Monthly Archives: May 2017

Yesterday we did the big shark dive at Makemo Atoll. It was one of the best days of my life. Brian and I had a simply wonderful day overall, plus the dive was exhilarating and empowering. Wow, just wow.

It was a drift dive where we rode the current of the flooding tide into the lagoon. We took our dinghy up to the place where the lagoon empties into the ocean. We tested the current to be sure it wouldn’t push us out to sea and then entered the warm water. Brian clipped our dinghy to his BCD using a floating line. We then descended about 50 feet and rode a gentle current into the lagoon.

Beauty abounded as we drifted past caves full of fish and enjoyed healthy coral blanketing the sea floor. During the dive the current steadily increased due to the rising tide. After 30 minutes the current had become significantly faster and I was starting to run out of air. Then we drifted by the sharks.

It was an intense and agitated scene. First I saw schools of shimmering Big Eye Scads darting around crazily. The fish were fleeing from at least 25 feeding sharks, which began to come into view as the current carried me directly toward them.

Gray Reef Sharks, Blacktip Sharks and Whitetip Sharks were rapidly flowing over the colorful coral bottom, chasing fish and rooting around in crevices. I flew by them on the rapid current, awestruck. They swirled around me, continuing their activities with an attitude of indifference. It was such an overwhelming scene I could barely think. But the thoughts I did have were focused on the fact I was nearly out of air. I kept telling myself not to lose myself in the moment with these sharks.

I felt no fear. The sharks were doing their thing and I was doing mine. We shared space for a brief moment in time, and they graciously accepted us. That’s how I thought of the sharks. Gracious. Sure, they could get right in our faces and scare us, but why? It would be a waste of time. They are more pragmatic than that. Better to be gracious hosts and tolerate the strange black divers until the current quickly sweeps them away.

A couple sharks found a tasty morsel in a crevice and a small feeding frenzy began right at the end of our time with them. You can see a little bit of it at the end of the video. And then that was it. We had drifted past them and they were gone. We began our ascent back to the surface and to our dinghy, glowing from an unforgettable dive.

There are plenty of sharks in the Tuamotus. This morning when I was at 60 feet a gray reef shark swam by and checked me out. I hovered in place and turned on my video camera as the graceful, curious creature slowly became larger and larger in the frame. It continued closing the distance between us until it was only 15 feet away. Then it veered off and went the other direction.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about shark diving. I’ve done it, yes, but always felt a jolt when I saw a shark nearby. I definitely felt plenty of jolts last year at the Revillagigedos when a few Silky Sharks got too interested and started circling us. Brian finally hit one of them with his camera and then they left. Oh yeah, big time jolts.

I love sharks, but they can be frightening, too. They don’t always flee like other fish; they’re more curious and attentive than other animals I’ve met underwater. And sometimes they’re bigger than me.

We’ve been in the Tuamotus for eight days and we see sharks on almost every dive. I am fascinated by them and they haven’t been aggressive at all. We haven’t seen any Silkies either, which I like. We see plenty of Gray Sharks, Blacktip Sharks and Whitetip Sharks.

Each day I have become more comfortable with the sharks. The jolts have nearly gone away. When I surprised a sleeping shark a few days ago I felt a tiny jolt, but not much. I swam around a corner and had a close encounter with a small whitetip shark. It darted right in front of me and quickly swam away.

Today when the reef shark came right up to me and I didn’t feel a jolt, I realized I am ok with this now. I’m ok with these sharks. I’m ok with their curiosity.

The next question is, am I ready for the big shark dive? There’s a pass here where you can ride the current past 50+ sharks and thousands of colorful fish. Brian and our friends Dan and Kristy have been doing amazing drift dives there each day. I’ve snorkeled the pass and seen the sharks. It’s truly an incredible sight and I want to experience it close-up, underwater.

I think I’m ready. I want to drift dive with 50 sharks. Internet, what do you think? Am I ready? Should I do this tomorrow?

“Lagoon” is one of my favorite words now. We just arrived in the Tuamotus yesterday and I still can’t believe this is real. The lagoon water is clear, warm and calm. It’s protected on all sides by coral. It reminds me of a placid Idaho lake, where waves don’t get very large. This lagoon is about 8 miles wide.

After a five day passage we dropped our anchor with great relief. Almost immediately we jumped in with snorkels to see the coral under Magic, and were ecstatic to see 100 foot visibility and one small shark which soon darted off into the darkness. Unicorn Fish, which are light blue with a little horn, greeted us in a large school under the boat.

Now this is what we crossed the Pacific for, and the water here is the nicest I’ve ever seen. The coral is healthy and we found a good spot to snorkel and dive just a one minute dinghy ride from where Magic is anchored. We also have a good internet connection here. This place has it all!

Sharks are everywhere! They have been small, cute and indifferent. They came by at the beginning of our dive today, then acted like we didn’t exist the rest of the time.

UPDATE! Just as I was writing this blog post on the trampoline of the boat a shark swam by just 20 feet in front of us. Brian spotted it cruising along the surface.

Anyway, yeah, sharks are everywhere. I’m glad I like these sharks. They are fascinating and haven’t been aggressive at all. They do their thing, I do mine. Right, sharks?


About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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