May 11, 2017

Shark Diving | Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

She was so beautiful; graceful and inquisitive, yet reserved and kept her distance. We were in her space, yet she give us enough room to feel comfortable. I felt incredibly relaxed, yet in total awe of this magnificent creature gliding next to us. Not quite what I expected to feel as I chilled at the bottom of the ocean with a 10 ft long and roughly 100 lbs pregnant, female bull shark in Mexico.

This dive was probably my most memorable for a number of reasons but being the first time J and I were diving together since he was certified topped it all and I was super excited to take the plunge with him in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

A good friend of mine had told me of her experience diving with the bull sharks a few years ago, and I was blown away at the idea of swimming freely with these incredible predators. I never expected to have the opportunity to do it myself, so when J and I started planning our trip to the Mayan Riviera, we knew this was at the top of our list of things to do.

A bit of background: 

Between November and March every year, hundreds of female bull sharks arrive in Playa del Carmen to give birth in in the shallow waters on the coastline. They come to this area to give birth to their pups in the mangroves, so that the baby sharks have a safe, protected area to feed and grow before swimming out to sea. Unfortunately, this coastline has been developed over the last few decades, and the all-inclusive resorts have bulldozed and destroyed a lot of this natural habitat.

Many consider these top predators to be the most dangerous sharks; their knack for navigating shorelines and their ability to survive in both salt and fresh water increase the probability of human encounters. But locals claim the area’s biggest threat during these four months is of another kind entirely: Fishermen who kill pregnant and baby bull sharks year after year.

There is a fishing ban in place from May to July, which is meant to protect pregnant sharks, but unfortunately that three-month period does not coincide with the bull shark season.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a young volunteer with Saving Our Sharks at the dive shop, conducting interviews and fill surveys with the divers. Saving Our Sharks is a local organisation working to change the perspective on sharks and raise awareness through environmental research and education, as well as initiatives for government legislation to protect them.

In Playa del Carmen there is a community-based program to carry out a sustainable diving activity that prioritizes the safety of visitors and sharks. More than 40 dive shops collaborate in this program adhering to the Manual of Good Practices and collaborating with the monitoring of the sharks. I highly recommend you check out Saving Our Sharks and try to book your dives with one of the listed dive shops.

We dove with the Scuba10, which is not only one of the listed dive shops, but was recommended by my friend and was also more reasonably priced than others. We booked online the night before, took a cab to Playa Del Carmen, checked ourselves in for our dive and then walked around Playa Del Carmen before heading out for the dive. You can read my short post about Playa Del Carmen here

We had our debrief at Scuba10, then drove out to the beach 10 minutes away to board the boat. From the get go, we felt like we were in safe hands as our instructor was very relaxed, friendly and professional. We were briefed on the boat again and our dive plan was laid out.

As we neared the dive site, I started to feel giddy with excitement.

We jumped into the water and made our way down the anchor rope....with every second I could hear my heart pounding and it took me a few minutes to relax before we reached the sea bed. When we finally made our way over to the 'shark spot' we paused and waited. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I could see her; an enormous, majestic creature heading straight towards us. I'll let the imagery do the rest of the talking, though even these images and video do not do the experience justice! 

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  1. This is really neat...and scary! My daughter is learning about ocean habitats in school right now so we've been reading up a lot about sharks. Apparently, more sharks are killed by humans each year than humans are sharks!I'll be showing this to my daughter...she will find it fascinating!

  2. My husband and daughter would love this! They are shark crazy! I'd probably be on the beach.

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