Swimming with sharks!

I got up early today and decided I was going to go check out shark bay and see if I could find the sharks. I went into a dive shop and spoke to a local Thai, he showed me on my map the best place to find the sharks and the turtles they eat. I walked a short distance and cut across the south peninsula of the island to the bay. I hired some fins from the shop for 50 baht, but it turned out to be a total waste, I couldn’t wear them because of an infected cut on my foot.

I got down to the water and there were a couple people on the beach but no one really out snorkeling. I jumped in the water and started swimming out to a buoy that marks the reef where they hang around. It was a sunny day and the sky was a brilliant blue, but the water was still very murky, probably from the recent rain. I swam, and swam, and swam some more. The buoy was probably 100+ meters from the beach, this was without a doubt the farthest I have ever swam away from shore in the ocean. Eventually the water got deeper and the coral more brilliant and some life starting appearing, including few a baracuda, not big, but about 3 feet long.

I had almost reached the buoy, completely out of breath, and aggravated by my leaky snorkel mask when the first one appeared. My heart almost stopped! It was a black tip shark, about 5 feet long, and looked every bit like the classic shark everyone pictures in their mind. Then another appeared, and another, they were in front of me, left of me, and behind me. I had a sudden feeling of helplessness come over me and had to fight the urge to panic. There was no boat or land to hop up on if I needed to – just a long swim back that I barely had the energy to do without a mass of sharks chasing me. Not that I could have outran them anyways…they moved so gracefully and were actually very beautiful. I had a funny thought come through my head…here I am, alone, in the Gulf of Thailand, surrounded by 7 or 8 black tip sharks. They never made any aggressive moves toward me, one barely looked at me out of curiosity, confirmed that I wasn’t a turtle, despite the fact that I was splashing around on the surface like a wounded one, and then turned away to look for real food.
I swam back to the beach, exhausted, but always keeping one eye looking over my shoulder just in case the sharks were feeling playful today. I did pass a trigger fish that was aggressive as hell…they are nesting now in March. I was actually more worried about it than the sharks, they arent that big but are mean as hell and they do have teeth – every divemaster on the island has a story of being attacked and fins with bite marks missing to prove it. I made it back to civilization and treated myself to an incredible meal by the ocean….glad to still be at the top of the food chain.

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