Diving with Bull Sharks
November and December are officially the months where we can finally say that we are hurricane free… the time to go and eat all the tuna cans that we save just in case and to take all the wooden boards off the windows…BUT… it’s also the beginning of the “Nortes”: strong winds from the North, cold and the cause for the harbor to be close for one or several days. So… the question is: What can a diver do in Cozumel if the harbor is close?? I know that 80% of you are thinking that a cerveza and some ceviche on the other side of the Island sounds like a great idea!!! but what about the other 20% hard core-I-came-to-dive divers??
Well…options are: Cenote dives, a classic alternative for those windy days… very interesting dives, something to do at least once in a lifetime. Even that I enjoyed the times I went cenote diving I have to say that it’s not my favorite thing to do. That’s why option number 2 seemed to me very tempting…
DIVING WITH BULL SHARKS!!!
This is the deal: We have to cross to Playa del Carmen, a quite exciting ordeal on its own…especially if you are prone to seasickness. Anyway – there we go to do 2 dives with a local operator.
Now, for all of you who are used to dive in large, comfortable, well-equipped boats with crews that treat you even better than they do to their own kids…get ready for a reality check: diving is not always rosy!! Diving in Playa is like one of those flash backs that you see in the movies….it’s like….going back a good 2 decades to the good old times when all of us dreamed to be like the sea hunter…so… do not expect fancy there..and you better be sure that you remember how to assemble your own gear and take some classes on shore diving entrances!!!
Boat was waiting for us about, mmm….30 to 40 ft from the beach…shallow water, shallow enough to walk with the whole scuba gear on your back until we made it to the boat. Bright side about having a Norte in Cozumel is that Playa del Carmen water conditions are just super nice..at least wave wise…nevertheless I got a couple of good splashes on my face caused by a wave that obviously had not clue about “water conditions in Playa del Carmen when there is a Norte in Cozumel”
…any way…once on board of the maximum 7 passenger fast boat (a fancy way to describe a fishermen little boat with a off-board engine) we start heading toward the dive site… a 5 min boat ride and we were there…
…we got a briefing about the formation we must keep while kneeling at the bottom and they provided us with a pvc stick which main purpose was to help us to stay anchored at the bottom and if the situation called for it…scare the sharks away… let me tell you something: a cardinal rule in diving is to Believe whatever your Divemaster is telling you… even when at first sight seems to make no sense whatsoever…so… I truly believe then and now that a 3 ft long pvc pipe is enough to keep away a 5 to 6 ft long Bull shark…end of the discussion.
Ok. Time to get in the water..yeahhhhh… oh, yes, of course the entry is done with an old-time classic “back roll entrance” with camera on one hand and shark stay-the-hell-away-of-me pvc pipe on the other!! R.I.P Jaques Cousteau would be so proud of me !
… and there we go!!! 2 shark handlers, 4 of my divers and myself… descending to 65 ft of decent visibility sandy bottom area where god knows how many sharks are awaiting for lunch time… because there is the beauty of this, the shark handlers and the captain in the boat in fact feed the bull sharks and carry a pipe of, yes… you guessed right! PVC full of fresh chum!! leftovers from the morning fishing trip…yummy , yummy!!!
I have to confess something, as I was descending I began to question the level on insanity involved on doing this kind of dive…you know what I mean?? it’s safe? what about if this?? what about if that?? but this intense self-questioning ended as soon as I pondered the fact that there is nothing sane to begin with on going underwater with a 3000 psi cylinder attach to my back…I mean… there is enough pressure there to blow a hole the size of a mini cooper at any concrete wall you chose!! So… that kind of rational thinking brought a great deal of peace to my mind.
Once at the bottom the whole dive went flawless…what the dive operation in Playa lacks on glamour they compensate on skills… they keep our group under control and they handle the shark feeding in a way that even I could not surpass (notice my outstanding level on confidence of my shark feeding skills….and consider that I had never done that before).
Really, it was a great experience to look so close to those marvelous creatures (the sharks…not the divemasters) and at the same time a little sad to realize that we as society, in our never-ending greediness and lack of understanding about the nature and the need to keep an equilibrium, are so close to bring those creatures to their extinction (the divemasters..not the sharks)…but I think that a video can show you more that all my words….so…check it out at my facebook page ALEXSCUBA …and remember that there is always something to do when a Norte hits Cozumel… note – the shark season ends in March.
Allow me to highly recommend this dive and take you there….sure..there is some level of risk on it, sure..the sharks may not have received the memo that says that they should stay away from the pvc pipe, sure ..they are wild animals and reality is that anything can happen any time…its also true that nothing has happened in all the past seasons that they have being feeding those sharks…
…during the whole 35 minutes that we spend at the bottom with those 16 or 17 sharks around there were only 5 seconds when my soul was full of fear…and it was when I JUST COULD NOT REMEMBER if I left the oven on or off.
Have a great holiday season and I hope to see you here soon.