All Nick could do was read during the bad weather...
Guest post by Nick Ashley-Cooper who was with us last year at Tiger Beach:
The opportunity to meet these amazing animals arose when Wolfgang invited my girlfriend Dinah (his niece) and I to join Felix and him and a small crew of people on board a boat to Tiger Beach in the Bahamas in November ‘09. This was going to be a 7-day shark intensive trip – with opportunities to observe and interact with tigers as well as lemons and any other sharks who happened to be close by.
Initially, my reaction had been one of genuine excitement and eagerness. A chance to see sharks up close does not come around too often and I found myself captivated by the idea. However, that excitement was soon dampened by the wiki page on tiger sharks which describes them as the 2nd most deadly shark after the great white, (in terms of attacks on humans) – it all got a bit serious.
However, you soon realize the Internet is full of terror stories about sharks and their attacks. I knew, seeing videos of Wolfgang swimming freely amongst them, that there was a way you could behave around sharks that they tolerated. After a calming chat with Felix, the nerves were back under control and the trip was underway.
There is something mysterious and intensely captivating about sharks. Years of evolution has produced an animal that is supremely adapted to its environment. They move gracefully through the water and never seemed to be bothered by our presence.
Initially, we were with the lemons who seemed far less shy and allowed us to get our confidence going. It wasn’t until the third dive that the first few tigers came along. It was an awesome experience to see them. They moved much slower than the lemons and kept their distance initially, but were much bigger. We just sat there transfixed, turning and moving with the shark to keep its gaze. It was a remarkable experience, unlike anything I have felt.
Every so often I looked over our shoulders to check we were not going to get any surprises. I remember thinking the air was going down pretty fast on my tank, so I presumed my breathing and adrenalin had been pumping. However, the irony is, under the water the world is so calm and peaceful. Once you get more adapted to the animals and the situation you feel you can stay down there all day.
The trip was hit by bad weather and we spent much of the final days on the boat. However, the initial dives had been enough to satisfy us and we both felt we had had an experience of a lifetime. My feelings towards the animals have changed dramatically since the trip. In a way, I see them much more as threatened rather than threatening. Seeing them first hand you can really appreciate what wonderful animals they are.
I feel we were in safe hands on this trip and we respected the sharks and their environment. It doesn’t take much to go wrong before you are in serious trouble, so that is a constant theme when diving with these animals, but if you respect them and learn how to approach them, then you can have a truly unforgettable experience.