The greatest highlight and the coolest thing possible in Bora Bora for many is to swim with the sharks on the outer reef off Teavanui Pass, Bora Bora’s only pass. This is the adventure of a lifetime where the adrenalin hit is at its highest, where the risk/reward factor reaches the ultimate.
We took an exceptional tour, even the introduction to what lay ahead was perhaps the funniest adventure overview I have ever heard. We would stop en route to the sharks to feed the stingrays, who gather in great numbers inside the lagoon not far from Motu Tapu & Teavanui Pass.
Here’s a shot of the fellow who made the hilarious introductory speech trying to see if the stingray loves him too:
Here you can see another person strolling with a number of more than friendly rays in Bora Bora’s marvelous lagoon whilst oblivious to the presence of a number of sharks.
It gives an idea of the expanse of this beautiful body of water, the beautiful and exhilarating lagoon of Bora Bora:
A shot of what you find when feeding the stingrays, manta rays, and lots of blacktip reef sharks.
We were out on the lagoon, which was stunningly beautiful despite the buckets of rain falling down. There is a rush that comes from diving down for the chance to literally bear-hug one of these monsters, the exhilaration of gliding effortlessly through the water using only raw shark power!
Despite their immense strength, blacktip reef sharks are quite calm and don’t really pose any danger to humans. That’s why a lot of snorkeling tours here will take you swimming with these beauties.
Here’s a video of Moana and Marc swimming with the sharks.
Those who dive in and swim with the sharks can tell you of the excitement of this thrilling activity. It’s not like any other experience and is an indescribable mix of fear & achievement of another dimension.
It came as no surprise, nonetheless, that more than a third of those present on the tour could not bring themselves to even enter the water. Lemon sharks have been known to attack, but very rarely. Blacktip reef shark attacks are even less likely. You might see a hammerhead shark every now and then, but it’s not too common to see these shark species.
I have embarked upon these private tours many times, but today was special. We were large in number on this occasion & I could feel the fear certain of those present faced, yet I could witness relatively poor swimmers drawn to the water to face their fears, and indeed one person who could not swim entered the water with an inflatable float and helper.
There was a frenzy of youth trying to reach a shark and saw people receive love bites from pushy stringrays. In all the excitement of what was unfolding and in awe of the surroundings in which one found oneself, it was easy to forget the environment into which we were venturing and the risks associated with the ocean.
Tips For Swimming With Lemon Sharks:
- You have to remember that for a Tahitian, sharks are reincarnations of their ancestors, and the sharks are there to protect their Tahitian family. The Tahitians have lived with & swam with sharks for centuries. They understand better than most what it is that they are undertaking & they have years of experience in the field. Don’t be misled by the ease with which they can carry out certain feats.
- Be aware that the sharks have been fed by divers before and over many years. Follow the guide’s advice & instructions to the letter. Be aware that guides, understandably wishing to give their clients the ultimate experience, can, by giving the sharks too much burley, unwittingly change the comportment of the sharks. Should the lemon sharks come to the surface, you should calmly but quickly leave the water, as you should if other species of shark, like a tiger shark, appear.
- NEVER swim with any bait in hand!
- Those wishing to approach the sharks more closely need to have excellent snorkeling capacities. Watch your guide closely when he descends, as he does so at an angle perpendicular to the ocean floor. The descent is by flipper power only, but there is no movement of the arms. It’s an effortless swim directly downwards, making the necessary adjustments for water pressure with the guide aiming to reach the shark’s dorsal fin.
- Most travelers, even very good swimmers, don’t have these skills. The tendency is to dive at an angle to the sea bed, kicking frantically (always use flippers when diving) and using the arms for greater speed. This only alarms the shark and leaves the diver short of breath.
- What tends to happen is the shark readies itself to move away, and such divers then tend to reach out to at least try to touch the shark. They grab for the tail, and this seriously annoys the shark putting the swimmer in danger.
You can identify a lemon shark by its bulky frame, lemon’ color, and the fact it has 2 large dorsal fins roughly the same size.
Are Sharks Dangerous In Bora Bora?
The vast majority of the time, sharks in Bora Bora are not dangerous. The two most common shark species that people swim alongside in Bora Bora are the blacktip reef shark and the lemon shark. Neither of these two pose a high danger to humans in the waters.
In a recent study, Australia’s James Cook University estimated that in the Maldives, a Grey Nurse attracted $AUD3300 per year in tourist dollars, whereas the value of the same shark on the plate was only $32.
There are plenty of sharks in French Polynesia, as the fishing and trading of all sharks has been banned since 2012. Less well-known is the fact that the law currently bans the feeding of sharks in the lagoon, in the passes, and within a radius of 1kl of any pass.
Not only are the penalties high, but as many will tell you, so too are the risks of continuing such practices.
There are many who argue that shark feeding changes the comportment of the sharks and as such, presents a danger despite the fact that such activity has been regularly conducted throughout French Polynesia for at least 25 years without attacks.
The debate is being fuelled by recent events in the Reunion Islands, where the number of fatal shark attacks has seen beaches permanently closed, the country’s leading surfers leave the islands to continue their sport, and the number of registered surfers dropping by 75%. A series of fatal attacks and the closure of beaches in Australia, where 1 in 4 attacks is fatal, has not helped matters. By contrast, my research indicated that the last fatal attack in French Polynesia was in 1834.
The statistics indicate that only 3 species — the Great White, the Tiger Shark & the Bull Shark are themselves responsible for 86% of all fatal attacks. The Great White, which can grow to 6 meters & weigh 2 tons & is responsible for 51% of all fatal attacks, and is exceptionally rare in the waters of French Polynesia.
So is the Bull Shark, which is responsible for 17% of all fatal attacks. The Tiger Shark is responsible for 18% of fatal attacks and, by contrast, is sometimes seen in these waters, particularly during the whaling season, but is regarded by experts as being more docile than the other two shark species.
Still, when swimming with sharks anywhere, be sensible, and know your capacities and your limitations.