, would it be scary or would it instil in us a love for them forevermore?
On the morning of our first shark dive (we won’t lie), we were nervous. The weather was worsening due to a cyclone in neighbouring Vanuatu and we weren’t quite cosy with the conditions of our dive boat, the diligence of our guides, nor our hire equipment. With a huge swell, the captain motored 30 minutes to the ‘Cathedral’ dive site and dropped the anchor.
As we prepared our dive equipment Peter was slightly green, sometimes the sea just gets too much for him! We opted to get in the water as soon as possible, remembering that someone had recently told us that it was ok to vomit in your regulator! As we immersed ourselves into the deep blue the current pushed hard against us, using the buoy line we managed to make our way down to the Cathedral’s sandy bottom at 21 meters. We waited for the stars of the show to appear.
Before we had time to settle, a huge 7 meter female Tiger Shark appeared, the tiger stripes on her pregnant body glistening as the sun streamed from above. We were mesmerised. One of the greatest predators, so close, so majestic and magical, right before our eyes. She was soon joined by 6 other large Tiger Sharks, some quirky lemon sharks and of course the mighty bull shark - about 20 of them!
We stayed mesmerised for the duration of the dive, begging them to come closer and closer. We emerged from that dive forever changed, and forever in love with the most misunderstood creature in our oceans.
Note: This is a baited dive, as you wouldn’t normally be able to get this close to Tiger sharks without it. Fiji is famous for these dives, and there is a lot of controversy surrounding the practice (and other baited shark dives around the world).
The shark dive site is in an established Marine Reserve. Negotiations have taken place between government and the nearby village, who no longer fish the reef in exchange for a fee per diver who attends the shark dive. This revenue goes to the local village who would otherwise remain dependant on fishing. Subsequently, the reef and fish populations have a chance to regenerate. The reef where this dive was established was previously dead. It has since made a remarkable transformation.
As for the sharks, we would agree that baiting the dive does change the shark’s behaviour, somewhat conditioning them to divers, however we’ve been told that once the feed is over, the sharks do resume their natural activities. The amount of food given to the sharks is apparently not enough to supplement their diet, and so they don’t become dependant on it.
Having experienced this dive once, we’re not sure if we condone the practice, or how the sharks are handled, but with 150 million sharks per year getting slaughtered maybe the fact that these dives exist will protect these sharks. After all, if they are worth more for tourism purposes they are less likely to be slaughtered. Whatever your view, one thing is for sure - they are one of the most majestic creatures in our oceans.
The below video shows our experience of the dive with Beqa Lagoon Resort. We hope it helps you make up your own mind.
Respect the Fin!