Travelling with kids (and babies)
Swimming with sharks may stir curiosity, excitement, anxiety and lots of questions. Over the last 14 years of diving, we got to love these majestic creatures and swom with many of them in a variety of places. So here are our 7 suggestions for the best places to dive with sharks.
Hawaii in a nutshell: sharks in abundance and superb diving. One of our most memorable trips before kids were Christmas in Maui and New Years Eve in Oahu. 1. Many dives in Oahu were by the beach and it was shocking to see the number of reef sharks hanging out by the piers, nearby swimmers and surfers.
Needless to say my surfing attempts got less enthusiasm in the sea and more in the evening – lounges and beach bars only! Dining, wining and clubbing aside though, Hawaii is one superb swimming, snorkel and dive destination. In Native Hawaiian culture, sharks are considered to be gods of the sea, protectors of humans, and cleaners of excessive ocean life.
2. Maui is lush, green, wet and filled with rainbows – sometimes we counted over 10 per day! Diver paradise as well, this is the only place where we met the majestic but shy hammerheads.
The trip was quite something – by far the most technical difficult dive we’ve ever done. The boat sails to the junction of 3 oceans – currents are mad and one needs to jump with the boat moving in circles and dive immediately below 5 metres – where the currents are more tamed. The encounter with the hammerheads redeemed the tough ride but my excitement of the actual encounter pleased less our diving instructor. Here I was in front of everyone else, fluttering my shiny underwater camera to get a picture of my hammerhead ! He came about 10m staring at me and the bunch of divers behind and then went away, shy and considerate.
Few other hammerheads but at a comfortable distance – made an out of the world dive trip. In the Native Hawaii culture the hammerhead sharks are thought to be the birth animal of some children; they are also rarely seen through the waters of Maui and when spotted are considered a sign that gods are watching over the families and that the oceans are clean and balanced.
3. Scotland. In a nutshell: much closer geographically to us, clear waters full of sealife, some stunning beaches. The catch? Freezing water temperatures – welcome to Scotland!
The isle of Mull and Iona have been a pure treat, especially that we managed one sunny day with over 22 degrees. White sand Caribbean looking like and blue crystal waters! But the day we took the Mull boat trip, the weather was less pleasing – showers, winds and rainbows all day long. Adventurous day to see basking sharks, puffins and seals!
4. Honduras. Swimming with sharks, more precisely diving and watching the dive instructor feeding them – very questionable practice ! Best introduction to Caribbean is cruising around and hopping on and off various islands. We knew from the moment we embarked in Puerto Rico we wanted to dive with the sharks in Roatan.
I did not expect though to actually question myself so seriously thereafter. My only dive where I lost my 4kg weights and half in had to go back up for a repeat rapid descent – no space left with the back protected but full action – 1.5m away from the feeding bucket…Diving and feeding sharks in Honduras is not for the faint hearted!
Also it’s not something I plan to repeat anytime soon.
Most of shark incidents are also closely linked to fishermen cleaning fish or surfers being confused as seals – so bucket feeding surely not a great idea or link to humans. After the dive, I have also read about a couple of incidents – something any parent will bear in mind! For a lovely article on Honduras with kids head to Oregon girl around the world.
5. Thailand. Koh Tao. Very topical, we stayed in Shark Bay at the stunning Haad Tien.
Life is beautiful in Koh Tao – Thai gem of an island. Aside our fantastic tales of me being asked to lead a dive and being forgotten in the sea!
Bull sharks and more often reef sharks can be seen in here. And here are some of the therapies required post such dives where one is forgotten…
6. Maldives. The shallow crystal waters of Maldives shores are incredibly deceiving when it comes to the real picture between the Reefs. The locals and dive instructors call it the ‘washing machine’ – the currents are incredibly strong, one needs to hold firmly with one hand the regulator and the other hand a piece of reef / corral. But the washing machine has a beautiful secret – once you are in and holding with a firm grip your stone, there’s a visual feast – they call it television. The sharks, turtles and fish are riding the currents – just like in Finding Nemo! Stunning dive and finds, technically difficult but this is one of best places to dive with sharks.
At Banyan Tree Angsana Velavaru in December 2017 we have been spoilt also with baby sharks by our beach every day and their parents whenever snorkelling. And swimming with sharks in Maldives has been a favourite pastime – 2 our favourite clips in here: little ones and slightly bigger 😉
7. For young kids like ours in easy distance, there’s also London aquarium. My kids are already fascinated by sharks – baby songs and documentaries. Having seen them in the Aquarium twice, my eldest seems to understand well that sharks are beautiful and far from the Hollywood clichés, not to be feared.
If anything, our 4 years old also knows that humans are doing much greater damage to the sharks compared to the isolated accidents where sharks hurt humans – slowly but surely chipping away nature’s equilibrium. We started them young as I truly hope in 20 years time we will still dive together and find colourful reefs and sealife!