Group enjoys close encounter with five tiger sharks
A group of boaters enjoyed a rare encounter with five tiger sharks on Challenger Banks.
Miguel Mejías, an ornithologist who usually scouts Bermuda’s waters for seabirds, joined shark researcher Choy Aming and his crew — with two large marlin heads for bait — on the trip to the submerged banks about 13 miles southeast of Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, Southampton, on Bermuda’s main underwater mount.
Within less than an hour of reaching their destination a tiger shark turned up and small groups of swimmers cautiously descended under the waves to catch a glimpse.
Dr Mejías recalled: “There was a big chain through the eyes of the marlin head, the rope must have been 30 or 40 feet long. Choy put it over and gave us a breakdown of the shark’s behaviour.
“He said that when a second shark shows up they can get aggressive so ideally it’s good to be in with only one.
“Only four people could go into the water at a time and Choy made sure we were all holding onto one side of the rope while the shark interacted with the bait on the other side of the rope.
”I could just see deep blue water around me and all of a sudden I could see it eating the bait.
“I was just in awe seeing this cool and powerful creature, and sharing its space with it. People have a very negative view about sharks and it really bothers me when they say ‘shark-infested waters’.
“Sharks belong in the water, if anything it should be human-infested waters when you think of all the garbage that washes up on the shore and all the overfishing we’ve done.”
While he was taking in the scene on the recent trip, Dr Mejías could hear Mr Aming alerting the swimmers to a second shark and telling them to get out of the water. Everyone safely boarded the boat.
“After that, every 30 to 45 minutes another one would show up. Before we knew it we were dealing with five sharks,” Dr Mejías said.
“Choy didn’t want us to be in the water with more than one shark as they get more aggressive. Sure enough the first shark was nibbling, but when the second one turned up there was more thrashing.
“As more sharks turned up they were dragging the metal float into the water – it went underwater for 15 seconds when the fifth shark showed up.
“Everything Choy said would happen, happened. We had two heads on us and within three and a half hours, both were chewed up like gum, beyond recognition. It was incredible.”
Dr Mejías, who recently earned a PhD in ornithology and biology, has known Mr Aming for a decade through conservation work and the pair’s fathers worked together in the entertainment business.
He said he would only swim with sharks under the expert eye of a professional.
Dr Mejías added: “My friends say it was crazy, but it is about context. If I wasn’t with a shark expert I would not jump in.
“Choy gave very good insight into how the sharks behave, he showed us how to use the rope and taught us safety protocols ― it was very controlled. I was fascinated by this incredible animal he has been studying. I will never forget it.”