For the divers, a date with a shark is an unforgettable piece of memory, particularly if it is in the Great Bahama Island in the Bahamas. The Shark Alley here has about 10 – 25 Caribbean reef sharks ready to mingle and swim with the visitors.
The shark adventure at Shark Alley begins with a minute briefing. During this time, the shark feeder passes through various dive phases. The fish bait for the sharks are kept in a special container. The shark feeder gets covered in a stainless steel mesh suit and is accompanied by a safety and a video camera diver. The safety diver guides the visitors’ group to the shark area and here, the divers kneel in a semicircle fashion in front of an inoperative decompression chamber.
At this moment, the reef sharks also appear. Some even come within a touching distance of the group and swim gently with the divers.
These sharks vary between 4-9 feet in length. Groupers congregate while stingrays and yellowtails announce their presence all over the sand and water. These fishes suddenly begin to swim towards the shark feeder having with him the bait container. The shark feeder moves along the sand to the sandy clearing, with sharks behind him. While just a few feet away from the divers, the feeder offers the first bait to the sharks and the latter turn more animated and they come closer to the feeder. At this moment one has to carefully watch to spot the sharks raise their noses and thrusting their jaws forward. In the meantime, the feeder touches the snout of a giant shark and rubs it. The creature consequently turns docile. The feeder then carries it for the visitors to touch and feel, while holding the head away. The rules strictly bar touching the creature excepting this particular event. Touching the shark is indeed a unique experience. The dark-tipped tail and the rough pale skin grey are easy to spot. Scientists are, however, yet to understand the state of trance of the sharks. It is believed to happen when the tiny metallic chain links present in the feeder’s suit touch the shark’s electromagnetic sensors that it uses to detect prey.
The shark feeder will ensure that everyone gets a good view while the cameraman records the entire dive. After some time, more sharks arrive. The feeder then allures the group out from the area with the remaining bait.
The dive operators at Grand Bahamas hand feed the sharks which according to many is not right. But Christina Zenato of UNEXSO divers has a remarkable relationship with these sharks. Often the sharks prefer Christina’s touch over even strong food baits. She can also be seen often stroking the nose of large sharks as they relax in her lap. This would strongly suggest that the creatures find the experience pleasurable for they are not forced under any circumstances.