SCUBA Diving with Nurse Sharks | Florida Keys

This past summer, I accomplished a bucket-list item of mine, going SCUBA diving sharks! It was a complete surprise to me, slightly terrifying, but overall peaceful! Swimming along side these creatures, I’ve never felt more sure of an animal’s place in this world. What I mean by that, is sharks do not swim anything like a typical fish. They are calm, collected, and at a moments notice can swim in any direction with complete ease and grace. And throughout that entire dive, I was fascinated by these grey creatures and couldn’t take my eyes off them.

This was our second dive trip while we were down in the Florida Keys, and this one left from a harbor near Islamorada. The first dive site, which is where I first got to see the sharks, was 20 minute boat ride offshore called “Paradise”. It was described by our dive master as an amphitheater of life that surrounded a stage-like sandy bottom. And after jumping into the water off the stern of the boat, we descended below the surface to witness, with our own eyes, exactly what the dive master was perfectly describing. The reef surrounded a sandy circle at the bottom, beaming with colorful soft and hard corals, along with massive schools of fish cruising around us. And that’s when I saw the first shark.

While preoccupied with my first glimpse of the dive site, Courtney pointed to something that was behind me. For those who haven’t SCUBA dived before, because of the the goggles narrow field of view, looking around you takes a full body movement, not just a twist of the neck. So as I flicked my fins to rotate my body, the long grey object came into my peripheral view. A 6ft long nurse shark, followed by my heart sinking into my stomach as the nerves swelled up. “What the hell am I doing here! And why is everyone so calm!” I thought to myself.

For those of you who don’t study marine biology (including myself), I learned after the fact, that nurse sharks are mostly harmless and docile creatures. Which was great, because I was hooked as soon as I watched that first shark swim in front of me. So casual, it moves through the water unlike the other neighboring creatures on the reef. Smaller fish, being perpetual prey, always swim chaotically, back and forth, looking all around, always worried. Whereas the shark, that know’s it’s place in the food chain, has seemingly nothing to worry about. It is there, in its home, and can just hang out on the reef.

And hang out, is where I began to find more and more sharks. Tucked away underneath the edges of the reef, large nurse sharks were laying on the bottom observing me, watching them, taking endless photos and videos. In total, on that dive, I think the group of divers all saw 3-4 different nurse sharks at that reef and each had their own uniqueness to them. One was even tagged on its dorsal fin for scientific tracking (I assume).

An hour later, as our dive master signaled for us to head back to the boat, I was buzzing! I still couldn’t believe I’d seen, and swam with sharks! Sure they weren’t the man-eaters that we sensationalize in movies, but that creature was unlike anything else I’d ever seen, on both land and water. The best way I can describe it, is as if a deer, bear, and eagle all joined into one animal. That’s how a shark moves in the ocean, and it is truly beautiful. Can’t wait to get back underwater again to swim with another shark!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *