It is often incredible to look back at the memories of a trip and transport yourself back to the moment. This happened to me as I watched the footage of my time swimming with wild black tip and lemon sharks in Bora Bora.
The Bora Bora lagoon has only one small aperture through which boats and larger cruise ships can get in. It is at the entrance of the lagoon that most of the sharks usually roam freely.
On a typical lagoon excursion you are likely to swim with sting rays and with sharks and then stop at a snorkeling spot around some coral gardens.
Swimming with sting rays is exhilarating but jumping in a shark infested water is, a priori, the definition of my worst nightmare.
We approach the area and the sharks are immediately visible in the surface. They swim around aggressively. They are used to swimming with people and, most importantly, for my own sanity, they are used to being fed every day so their stomachs are full and they are unlikely to attack anyone.
If you ask me, it is still pretty darn scary!
I am on the boat, placing my mask and snorkel as the rest are already in the water and I am petrified. I slowly get ready hoping that the time will be up and we will be done. Instead, I get ushered out of the boat and into the water. “Go on, are you jumping in?”
I realize there is nothing I can do, it is time to dive in. Literally.
I slowly descend down the ladder to the side of the boat holding strongly and not looking down. When the water has reached my waist I release my hands and off I go int the depth of the ocean.
The water is about 15m deep. The black tip sharks are on the surface, extremely close and not scared at all to see humans. They swim remarkably close to you, inquisitive and curious. At the bottom, at my feet, I can see the larger 2-3m long lemon sharks slowly and gently cruising along almost in circles.
The water is extremely clear and the sun is reflecting on the water and on the shark’s skin making them shine and sparkle. They swim fast moving abruptly when they get too close or when you move in a sudden way.
Occasionally I get absolutely frightened as I turn my head slowly and my mask’s tunnel vision reveals a shark right in front of my eyes. I keep wondering what may be behind me that I can’t see.
I hold the GoPro steadily, or so it feels to me, the reality is that I am shaking and the footage afterwards looks like I was frantically moving.
At some point, our captain, who has fashioned his sarong into a thong, decides to play one of his tricks. He free dives and gets really close to the shark until, right in front of our eyes, grabs the shark’s fin. I am still pretty shaken and I can’t help but think that he should not do that, sharks are wild animals and they should remain as such. It can’t be good to habituate them so much to humans that they become domestic animals.
I realize he must be crazy, and probably doing this every day.