Sharks in Abaco: Learning to Dive in the Bahamas

Facing Fears: Diving with Sharks in the Bahamas

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So we’ve established I’m the tiniest bit afraid of SHARKS. That said, did you think you would ever in a million years read a post where I talked about how I came face to face with one without hyperventilating underwater?

Diving with Sharks in the Bahamas
Diving with Sharks in the Bahamas
Diving with Sharks in the Bahamas

No? You’re not the only one! You see, after Holly (also afraid of all finned things) and I had completed our first day of check-out dives in the Bahamas, we were all, “bring on the sharks! We can take ’em!” A definite change of tune from us grasping each other for dear life on the boat, whimpering, “but what if we see a shuh-shuh-shuh-SHARK?!?”

This post was last updated in September 2021.

But something about getting comfortable in the water made us change our tune. Unfortunately, then I came down with the Bahamian Diet (AKA stomach flu) and was unable to join in on the fun. Holly went diving with the rest of the group—Brendal, another Holly, John, Linda, Sue and Angie—as planned, which was all good as there were many BODIES and her chances of being attacked were severely diminished. John and the nurse shark even made friends, as the shark really liked to be pet like a cat.

So after seeing the pictures Holly took and slightly getting over my bug—I was still quite paranoid about vomiting in my regulator, but alas, I was ultimately fine—Brendal took me diving the next morning so I could complete my certification. Took me diving with just the intrepid Angie, who came along for the ride, on a day when there were far less people for the sharks to feast on. The second we anchored the boat and I entered the water, I took a brief peek underwater and saw two or three Caribbean reefs circling below me. Zoiks!

As we descended 40 feet to the bottom–and I won’t lie, I was shaking in my dive booties—Brendal made me do one last skills check, which entailed taking out the regulator, removing the BCD (the life jacket thingie you wear when diving), and even removing and clearing my mask—as the sharks circled above us.

Now, it’s never fun to be blind underwater, and mask removal always gives me a slight panic attack, but it’s far less fun to be blind underwater when you look up and see this prior to performing the task:

Those suckers weren’t small (nurse sharks, aside), let me tell you. The reefs and bulls were a good five or six feet in length, at least.

But you know what? It oddly wasn’t scary. They’re such peaceful, graceful creatures, I’ve come to find, that I would actually get excited every time another one swam around the corner.

Diving with Sharks in the Bahamas
Diving with Sharks in the Bahamas
Diving with Sharks in the Bahamas

However, toward the end of our dive, as we were beginning our ascent, a friendly nurse sharks started circling me. Brendal motioned for me to pet it. I got closer. And closer. As did it (he? she?). It grazed my fin, and I bolted upward. I guess you can’t completely triumph over trepidation in a mere hour. I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t get to leave the Bahamas boasting that I pet a shark.

Several of you have written me that you’re terrified of the ocean and would never consider diving with sharks. I get you, I do; if anyone can relate it’s me. But it’s far less intimidating than snorkeling—at least you have a full range of vision, whereas with snorkeling you never know what’s lurking behind you—and you’re missing out on so much by not exploring life underwater (did you see The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo? Case in point!). And if you need someone to hold your hand and accompany you to your therapist session beforehand, consider me your girl.

Have you ever gone diving with sharks? Would you ever go diving with sharks?

  • August 27, 2008
    She Likes Purple

    A bull shark. Lord. You and Holly deserve medals and batches of freshly baked cookies for being that brave. On top of your certification and all.

    I just…I’m so impressed.

  • August 27, 2008

    I can’t believe it – congrats on overcoming your fear!

  • August 27, 2008

    Awesome interview. I love hearing voices!

  • August 27, 2008

    I love hearing about all of this! And also the photos.

    I also heard the voice of Chandler Bing…

  • August 27, 2008

    Um, holy God. No way. Sorry. Nope. Ah.

  • August 28, 2008
    La Petite Chic

    I always hated removed my mask underwater…it freaks me out too! And those shark are huge! And a bull shark? They are notoriously mean! EEK!

  • August 28, 2008

    wow, good for you!

  • August 28, 2008

    WOWOWOW! Sooooo cool! I’m dying to try it now, and you DO look hot in your dive gear. Very BACKPACKER-esque.

  • August 28, 2008
    stepping over the junk

    The closest I would ever come to that is a glass bottom boat. Or the aquarium. Seriously. Instant anxiety attack! Great photos though!

  • January 15, 2009

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  • September 22, 2012

    Yikes! I can’t believe you actually did that, Honestly just seeing those pictures is increasing my heart rate ten fold! Sweats are appearing too!

    I have a healthy respect for sharks, So healthy that I wouldn’t want to be within 100 feet of one! Ha! It is very, very brave of you!


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