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"You are crazy". I must have heard that a million times by now. But nevertheless I just had to experience it: Joining the Caribbean reef sharks at the dinner table for a late afternoon snack at Shark Arena just outside New Providence Island, Bahamas.

boat

The dive boat had barely left the dock before the shark jokes started flying through the air "Ok, who wants to be shark bait today?". Since nobody raised their hands in ecstatic excitement, Chris Andreani, our French shark feeder quickly volunteered the photographer, Sally Thomson, as shark bait.

As we sailed out to Shark Arena, Chris and Sally explained the rules of the game. First an orientation dive at the site, with a visit to the nearby wrecks, Bahama Mama and Ray of Hope, followed by a short surface interval. Once completed with the surface interval we would do another dive where Chris bring the lunch box and feed the sharks.

With a giant stride into the deep blue Atlantic Ocean, I started my decent, and quickly noticed several reef sharks casually fining around 60 feet below me. Some of the dinner guests had arrived early! We started the dive with a swim along the wall. With corals on one side and a 6000-foot drop to the bottom of the "Tongue of the ocean" on the other side, the wall is an amazing experience.

After a swim along the wall we continued to the two wrecks, Ray of Hope and Bahama Mama. The Ray of Hope wreck is only 11 months old, but plenty of fish had already decided to call it home. Bahama Mama served as a booze cruise before it was sunk in 1995 and was somewhat beaten up by storms. We continued back to the dive boat for our surface interval and then it was time for some real underwater action.

We geared up and descended down to the Shark Arena for the luncheon. Chris barely made it into the water before 6-8 sharks surrounded him, eagerly snapping at the lunch box.

The shark dive master at work

What followed next was just stunning. I've seen sharks eat before, but always in some old James Bond movie. In the 007 movie, the shark(s) usually eat the bad guys or the occasional blonde but only after she spent the night with James. This, on the other hand, was the real stuff. More than 15 sharks finned around Chris while he served them fish. I did my best to not look or smell like fish, but even then they would swim right at me and turn away right before my eyes.

Most people have the impression that sharks are man-eating predators, who will attack you as soon as you stick your toe in the water. I guess that the action movies have given the sharks the bad rep. There are over 300 species of sharks, but only a handful are considered man-eaters. When sharks attack humans, it is usually because the shark mistakes the human for a seal, turtle or another animal. Not that it helps you much when you have a huge set of teeth firmly attached to your butt, but consider this - you are more likely to get struck by lightning than being attacked by a shark (Don't believe me?).

The shark dive master at work

Chris finished the feeding, and it was time to return to the dive boat. All the food was gone, but the sharks were still milling around looking for food. The swim back to the boat turned out to be slightly more thrilling than I had expected - with several sharks trailing right behind me looking for food. Back on the boat I counted my hands, fingers, feet and toes and after determining that nothing was missing, I concluded that the shark dive had ended successfully.

Me - surviving the shark dive

Was it crazy? Not at all. Would I do it again?

In a heartbeat....




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