Sharks in the Bahamas

Diving into Danger
By Mike Porath
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You can play the tune to Jaws on just two piano keys. But those two notes can send an ocean dweller's heart into a pitter-patter. What could be more frightening than spotting a fin cutting the surface of the sea as you tread water helplessly? The 1975 thriller forever put fear into the word"shark" but also turned us on to these terrifying creatures.

A quarter century later, our fascination with sharks and a growing trend in adventure tourism have spawned a boom in shark diving businesses around the world. Dive ventures send vacationers to swim with hammerheads in the Galapagos Islands, tangle with gray sharks off Fiji, seek out great whites in steel cages off the coasts of South Africa and Australia and witness the huge but harmless 40 foot whale sharks in Hawaii (that's a school bus to you and me — the biggest fish in the water).

Contradicting Hollywood

I opted for a quick trip to the Bahamas for my first shark expedition. No scuba license? No problem. You can earn your scuba certification in a few afternoons for a few hundred bucks. But if you decide to dive with sharks, there's some important lessons to be learned in the "Shark Awareness Specialty Course" taught at Stuart Cove's Dive South Ocean in Nassau.

"Our mandate is to try and show people that sharks are not the dangerous creatures that we've all been led to believe through Hollywood movies," Stuart Cove says. He would know — he's acted as a stunt man and"shark wrangler" on films such as the James Bond hit For Your Eyes Only and Jaws IV. "It's just deeply ingrained in all of us that sharks are just terrible creatures and if you jump in the water you're likely to be eaten. And of course that's not true."

The facts back him up. The International Shark Attack File counts 58 shark attacks on humans in 1999, including 25 in Florida. But only four were fatal and no deaths were recorded in North American waters, where two-thirds of the attacks occurred.

About the Author : Mike Porath is an award-winning journalist living in New York City who has reported on events such as Hurricane George, the '98 Vote, and the Kosovo refugee crisis. He spends every last drop of vacation time on adventure travel expeditions. Mike can be contacted at:

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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