There is a place on Koh Tao unofficially named Shark Bay because you are pretty much guaranteed to see sharks if you snorkel or dive there. About a month ago I went snorkeling there for the first time without knowing that it was called Shark Bay and that there were sharks in the water. I was there to see one of the underwater projects the marine conservation branch was doing. The water visibility was so poor that I really couldn’t see much and gave up and tanned on the beach instead. At the time I had no idea I had just been snorkeling in shark infested waters.
I went back the second time with the intention to see sharks with an Italian friend, who I sometimes had trouble understanding. When I asked him how big the sharks were he held up his hands showing about two or three feet long and mumbled something I didn’t understand. What I understood from his answer was that they weren’t that big, so I was completely comfortable with snorkeling around and looking for them. The water visibility was even worse the second time around and I couldn’t even see a foot in front of myself, so we retreated to the beach again.
The third time I went snorkeling in Shark Bay I brought one of my volunteers along. This time the visibility was perfect, but unfortunately the snorkel my volunteer was using was leaking and she decided to go back to the beach and wait for my return so she could use my snorkel. I wanted to see these mini sharks my Italian friend had talked about, so I continued along on my own.
I was swimming around looking at the little fish and then I saw a shark about five feet long swim under me. I was shocked. These were supposed to be toy size sharks, not Danielle size sharks. After I saw the first one I started to make a U-turn back to the beach and then saw about ten more. I stopped when I found a huge rock with sea anemones and clown fish which I found soothing so I was able to calm down a bit. I didn’t want the sharks to know how nervous I was so I thought it was important to try to slow down my heartbeat. Once I regained some composure, I continued back in the direction of the beach, but it seemed like no matter which way I tried to swim there was another shark. I was too nervous and distracted to keep track of how many I saw, but I must have seen at least twenty in total.
I probably would have been more relaxed if I had been with someone else. I really didn’t like being alone with a lot of sharks that are my size. I also would have felt more comfortable if I had worn my fins. I felt vulnerable and almost naked without them. It seemed like fins would have made me look bigger and given me something to fight back with if need be.
When I returned to the dive shop, I found out the sharks have never attacked anyone on the island and that they were probably sleeping when I saw them. They swim in a big circle while they are sleeping, so I must have swam right into their ring. They are called black tip reef sharks and I didn’t get any pictures the first time I saw them, so I went back a fourth and fifth time with other people to photograph them. Here are a few of the pictures I took in Shark Bay.[slideshow]