Saturday, April 28, 2007

First hand shark encounters!

"After the tenth Tiger Shark showed up I was saying to myself, whatever is going to happen…is going to happen!" explained Luke Tipple, dive operations manager of Shark Diver with a wry smile. This year Shark Diver continued to set the standard for shark eco-tourism as the only company in the Caribbean giving adventure seeking diver’s access to multiple Tiger Sharks-with submerged shark cages.

"It can be a bit unnerving sometimes," explained Patric Douglas, CEO of Shark Diver. "Tigers are perhaps the most curious of the large predatory sharks, they love coming in close to say hello." Until very recently adventure seekers wanting to meet the world's “other” top ocean predator could only do so in rare instances. Since the discovery of Tiger Beach, located in the Bahamas all that has changed. Divers worldwide are discovering the ease of travel to and from this pristine shark site along with the sheer numbers of animals once they arrive.

Shark Diver wrapped its 2007 shark diving season at Tiger Beach with an unprecedented 11 Tigers at the same time at the same place. “This is perhaps the greatest massing of wild predatory sharks on the planet right now unless you’re lucky enough to encounter a migration like Hammerheads,” says Tipple.

This seasons dive groups included several from Germany and the U.K, plus individual divers from as far away as Canada.Shark Divers' seven-day Tiger expeditions include side encounters with wild dolphins and alternate dive sites for regular non-shark related diving. 2008 will see the roll out of a new upgraded shark operations vessel and departures from Freeport, Bahamas aboard the RV Tiburon.

Since 2000 Douglas and his company Shark Diver have also offered Great White Shark cage diving and other wild shark encounters worldwide. 2007 has been a banner year for the Shark Diver team with the addition of a fourth shark diving boat geared towards corporate groups and upscale shark divers the 116’ MV Nautilus Explorer.To book a wild shark cage diving adventure with the crew of Shark Diver, call 415.235.9410 or visit

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Great white shark from Monterey Bay Aquarium is swimming in Mexican waters

The great white shark that spent the fall and part of the winter in the Monterey Bay Aquarium is spending its spring off the coast of Cabo San Lucas.

Aquarium officials said an electronic tag that had been attached to the shark before its release in January has floated to the surface in waters near the southern tip of Baja California.

Because the tag was designed to pop free after 90 days, aquarium officials are assuming the shark is in healthy condition.

The young shark was captured in August, then housed in a giant tank at Monterey Bay Aquarium.
It grew to more than 6 feet long and about 170 pounds before it was released into the Pacific.
The shark was the second great white to be exhibited by the aquarium and then released.
The first one also had a tag, but it was timed for release after 30 days.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Great white shark visited surfers!

A SHARK that visited a popular Warrnambool surfing break last week was a deadly great white, an eyewitness believes.

But surfer Nick McCartney was more qualified than most to identify the notorious predator. He studies sharks as part of his marine biology degree at Deakin University's Warrnambool campus.
The 22 year-old Melburnian was surfing with two mates from Albury and Phillip Island at Granny's Grave last Wednesday when they saw the shark.

``I was surfing for a couple of hours in the morning _ between about 8am and 10am, and saw some movement about 100 or 200 metres offshore,'' he said.

``We stayed out there surfing for a while because we didn't know what it was.''

Mr McCartney said it was not until he got out of the water and looked back out to sea that he realised what it was.

``I looked back out and saw a big fin that kept popping up . . . it was thrashing around like it was eating something,'' he said.

``The shark was in the same spot for a while. Then a swell came through and in the swell we could see the big shadow of a shark.

``We told a few other surfers to get out of the water.''

Mr McCartney said the shark was too big to be a seal.

He said it came as close as 150 metres to the shore and he watched it for 10 to 15 minutes.
``It scared me for a bit, but it looked like it had no intentions of moving in any closer,'' he said.
``It seemed to be pretty focused on whatever it was doing out there.

``By the size of it, I think it was a great white.

``It may have been a thresher though because they have a large fin on their back.

``There's a fair few great whites at South Australia and reports of a few around Port Fairy so it wouldn't surprise if this was one.''

Mr McCartney said the shark was not a bronze whaler or a blue shark.

He said great white sharks were rare in the area and the Great Surf Coast was pretty safe and he was back in the water with his mates at Logans Beach the following day.

``It didn't worry me too much,'' he said. South Warrnambool premiership player and Maskell medallist Ben Kilday said he was about to go for a surf when Mr McCartney and his mates warned him against it.

``I was about to go out - luckily I didn't,'' he said.

``Sharks are obviously about, but you don't like to think about it too much.''

Friday, April 06, 2007

Great white shark the safety of a cage!

Cage diving with the Great White Shark is a relatively new adventure sport in South Africa although there are several operators who offer cage diving packages.

Great White Shark diving is the marine equivalent of seeing the Mountain Gorilla in its natural environment. It's exciting, adventurous and a truly unique opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with a magnificent animal. Here's a guide to Great White Shark diving (and viewing) in South Africa.

Where Can you Go Diving With Great White Sharks?Dyer IslandKnown as the Great White Shark diving capital of the world, the stretch of water between
Gansbaai and Dyer Island is also referred to as "shark alley".

Gansbaai is 100 miles from Cape Town, about a 2 hour drive by car. Gansbaai is also just half an hour drive away from
Hermanus which is South Africa's best spot for whale-watching.

Mossel BayThere is one
Great White Shark Diving Tour Operator offering cage diving in Mossel Bay with a good success rate.

False BayA couple of
Great White Shark Diving Tour Operators work out of False Bay which is very close to Cape Town. Cage dives in False Bay require you to have basic scuba certification which is offered on site.

How Do You Dive With Great White Sharks?Book your adventure with a
reputable operator and they will take you out to sea in their boat. The crew will then lure the sharks to the boat with some tasty fish heads and livers. This process is called "chumming" and "baiting". Once the sharks are circling the boat you are invited to hop in to the specially designed diving cage.

The Diving Cage
Rodney Fox, an Australian diver, has been credited with inventing the shark cage. Rodney became shark bait while spear fishing in Australia. After getting sewn back to his original shape, he turned his attention to the study of the Great White Shark and to avoid being attacked again, designed the first under water observation cage.

The diving cage is .....

Safe.The diving cage is specially designed to withstand the bite of a Great White (although they haven't ever attacked a cage to date) while still allowing the diver a good view of the shark. The diving cages are made from 12mm galvanized steel.

Easy to use. The good thing about the diving cage is that you don't need to know how to scuba dive, snorkeling will do for most dives (not in False Bay). Shark cages have tubes going up to the boat, so divers simply suck on the tube to breathe fresh air.

Able to hold several people. Cages are built to hold two, four or even six people, so you can get to experience the sharks with the whole family.

Close to the surface. The cage actually floats and doesn't go deep at all since sharks are surface feeders. It's therefore easy to keep in touch with the boat crew and you can always get out of the cage quickly if the adventure becomes a little too exciting.

Spending Time With the Great White SharksDives usually last 10-15 minutes and if the weather is good you can get a few dives in per day. Trips often last 4-5 hours with the first hour spent finding the sharks and attracting them to the boat with bait.

Who Can Dive With Great White Sharks?Some
diving operators require a basic level of diving proficiency while others don't. The dive master on board the boat will quickly let you know whether you can get in the cage or not. Most dives don't actually require diving per se, snorkeling is the way to go.

Viewing Great White SharksFor those who aren't keen on smelling a shark's breath, but are still interested in seeing them, there are plenty of shark viewing opportunities on the boat. There are special platforms you can sit on that provide excellent photo opportunities of the sharks especially as the crew are "chumming" and "baiting" them. Since Great White Sharks are surface feeders you can get a good look at the 16 rows of teeth.

Best Time to Dive with Great White SharksWinter is the best time to dive with sharks from May to October. Although getting to see the sharks is not guaranteed, the success rate is very high, around 95. The weather can be unpredictable though in winter with gales and cold spells so its best to book a tour that lasts a few days just in case the weather doesn't allow for a dive. The sharks are still around during the summer months but not in such dense numbers, so days can possibly go by without a sighting.

Great White Shark cage diving operators will have the latest safety equipment on board. The gear and cages are regularly inspected by the Government. Paramedics are usually on board. To date there have been no known shark attack injuries on any of these trips.

Great White Shark Cage Diving Operators

The operators that offer
Great White Shark diving, all have excellent safety records and offer similar tours. The price differences usually reflect how many people they are willing to take at one time. The cheaper the tour the more likely that you will have a little less diving time as there may be more divers. Remember that seeing the Great White Sharks isn't always guaranteed although in the high season the success rate of all these companies is above 90. It is therefore recommended that if you have the time, it's best to book a tour that lasts a few days.

This company has a nice boat and they limit their passengers to just 10 per trip (so book in advance). Their shark cage fits up to four people at one time. You are expected to have at least some snorkeling experience if you want to see the sharks underwater. You can book your dive
online as well as accommodation in the company guest house or other area bed and breakfasts.
White Shark Ecoventures. Established in 1992 this is one of the first companies in the area to offer Great White Shark diving and viewing. Their boat is a newly built catamaran offering extra stability at sea. Their most popular tour is the one day tour which costs around USD 185 per person. The price incudes transport to and from Cape Town, meals, drinks, boat trip, cage diving as well as viewing seals, penguins and whales (in season). There is an online booking form for your convenience. The cage they use can hold up to six people at a time.

Shark Lady Adventures. This company is run by Kim Macklean, the "shark lady" herself, a pioneer of White Shark cage diving in South Africa. The boat is a large catamaran with enough space to suit up and relax. The diving cage holds two divers at a time. Experienced divers are allowed to wear scuba gear, for those who are not experienced you can still get into the cage using snorkeling equipment. There's a phone number and e-mail for bookings. The basic package offered is a day diving and transport to and from Cape Town as needed. Shark Lady Adventures will be glad to help book your accommodations as well.

Big Two Tours. This tour company offers shark diving as well as whale watching (hence the name "Big Two"). They have a nice boat with sundeck and a six man diving cage. They offer 2 basic shark diving tours. A one day tour which includes transport to and from Cape Town for USD 195.00. And a 5 day tour which includes 3 full days of diving and 4 nights accommodation for $145 per person per day. There is an online booking form for your convenience.

Mossel Bay

Shark Africa offers diving off Mossel Bay. They are the sole operator in this area so you won't bump into any other boats. The price for one day of cage diving is USD 130.00. Their success rate is as good as those operating near Dyer Island (all tour operators above). They take only ten people per trip and two at a time in the diving cage. Their boat is a 15 meter sailing catamaran.
False Bay

African Shark Eco Charters. The first company to operate shark watching and cage diving tours out of False Bay near Cape Town. The False Bay Great White Sharks are famous for breaching themselves on seal island and are featured in several shark documentaries. This is a less "touristy" option since less than four divers are allowed on board their 26 ft catamaran and there are only two operators in the area. The success rate equals that of Dyer Island tours in the high season. They offer one day and ten day trips. Since you have to be a licensed scuba diver for any of these trips why not try their Blue Water Predators package which includes swimming with the Mako shark and the Blue Shark (October through May).

recent shark attack by a Great White occured in June of 2005. A medical student was attacked while spear fishing and killed by a Great White Shark in the False Bay area. According to CDNN, surfers are blaming the shark diving operators for changing the sharks feeding behaviours by baiting sharks for tourists to view. Stay tuned to see if cage diving will be affected if more people lose their lives to Great White Shark attacks.

Shark Diving Tours Throughout South Africa

Dive South Africa. This tour company offers several shark viewing opportunities including dives with Bull sharks, Hammerheads, Tiger Sharks, Whale Sharks (in Mozambique) and of course the cage diving with the Great White at Gansbaai and Mossel Bay.

Africa Shark Dive Safaris offers Great White cage-diving packages as well as many other shark viewing tours. They offer single day to 8 day tours. Most of the longer tours include sightseeing on dry ground as well.

Adventure Diving Safaris also offers a variety of shark diving experiences as well as whale-watching. The site also offers a handy table as to when the best chances are of seeing these beasties.

Did diver meet a great white shark?

Kawika Chetron left his job at Cisco Systems in Silicon Valley, got in his truck and headed north. It was the end of the workweek, Friday, March 16, a beautiful spring day. He was towing his dive boat, a 17-foot Boston Whaler named Rapture.

Saturday morning, he pulled up at the public dock in Eureka and set off south for Blunt's Reef, 24 miles down the Pacific coast, a formation of rocks and sea pinnacles 5 miles out off Cape Mendocino. He was alone.

Chetron, 32, was a big, vigorous man, the kind people remember meeting. He left word at the dock that he'd be back by evening.

He never returned.

Chetron was a man who lived in two worlds. In one he was a big-league software engineer in Silicon Valley. He had a degree from Harvard, a master's from Stanford. His friends all said he was the most intelligent person they knew.

In his other world, he lived to dive in the cold waters on the edge of the continent, the world just under the surface of the Pacific. It was the place he loved best.

He came back from the depths with photographs of sea life -- animals, plants in purple, orange and pastel colors, pictures of tiny sea creatures, a shot of a rock cod waiting to pounce on a prey, pictures of a place that looked like another world, just below the surface, just beyond the shoreline. His favorite was a self portrait with a harbor seal looking over his shoulder.

"He was one of the next great California photographers,'' said his friend, Berkley White, who owns a camera shop specializing in underwater photography in Monterey.

The day after he disappeared, the Coast Guard found his boat. A Boston Whaler is an open boat, and it was half submerged, awash, anchored in about 100 feet of water near Blunt's Reef. His camera was still aboard. After two nights and a day of searching, Chetron was listed as lost and presumed drowned.

Blunt's Reef is a hostile place. The currents are strong -- "ripping currents" the divers call them -- and the seas are often rough. The nearest land is 5 miles away. There are no roads in that part of California. They call it "the lost coast.''

"That is the wildest place on the Pacific coast,'' said Chuck Tribolet, another diver. It was the kind of place that Kawika Chetron loved: wild, almost unknown, pristine. He was drawn there, as if by instinct.

"He went to places people didn't know about,'' said his father, Avram Chetron of Berkeley. "He said, 'This is what I want to do. This is what I do.' ''

The kind of reefs found off the California coast fascinated him -- rocks and canyons full of life. Chetron had dived in the tropics, in Hawaii, in Papua New Guinea, but he always came back to the coast of California, to Monterey Bay, Big Sur, the Channel Islands.

"For my money, you can see more life in one square foot off California than you can in an acre in tropical conditions,'' said Christopher Buttner, another diver who was a friend.

"There's no place like home,'' Chetron wrote on his Web site. "More likely ... it's because Central California has reefs that are something special.''

Diving as he did, often alone, carried a risk. "I would tell him, "It's such a dangerous thing. Be careful, don't go alone,'' said his mother, Ibbie White of Hawaii. "It's every parent's nightmare."
The diving community was shocked at his loss -- the blogosphere was full of messages about him, praises for his work, speculation as to what happened.

He customarily wore a dry suit, a mask, a tank, two sets of underwear -- protection against the cold water of the Mendocino coast. He was a strong swimmer, Buttner said. "He was a slow breather, too. He was in peak condition.''

A lot of things could have happened. "He could have got bent; he could have got narced, '' Buttner said. That meant Chetron might have gotten the bends; or developed nitrogen narcosis, which makes a diver woozy, as if he were drunk.

He was wearing weights, probably, and an air tank. He could have been carrying 70 pounds of gear on that last dive.

"You make one mistake, and that's all there is to it,'' Buttner said. "You know that saying? Nature always bats last.''

The best guess is that his anchor got stuck between rocks, and he was diving to free it when he was swept away by the strong current. "It's not uncommon for a diver to miss an anchor line and can't fight the current,'' said White. "It's not unknown to dive alone, either. Why would someone as brilliant as him make that call? We don't know, of course.''

Did a shark kill him? Divers say that's unlikely. Though great white sharks frequent the area where he was lost, they seldom go after people in Scuba gear.

It was a life cut short. Even when he was a kid, his father said, Kawika was drawn to the sea. He grew up in Marin, in Kentfield, in Larkspur, on one of the ridges near Mount Tamalpais.
"You always think of your child as your little boy,'' Avram Chetron said.

"I see him at 5 or 6 wanting to have a pet whale,'' his father said. He was a bright boy, intelligent and adventurous. His real name was David -- Kawika means "David" in Hawaiian. He got that name when he was small and took to it.

He always wanted to see what was beneath the surface, and his father took him to the saltwater. He qualified as a diver when he was only 11.

He went to school: Robert Louis Stevenson School in Monterey, Harvard, Stanford, and then, after he became an engineer, the road led him back to the ocean.

Three years ago, he discovered underwater photography. He was self-taught. "He was absolutely stupendous,'' said Tribolet. "I've been doing underwater photography for 20 years, and he's way better than I am.''

Chetron started with hand-me down equipment. On his last dive, he was using a new Canon 5D digital camera; he had to light the depths as well.

He liked to use what he called "a fly-by'' method. A good photographer, he wrote, goes with "the ebb and flow of the water, setting up a shot and shooting quickly as he rushes past a subject.''
He was almost like an ocean creature himself, comfortable in an alien environment, living weightless in another world.

"Kawika was his own toughest critic, a perfectionist,'' Tribolet said. "Chetron gave a show over the winter, his pictures projected on high tech equipment -- startling stuff, amazing. It knocked the socks off the other underwater photographers and divers. But he would point out small errors, parts that were just out of focus, small things.

"I thought his pictures of harbor seals were the best seal pictures ever taken,'' Tribolet said, "but he thought he could do better.''

"I was just looking through Kawika's underwater photography,'' Dana Nourie wrote in a post on a diving blog. "Wow! What a beautiful legacy he left for the rest of us."

Finning meets an important obstacle in filmmaker's work!

Canadian filmmaker Rob Stewart wants to take a bite out of the global shark fin industry that is wiping the big fish from the seas.

His film Sharkwater, which last weekend had the third-largest box office opening for a documentary in Canadian theater history, looks at the threats facing the predators on top of the marine food chain.

The primary threat is the "finning" industry, which targets sharks for their fins, a coveted soup ingredient that fetches high prices in China and other Asian countries.

The film's mix of high-seas drama, elegant underwater footage and conservation chic has already brought it critical acclaim and attention - which Stewart hopes will inspire action to save the world's sharks.

"It's very much aimed at trying to increase awareness. The general public does not know that sharks are being wiped out," Stewart told Reuters after a screening at the AFI Dallas International Film Festival.

Stewart, a biologist and underwater photographer who has spent much time diving with sharks, wanted to show the animals are not the man-eaters of Jaws movie infamy.

"I thought if I could bring people closer to sharks than they have ever been before then they could develop a love for them and see the reality so they could fight for their protection," he said.
Stewart said the sinister image of sharks has not made them "poster boys" or cash spinners for the conservation movement.

"If an elephant falls for ivory in Africa, the world goes crazy. But 100 million sharks die every year and no one notices or cares. And sharks are far more ecologically significant than elephants are. Sharks are in every ocean," he said.

"Tuna, sharks, all these animals are among the greatest predators the planet has ever seen but they are not revered, they don't have the attention that lions, tigers or cheetahs or leopards do."
Like the elephant and its tusks or the horn of the rhino, sharks are being slaughtered for one body part - their fin - while the rest of the animal is usually discarded.

Stewart's film, scheduled for release in US cinemas in September, includes graphic footage of sharks having their fins hacked off before they are thrown back overboard.

It features a run-in at sea with Central American shark poachers, a dash from the law in Costa Rica and the splendours of Ecuador's Galapagos Islands.

Along the way, Stewart uncovers a huge shark finning racket in Costa Rica and almost loses a leg to flesh-eating disease.

Scientists have been sounding the alarm about the unsustainable harvesting of sharks, with consequences that ripple through the marine environment.

Researchers reported on Thursday that overfishing of big sharks in the Atlantic has cut stocks by 99 percent, dooming North Carolina's bay scallop fishery and threatening other species including shrimp and crabs.

With most of the mightiest predatory sharks - bull, great white and hammerhead - gone from the northwest Atlantic, the rays and skates that the sharks normally feed on had a population explosion, the researchers said in the journal Science.