08
Mar-2017

Diving With Bull Sharks In Fiji!

Diving with bull sharks in Fiji

SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL

 

Vertigo.

It’s not really something you’d choose to experience when you’re about to go diving with bull sharks in Fiji, none smaller than the size of a car.

Vertigo.

15 metres down and my ears felt like they were about to erupt and explode into thousands of pieces.

Vertigo.

The underwater world, this beautiful underwater world I admire and respect so much, was suddenly violently spinning out of control.

Vertigo.

Oh you cruel, cruel world.

 

PREPARING FOR THE MOST TERRIFYING DIVE OF OUR LIVES

 

Reef shark silhouette

Once upon a time, John and I were like most of the general public – reasonably afraid of sharks.

Then we did this crazy cage diving experience with Great White Sharks off Stewart Island in New Zealand for our honeymoon.

After that, we grew fond of these magnificent and widely misunderstood creatures of the sea.

The next step was to go diving with sharks with NO cage. And where else to do it? Fiji’s Pacific Harbour, home to a busy shark arena.

Yes, arena.

That’s what they called it on the boat. Our dive instructors gave us a run through of how the dive would work. It felt similar to a strategy plan in a game of football, complete with whiteboard drawings and red arrows advising what we should do, where we will go and what the ‘opposition’ will be doing.

We’d descend to 30 metres and lie down on a dead coral wall lined with concrete slabs to get into position to watch the sharks.

‘This is the arena,” the skipper said, pointing to the game plan.

ARENA.

The word terrified John as it suddenly dawned on him we may be witnessing something akin to Gladiator fight.

After the deepest dive, we would head to a shallow area for some smaller sharks and lots of colourful tropical fish. We’d return to the boat for our surface interval before shark dive number two, meeting the bull sharks for a second time.

And so we signed our lives away and plunged into the shark-infested waters of Fiji’s Pacific Harbour.

I noticed John dropping quickly. In my anticipation and excitement of the dive, I tried to keep up with him.

But I descended too fast.

The pressure began to build up in my ears.

I stopped, ascended a little and tried again. Nope. I couldn’t equalise.

The pain was intensifying. By now, most of the divers were disappearing from sight. I waved my arms around to try and catch the attention of one of our leaders.

He saw my call for help and I signalled to him my ears were hurting. He guided me to a rope to hold on to when suddenly the world around me began spinning out of control.

I struggled to focus and I was hit with a dizziness I hadn’t felt since the night of my 21st birthday when I tried to down 21 shots. 

I had no option but to abort the dive.

Guided back to the boat, I burst into tears as the skipper pulled me up to rest on board. I had been so excited about this incredible dive. I was devastated to be missing out.

But hope was not lost entirely.

After a few sobs, a glass of water and some time to gather my thoughts, my Divemaster suggested we could try again, joining the rest of the divers at the 15 metres.

I dried my eyes. It looked like I was going to get the chance to go diving with bull sharks in Fiji after all.

 

DIVING WITH BULL SHARKS IN FIJI: TAKE TWO

 

Divemaster assisting during shark dive in Fiji

My second descent attempt was cautious but successful. Holding my hand, my divemaster lead me to John, who quickly hugged me and tried to kiss me through his regulator. Naturally, he’d been worrying about his wife who had clearly not made it down to the 30metre dive.

I lay down next to him and focused on breathing slowly, comforted by his touch.

Just a few of metres in front of us was a colourful display of tropical fish swimming between dozens of reef sharks.

Feeding reef sharks in Fiji

 

Silvertips, black tips, lemon sharks, tawny nurses and whitetip reef sharks appeared one after the other to be hand fed by the divemasters. The water visibility was a good 20-25 metres at this depth so we had a clear view of the different species coming in for a feed.

 

Black tip reef shark in Fiji

Reef sharks in Fiji

Shark feeding in Pacific Harbour, Fiji

Next to the divemaster’s scuba fin, which was wedged into some coral rocks, was a moray eel slithering out of its cave to try and attack the the fin. Hand feeding sharks while being attacked by a moray eel? Yeah, nah, no thanks.

It was a colourful show, but I was still gutted to have missed out on the first part of the dive where the big boys were hanging out.

Fear not, we had a second dive to complete that day – one that I was determined to be there for.

 

FACE TO FACE WITH OCEAN PREDATORS

 

Our second dive wasn’t as deep – but most definitely action packed.

Lying down on the coral wall, I felt a large presence looming.

The shadows in the distance grew larger and more defined. Feeders were carefully positioned ready to hand-feed these bull sharks, which would open their jaws wide right in front of the divers. The feeders wore chainmail their arms to protect their limbs in case of an enthusiastic bite.

Face to face with a bull shark in Pacific Harbour, Fiji

Another diver was positioned a few metres above us, controlling a wheelie bin on a pulley system. Every now and then the diver would tip the wheelie bin, dropping out a couple of tuna heads, creating a shark feeding frenzy. Bull sharks would headbutt others out of the way to get to the food. 

Bull shark in Pacific Harbour, Fiji

Diving with bull sharks in Fiji

I could feel every thrust of the caudal fin – a sudden wave of water would rush against me.

Occasionally the sharks would get too close to the divers. Armed with just a metal rod, one end flat and the other pointy, the Divemasters would gently nudge a shark with the flat end of the rod to move it away.

Bull sharks surround a wheelie bin in Pacific Harbour, Fiji

At times, I felt some sharks were making a bit too much eye contact.

I sunk lower behind the rocks, closing my eyes. I uttered a few Hail Marys for a peaceful death, rather than being ripped apart by a bull shark.

Incredible and awesome to watch, I was still terrified. These are one of the more aggressive shark species. But the bull sharks weren’t interested in the divers. We’re too bony. Tuna heads were far more interesting.

Bull shark, Pacific Harbour, Fiji

Diving with bull sharks in Fiji

Bull sharks swarm around a wheelie bin

WHAT THE FUDGE DID WE JUST DO?!

 

Back on the boat, our hearts were thumping. WTAF did we just do?!

It was such a surreal experience of our lives and even now, it’s hard to comprehend the fact that we actually went diving with BULL SHARKS in Fiji!

Wheelie bin action shark dive

We must admit, we usually don’t really agree with shark feeding. However, these types of dives help educate the public about sharks and their importance in the ocean. The company, Beqa Adventure Divers, also does a shark count on the dives to keep an eye on numbers. Their ultimate aim is to protect the sharks of Fiji and they run a number of shark research projects.

The area has been turned into a marine reserve where all fishing is banned – something we can definitely support.

Of all the dives we have completed, it was easily the most terrifying, exhilarating and heart-pumping adrenalin fuelled adventure of our lives.

Lots of bull sharks on our shark dive in Fiji

A diver photographs a bull shark in Fiji

It’s also one of the few times I’ve seen my husband genuinely nervous.

The last time was when I thought it was a good idea to give him a surprise aerobatic flight for his birthday one year. At the time, I had no idea he suffered from motion sickness. He had also just downed a milky frappuccino beforehand. But that’s a whole other story for another day…


DISCUSS: Would you go diving with bull sharks in Fiji? Have you been on any other shark dives?

The most exhilarating underwater adventure of our lives - shark diving in Fiji!

 

Island Vacation Link

 

Untold Morsels
Weekend Wanderlust

Time Travel Blonde

0

 likes / 68 Comments
Share this post:
  • During my first dive, I was nervous as hell. I could imagine why you would be so terrified. But scary as it is, it is also one of the most rewarding experiences you could have. Seeing the sharks there humbles you, right? It amazes you but also humbles you. Thanks for sharing your experience – it was so well written that I felt like I was diving with you too!

    • Where was your first dive, Abby? It sure is terrifying coming face to face with bull sharks, but also marvellous! You suddenly feel very small in the big wide world. But they are beautiful creatures, quite incredible. Thanks so much for stopping by! Glad you enjoyed the read.

  • Wow, this must have been such an incredible experience!! I’m obsessed with diving… but have to admit that I was actually a bit freaked out when I first swam with sharks in Costa Rica. The ones in your pics look even bigger!! Glad you survived. 🙂
    xx finja | http://www.effcaa.com

    • It truly was incredible! Where do you like to dive? It’s always a bit scary the first time you see sharks underwater but then you come to love them!

  • Pocket Rockets

    This is amazing!! So many questions!! I haven’t had any of my own diving experiences as of yet, but with sharks, that’s incredible, makes me want to try book something asap!! What camera were you using down there? Such beautiful pictures, the details and colours are insane –

    • Thanks! Diving with sharks leaves you with so much awe and respect for these creatures. Fiji is a great place to do it too! We use an Olympus Tough TG 860 for our underwater photography, with the PT057 housing.

      • Pocket Rockets

        Ah OK! I haven’t looked at one of those yet… but will do now, the results are incredible

  • Carlinn

    I am already nervous when I go diving so I would have felt even worse than you did. What a crazy thing to witness. I definitely have a lot of respect for the ocean and all its creatures.

    • It is certainly nerve-inducing! But also an incredible achievement and quite breathtaking – literally! I had to remind myself to keep breathing.

  • This looks absolutely incredible!!! I’ve never been scuba diving but would absolutely love to! With that being said, I used to work for the medical assistance side of travel insurance & have heard one too many diving-related horror stories which has put me off slightly.
    I have been snorkelling with sharks in Belize and that was an amazing albeit terrifying experience, so I can’t imagine how this must have felt for you! And the photos are just unreal!

    • I hope you get the chance to go scuba diving one day and aren’t put off by the stories you’ve had to deal with! Most diving accidents are due to panic, then doing something silly, or being careless with gear. I still get scared sometimes though.

  • Luxurybackpacking

    Wow, Im speechless this must have been a once in a lifetime opportunity! I went to Fiji in October and stayed at the Interncontinental and the diving there was magical, but thankfully didn’t encounter any sharks, may have had a heart attack! But well done, I highly admire you doing this, as Im not sure I would have the guts to dive with bull sharks without a cage!

    • The Intercontinental is beautiful and such excellent snorkelling just off the beach too! I hear the sharks are further out to sea around that area, near the surf breaks, not within the reef 😉 Thanks, it was an incredible experience – and to be honest, I’m not sure if I would have the guts to do it a second time!

  • Wow, just wow! Sounds like such an amazing experience and your post was so well written I really felt like I was there for you! What an emotional rollercoaster of a day, so glad you got to go back down and see the show! #FarawayFiles

    • Thanks Keri! We had such an incredible, exhilarating adventure! Can’t really believe we did it, to be honest. Quite a rollercoaster indeed but so much excitement after we completed it.

  • wherejogoes

    There is no way in a million years I could do this myself but I loved reading your account. Pictures are absolutely stunning, what an awesome experience. Strictly for the brave! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles so I can experience it vicariously!

    • I don’t blame you – it’s not for everyone! 2 years ago I would have thought it would be completely absurd to even entertain the idea. But I’m so glad I did it – such an incredible dive that we will remember forever. I was just going over our video footage and the heart was thumping all over again!

  • It would have been so devastating to not be able to dive after all of that anticipation. I was so relieved when I read that your second attempt was successful. And also glad because your pictures are stunning! Congratulations. #farawayfiles

    • Thanks so much! Such an achievement to actually go diving with these sharks without any cage! I never would have thought it would be something I wanted to do, let alone complete, so am thrilled!

  • Untold Morsels

    Wonderful writing Juliette. My heart is beating a lot faster having read this! There is no way in hell I would dive with bull sharks in Fiji or anywhere else for that matter. I’m way too chicken. I’m so glad you managed to descend for the dive so we could see these incredible photos. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • Thanks so much! YOUR heart is beating – you can imagine what my heart was doing! I wouldn’t recommend everyone do it – halfway through I was thinking, yep, ready for this to end now…

  • Jean Bean

    What an amazing experience. At least you got there in the end. I have ear problems too and am a terrible swimmer so I’d probably not be able to do this. Thankfully you’re amazing photos and wonderful words has allowed me to live vicariously through your experience. Any more shark diving experiences coming up?

    • Thanks! So glad I could join them for the rest of the dive trip. Ear problems are awful! It’s really not worth risking ear injury just to go diving. But glad I can offer the experience through my writing and photos! No more shark dives yet…I would love to go diving with hammerheads in The Galapagos Islands though!

  • Kathy James

    Wow. I would love to do this! I am so glad that you managed to get back in the water and have that experience. I too would have been in tears. Your photos are amazing. I hear what you say about feeding sharks and tend to agree but on an educational basis and by professionals then it creates a better experience for all including the sharks.
    Thanks for sharing. It made a great read

    • Thanks Kathy! It was such a thrill and if it’s something you’re interested in then I 100% recommend it! Shark dives are interesting, regarding conservation. But I do think that providing the company isn’t doing anything drastically wrong and is trying to educate and grow shark numbers and protect them, then that’s great.

  • Thank you for sharing. Sounds like an exhilarating and terrifying experience all in one. Would definitely add it to the bucket list!

  • Global Giraffe

    Wow what an adventure that was and I’m just sitting here in my office reading it! We were going to do the cage diving in NZ, but ultimately decided against it due to a lot of the locals being against it. This on the other hand is something I would love to go and do. The pictures you got from this are just completely unreal! Great post guys! #farawayfiles

    • Thanks! It was interesting in Stewart Island – there was a lot of negative publicity but we found that it was about 50/50 for and against. It really seemed like those who were against had been misinformed and there was a lot of scaremongering by people who didn’t know anything about sharks, where as those who supported it tended to be more educated in marine life and shark conservation. Just an observation we made. From our personal experience – we went from being afraid of sharks to suddenly having a huge desire to learn more about them and raise awareness as a direct result of our cage dive. Hope you guys get to so some shark diving another time though!

  • Clare Thomson

    I still remember the first time I saw a reef shark when I was snorkelling. The shock of being so close to a real shark. Just the sight of that fin got me panicking! I’ve snorkelled with other sharks too but I don’t think I could dive with sharks as big as this. Great photos and story for #FarawayFiles

    • Oh I bet you would have been terrified! Even when I was snorkelling out on a coral reef last month, I saw a little baby reef shark cruise along and it still gave me a fright! Funny how we are all so easily scared of them, even the harmless ones.

  • sally higgins

    These photos are truly amazing. Well done, love the story as well. #farawayfiles

  • Sonia Sahni

    I want to go here!!! I went to Galapagos…saw many sharks…but not the hammer head. Did the shark cage dive in South Africa. This seems awesome…saw the video too…I want to go here for sure! How much did the dive cost?

    • Oh wow Galapagos – how incredible! That’s totally on my bucket list, it would be a dream to go diving there! My brother did the shark cage dive in South Africa too although he was disappointed there weren’t MORE sharks to see. This dive was awesome because there was no cage – we were right amongst the bull sharks in their territory! I believe a 2-tank dive was about $325 Fijian dollars.

  • David Johnston

    Wow, what an incredible experience and truly fantastic photos. Glad to hear you were able to make it down on your second attempt, can only imagine how upsetting it must have been at first. Not sure I’d be brave enough to do this, but awfully tempted now! #weekendwanderlust

    • Thanks! Definitely one we will remember for years to come! So glad I could continue the dive too. John had his own set of problems with his regulator too which was a bit scary. It truly is magnificent to see these sharks right in front of you. Worth it – if you have the nerve!

  • nattiekaf

    awesome post! I think I would definitely give diving with bull sharks a try, I find sharks fascinating. One of my favorites dives was in Komodo with the reef sharks there. I agree with you about feeding the sharks, generally probably not the best, but since it’s for a good cause to help keep them and other ocean life protected, then fine.

    • Thanks! Sharks are so beautiful, and so misunderstood. Komodo would have been awesome! Yes – mixed feelings about shark feeding. Although at least they were being fed so they weren’t tempted by any of us divers ha ha! But a hugely educational opportunity too.

  • Gokul Raj

    I do hate the pressure effect on the ears which is what scares me from going for scuba diving. Glad you went for the second attempt and got a close up view of the predators.

    • Yes, the very first time I went diving, before I was certified, the pressure really bothered me. Now that I am more confident it gets easier to equalise, but this time I just let the excitement get the better of me!

  • I’m so insanely jealous. 1. Jealous of the experience. 2. Jealous of how great your underwater photos turned out. Mine never look that good!

    • Thanks so much! We love underwater photography. We just wish we could afford more expensive camera gear ha ha!

  • This looks so amazing! I would totally do it and as you I am always a bit cautious when it comes to animal encounters and feedings, but glad you reassured it’s not that bad. My partner had a similar problem on one of our deep dives where he couldn’t equalize and had to abort the dive. I went ahead and was so worried when I didn’t see him down the bottom. I can totally understand what your partner must have felt like. Awesome video too by the way! Makes me scared just by looking at it!

    • Thanks! It truly was an incredible experience. I think the benefit of shark diving is that it educates people more about these magnificent creatures, which are often misunderstood. People are afraid of little reef sharks for no reason! And this programme has helped stop fishing in the area, while supporting the local village. More shark numbers + happy village = it’s a win.
      It’s awful not being able to equalise – I feel your partner’s pain!!

  • Punita Malhotra

    That must have been the singularly most thrilling adventure of your lives, right? The post is very well-written, specially the way you describe the entire experience, including the emotions. Do they use magnets to keep the sharks away?

    • Absolutely! Without a doubt. Incredible dive. No, no magnets at all. We are right there, amongst them in their natural environment. Terrifyingly awesome!

  • WOW!! I dive but not a lot and have never dove 30 meters! Cudos to you for going back down after a bit of pain and vertigo, I am not sure I would have gone in again! It does look like it was all worth it, your pics are amazing and an experience that is once in a lifetime! Wow thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks! It’s definitely the craziest experience of my life. I have new respect for these incredible creatures of the sea after this dive.

  • Holy crap that looks legitimately AWESOME!!! I’d love to do that but I’m so scared of sharks but then again I think that’s why I should do it! So I can study them and understand their movements 😛

    • Ha yes it was insane!! That’s the beauty of shark diving – it’s such a great educational tool for promoting better understand about the ocean and this apex predator. And also how you’re more likely to be in a car crash than attacked by a shark! Sharks are so misunderstood. I changed my attitudes towards sharks after our cage dive in NZ with great whites. They are truly magnificent to see.

  • Corinne Vail

    Wow! You are so much braver than me. If I felt the sharks were making too much eye contact, I’d be out of there! Love the photos!

    • I don’t think I would have the guts to do it again! It was amazing but when I look back at my videos I have no idea how we did it…

  • No, no and NO. LOL I don’t think I could do it! My husband would love to dive with sharks, but I will take a hard pass. The fish and the coral look beautiful though and it sounds like an unforgettable memory. Thanks for sharing!

    • Fair call – it’s not for everyone! And I would not recommend pushing anyone to do it either, because you need to be absolutely certain you’re not going to freak out! But it is truly an incredible experience.

  • Amanda & Brian

    Wow, what an incredible experience! I am happy you had a successful dive the second time, good that you tried again. We have only been cage diving in South Africa, we hope to get diver certified one of these days and would love to have an experience like this. Gorgeous photos!

    • Thanks! How was SA? That was with Great Whites, yes? I have a question for you – what did your shark dive do for your perception of sharks? Our cage dive was what completely changed our thoughts and became shark advocates!

  • Flights Services Inc

    Wonderful picture! Thank you for your sharing!
    http://bit.ly/2nE8QUs

  • I don’t know if my heart could take this dive anymore. Especially not with kids in the water with me! I have been in the water with black tips, nurse sharks and potentially hammerheads, but didn’t feel scared, just wary and excited when we saw them. But I haven’t been on a shark feed dive. Thank you for your honest and visceral portrayal of the experience – amazing! Cheers, Erin #FarawayFiles

    • Eek I’m not sure how I’d cope having kids with me! Great you have been able to see the reef sharks – and wow, hammerheads?! I’d love to dive with them. Such an incredible experience! The bull sharks are pretty crazy to see right in front of you.

  • I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would want to dive with sharks. You are a lot braver than I am. I have seen the occasional shark while I have been snorkelling and I have always headed to shore straight away.

    • Ha ha fair enough, it’s not for everyone! But shark diving is a brilliant educational tool and has really helped us in our attitudes towards sharks, shark conservation and general ocean/marine conservation. We used to be afraid but our shark dives have turned us into marine advocates. Sharks are simply misunderstood 😉

  • Yeah I definitely would be too chicken to attempt this! I fantasize about it but I just don’t think I could do it, haha! That will not be a part of our honeymoon but good for you! I wish I had more guts!!! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday, hope to see you again this weekend! xo

    • Don’t worry – if it’s not your cup of tea then don’t push yourself! Will you go diving in Fiji? You definitely should for your honeymoon. Must be coming up soon? Let me know if you need any insider tips!

  • This looks absolutely AMAZING!! Your shots are incredible!! What kind of camera do y’all use? I absolutely love your shots and how fun diving with sharks!!

    • Thanks it was the most thrilling adventure of our lives! We use the Olympus TG 860 with POT 057 underwater housing. There’s an updated model these days which shoots in RAW which gives a bit more flexibility. We’ve also added an external strobe, which we didn’t have at the time of this dive (plus not meant to use flash with the sharks).

  • Kat

    This looks so incredible.. is it weird that I’m jealous?! Looks like the most thrilling experience and your photos are incredible!

    • Not weird at all that you are jealous! It means you also like to get the heart racing! An incredible experience, highly recommend it.

Archives

> <
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec