It’s amazing to think that 7 weeks into a 10 week program, and having had about 40 in water encounters with various sharks I am still having completely mind blowing experiences… One might think that once you’ve swam with a whale shark, that was it done and you could tick it off your list, but the experience never fails to be spectacular! With so many different personality traits you soon get your favourite sharks but they are all amazing in their own completely individual ways…. I just had to tell you about this shark I had the pleasure of meeting the other day………
We went out with the boats from the south of the island, as we had been doing for the past 7 weeks now, it was my turn to be spotter again today as I had been recording for the past few days, so I was of course excited to be in the water with the sharks, but I didn’t realise how amazing my day would turn out to be….
After a slow start with no sharks clearly visible to Johan, our micro-light pilot, we played the waiting game… the other boat had just been sent to a shark and we were giving them time with it and then would head over if nothing else appeared for us…
Just then the call came from Johan, turn right 40 degrees for 200 meters. We followed instructions where Johan lead us straight to our first shark of the day. I jumped straight in with Luke, our team leader and our group 1. I was spotting so kept on the shark with my hand in the air so all the clients knew where to swim to. While I did this Luke got ID pictures and sexed the shark. Luke asked me to sex her too, which I did and consequently ended up on the opposite side of her to everyone else, so when Luke dived to get more pictures she banked towards him and the clients, leaving her belly completely exposed to me, which was pretty special, and she (the shark) was a female! A rare treat!
She seemed to be happy swimming with us and after a few minutes Luke took the clients back to the boat and we got group 2 in. After a really long encounter, with her swimming mostly around us in big circles, Luke took the 2nd group back to the boat as they had a call for another shark, and after all our aim is to encounter as many different sharks as possible…
Completely mesmerised by this beautiful, unscarred, 5m female shark I suddenly realised I was alone in the water, as I looked back at the boat to see the last getting on Luke shouted “Dom stay on that shark!” I gave him the thumbs up and kept swimming with her, now in a straight line, my hand in the air all the time so everyone could see me…
After a few more mesmerising minutes I was getting tired now, after all I had been non stop swimming in fairly rough conditions for at least 25 minutes. As if she knew this my shark suddenly started circling me again, as I realised this I slowed until she came closer and closer, I stopped completely, just staying afloat I looked back up for the boat, to see they had left me for the other shark. I could see a tiny dot on the horizon which I took to be one of our boats but nothing else for miles! This wasn’t a massive deal as Johan was still in the air to guide them back to me and I knew at least one of the team on the boats would also be keeping an eye on me, all the same to suddenly realise you are completely alone in the middle of the sea is a bit nerve racking… But I wasn’t alone…
As if she knew I was feeling vulnerable my beautiful shark came so close I could have put my hand out to touch her, I could even see her blinking! (the sharks don’t always follow the encounter code and I let her do what ever she wanted while I stayed still).
Annoyingly I could also see hundreds of copepods on her bottom lip which were definitely in grabbing reach, but not wanting to risk scaring away my only friend I let her be.
A few more minutes passed when I heard the rumble of David’s boat coming near, ready to put their groups in on this shark I had kept for them… I was completely exhausted by this point so after Tory was in and spotting for her group I returned to David’s boat for a rest.
David soon was questioning whether to put a satellite tag on her or not, as he thought she might be a bit small, but I really wanted to find out where this girl was going so I encouraged him to do it, hoping it wouldn’t hurt her or scare her away.
Once everyone had had a good look David got in with the PAT tag and as I watched nervously from the boat he tagged her on her right side just below her dorsal fin, she didn’t even flinch! She stuck around afterwards too, long enough for David to get back on the boat and say “Don’t you want to get back in and look at your girl’s new jewellery?” YES! I said and I was away before he could blink with the camera in hand.
After 10 more minutes and a good few photos of her with her new ‘jewellery’ David started beckoning us back to the boat – I couldn’t believe it was time to go back already and I had been with this one shark all day! It felt like minutes, not hours that had passed while I was with her.
It turned out David also grabbed a copepod off her dorsal fin while he was in so we should be able to find out where she came from in the last few months by identifying the stable isotopes in the copepods.
As we headed back to shore with the boat I couldn’t help but reflect on the amazing day I had had… I’m sure this is a day I will remember forever.
When we got back to the office to ‘Iris’ our tagged shark, we found she was a new one, never seen here before, so I have named her Anomie, officially known as sey.2009.042.
Now I have to play the waiting game… Firstly to see if I can see her again before I leave the Seychelles in 3 weeks and then 90 days from tagging her, the pat-tag, or ‘pop off tag’ will ‘pop off’ her and start transmitting to the satellite to tell us where she has been once she left Seychelles waters….. If all goes well, she will keep the tag for the full 90 days and we will get back some vital information on migratory paths of these sharks… Wherever she goes, I just hope she stays safe and returns to the Seychelles again so I can keep up to date with how she is doing through David and MCSS…
Thank you David, Glynis, Luke and Katie, for the chance to have this utterly amazing, once in a lifetime experience I will never forget.
It’s almost enough to make a girl forget her Giraffes!
P.s. I think she may be renamed as Poppy as she did get the first Pop-off Satellite tag..