While on a Galapagos tour, my SCUBA dive instructor Abraham briefed me on the hand symbols for the different types of things we might see while we were diving.
This included the hand signs for 4 different types of sharks (White tip, black tip, hammerhead, and Galapagos shark). This gave me only a mild panic attack as the entire Jaws movie genre flashed by.
Luckily for my pride, I was able to forget about this just long enough to jump into the water.
Ten minutes later we are around 40 feet deep, swimming along the rocky outcropping and cliffs that form North Seymour island. As we kept peeking in hidden caves along the bottom it occurred to me that we were actually looking for sharks!
The first cave was empty, a couple of brightly colored fish swimming about. But lo and behold, it wasn’t long before we found sharks left and right. Prior to this trip, my stereotype of sharks is that they are solitary, lonely creatures… primordial killing machines that devour any little fish in sight.
Quite to the contrary, the sharks seemed to be hanging out together, taking a mid-afternoon siesta in the comfort of their cave, with the company of some little fish, who looked completely at ease. Some of the little fish were actually exhibiting what I later learned is “cleaning” behavior – where they eat parasites off the back of the sharks.
Each shark was about 4 feet long, not big enough to eat me (I reasoned), but certainly big enough to make a nice snack out of one of my fingers if it should wake up in a bad mood.
However, when the sharks woke up, they simply meandered off into the deep blue sea, perhaps to find a more secluded nap spot for the rest of the afternoon. My heart rate returned to normal, but with adrenaline pumping, and ready to go looking for more.
Galapagos white-tipped reef shark on video
Have you SCUBA dived with sharks in the Galapagos? Let us know how it was!