In Destinations

My close encounter with sharks off the coast of Fiji

Sharks, we either love them or we hate them but whatever your opinions of these creatures, they tend to get a lot of bad press. You don’t even need to see the hit Stephen Spielberg film Jaws to know that sharks are commonly associated with danger. Perhaps down to their lythe predatory bodies, gaping jaws, and the horrific real-life tales of close encounters with the great white, the shark doesn’t win many popularity contests. So, when the opportunity to swim with these creatures presented itself while I was island hopping in Fiji, I was on the fence about whether I wanted to partake in such an activity.

The island I was staying on at the time was a family-run resort. It was quiet as it was the end of the peak season. In fact, it was so quiet that there was only myself and a Belgian couple staying there. But I wasn’t complaining, I actually preferred it this way as it meant that the resort was peaceful and the activities felt more personal. So, naturally I was persuaded to swim with sharks. I was assured that, although large, they wouldn’t hurt me. It also turned out that the resort would only do the activity if there was a minimum of three people interested so the last thing I wanted was to let the couple down.

The three of us and our two guides skimmed across the sea in a little speed boat to the reef where the sharks were found. Snorkels on we jumped (more of a flop) into the water. I had decided that I was not going to let the bad press about the sharks intimidate me. I felt that they at least deserved the benefit of the doubt after all. However, I couldn’t help feeling a flutter of jitters in the water. It’s not something you can easily avoid when you know you’re in shark territory.     

But I needn’t have worried. Swimming with sharks was such a peaceful experience. They were huge, reef sharks to be precise, but graceful, and they swam so close to us you could touch them. They didn’t seem to mind us at all. In fact, they were rather familiar with human interaction and were eager to get involved. I suspect it was because the guides had brought a few morsels of food to tempt them.

Stepping (or should I say, snorkelling) into the shark’s world was beyond incredible, and not an experience I’m going to forget in a hurry. I caught some amazing footage, which was quite surprising as my shoddy little action camera had nearly burst into flames the first time I had charged it. The inside of the camera had subsequently melted causing the screen to go dark. It was a miracle I got anything at all, and it didn’t help that I had no idea what I was pointing at or if anything was being filmed!

Shark attack!

I’m excited to share this remarkable footage with you. It was captured completely by accident. After watching it you would be forgiven if you were wondering if ‘peaceful’ was a strong word to describe swimming with sharks. It looks hectic, downright intimidating even. The truth is I had no idea that shark had headbutted the camera until I was out of the water. But this close encounter is not an act of aggression I can reassure you. I never felt threatened in the water. I think that perhaps I had managed to get slightly in the way of the shark’s path and it was unafraid to tell me about it.

At this particular moment, another boatload of people from another island had come to swim with the sharks. The spot on the reef was small which meant that there wasn’t a whole lot of room for the sharks and humans to interact. It didn’t help that some of the new visitors had begun shrieking and splashing every time the sharks approached which only seemed to make them more excited. Needless to say, the Belgian couple, our guides and I left shortly after to give the sharks more space.

Swimming with sharks was honestly one of the highlights of my trip. I have huge respect for these graceful creatures and I’m glad I got to see them in their natural habitat.


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Thanks for reading,

F x

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