If you are the adventurous type, I totally recommend you put a bull shark dive encounter on your to do list. Bull sharks are one of the most badass creatures in the underwater world with a reputation of being highly aggressive. They are the cause of the majority of near-shore shark attacks, especially in North America.
Bull sharks are big, they are thick, they are ominous and they have the ability to live in salt or fresh brackish waters. Along with the great white shark and tiger shark, the bull shark has a low tolerance for provocation. It is truly one of the ocean’s greatest predators.
Bull sharks trump whale sharks
Like countless Shark Week devotees, I felt it was time to see for myself up close just how they behave. A friend of mine tipped me off that this new diving trend has become popular in Mexico`s Yucatan peninsula. Having just swum with whale sharks in Holbox this May I was eager to experience some cool winter diving in the Mexican Caribbean.
Every year thousands of bull sharks converge upon Playa del Carmen between November and February to breed and feed. Contrary to popular belief however, bull sharks are not all over Playa del Carmen. Luckily, Maroma Adventures is at the epicentre of this gathering, just north of Playa del Carmen.
Full safety briefing
When you arrive at Maroma Adventures dive shop, you will receive a briefing about how to safely approach this adventure.
Six of us sat in a circle while our divemaster Alejandro Prudhomme gave us a thorough safety briefing. “No wiggling of the fins, no touching the sharks, no long hair waving in the water, and no obnoxious cameras in their faces,” Prudhomme said. This is a simple observation experience, nothing else.
By the way, six is the maximum group size for each Discovery Bull Shark Dive Encounter. Three dive masters accompany you on the dive which is great. Alejandro briefed us to enter the water and then descend quickly as a group. Then you simply follow the dive masters to the sharks location 18 meters below on the seabed. Here they instruct you to lay flat and remain still on the ocean floor. From this spot you will observe the beautiful bull sharks in action.
Bull shark dive encounter
The reef is only 10 minutes from the shore of Maroma beach which is a huge plus point. There is no time for you to think about backing out. Without any preamble you are on board the dive boat. Then by the time we finish setting up our equipment, you are at the dive site.
After receiving a little help both with my equipment and to lift me on to the edge of the boat it was 3-2-1- and go. I didn`t even have enough time to think about being scared. Splash! We were in the water!
I began to immediately deflate my BCD. I was not screwing this one up! In the past I have been pretty slow to descend into the water, so one of the dive masters stayed with me until I was comfortable and started descending with the others.
Adrenaline takes over
You descend to 28m and then the search for bull sharks begins. Alejandro carries an empty plastic bottle which he keeps squeezing. Apparently, sharks are attracted by the noise. I really can’t tell whether it was the creaking of the plastic bottle or the curiosity of the sharks, but suddenly our bull shark dive encounter becomes a reality!
Alejandro signals us to keep ourselves in a low, laying position. Out of nowhere an 8 foot female approaches us. At this point, you just kind of freeze. The shark comes closer but is wary of us too. And then her companions come to look us over too. And then even more! Until I have 10 fully grown bulls in front of me and around me. Am I still nervous? Hell yeah! The adrenaline is pumping through me as if a lightning bolt has just hit me. This moment exceeds my expectations in so many ways! It is a feeling where you are living on the edge of your own mortality. The feeling is almost indescribable.
Immersing into the bull shark`s “Lair”
This is the coolest part. Due to the fact that it is the ocean and there are currents, we have a few meters of swim time in order to arrive at the observation site. I can see the great big sharks immediately and as I swim over top of them going in the same direction, it feels like I am in some alternate universe, it feels like I am one of them. As we descend I am no longer swimming above them, but across from them, in front of them, behind them…with them. They aren’t interested in me, they just keep swimming along. How cool it feels to be accepted by them.
Finally we arrive at the observation site where I (for the first time ever) do as I am told. I hold onto the rope and lay on the seabed perfectly still…watching.
In less than a minute they are everywhere, in front of us, behind us, beside us, and sometimes even just a few feet above our heads.
The most adrenaline-packed 30 minutes of my life
The 30 minutes of feeding time goes by so fast it feels like 5 minutes. The sharks don´t bother us, and we could not be any closer. What an experience it is to see these huge majestic creatures swimming so naturally around us. To see the whites of their bellies, the wrinkles on their noses and the teeth in their mouths is just mindblowing.
Professional and safety minded
An experience that sounded like the most terrifying thing in the world turned out to be nothing of the sort. From experience I can say that bull shark diving is cool, relaxing and comfortable. Safe to say, this is by far one of the best dive experiences you can ever have. The Dive masters from Maroma Adventures are so unbelievably professional and helpful. They create a comfortable situation in which you are able to thoroughly enjoy this bull shark dive encounter. The entire crew`s professionalism allows you to appreciate the sharks for the awesome creatures that they truly are. Maroma Adventures puts safety first and takes excellent care of its guests on this amazing bull shark dive encounter. The experience will leave you awestruck.
There is some debate as to whether or not bull shark diving is ethical. However, it became evident to me how much appreciation and love our dive master Alejandro has for these beautiful sharks. It excites him to eliminate the idea of fear surrounding bull sharks and to create a new reputation of their impressiveness and beauty. A small portion of the cost of bull shark diving with Maroma Adventures goes towards bull shark preservation.
Let the diver beware
Diving with bull sharks represents a potential danger. However, if you’re concerned about your well-being, then you should not even get into a car. Statistically speaking, you are more likely to be hurt or killed in a car accident than to be attacked by a shark. Before you try this however, I recommend that you do your homework. There is an interesting website, which reports about shark attacks. In recent years there have been no incidents around Yucatán.
The dive site where you this bull shark dive encounter take place is deeper than 18m. For this reason, you either need to have the Advanced Open Water diver accreditation or have taken the Deep Diver Specialty Course.
P.D Maroma Adventures offers the Advanced Open Water certification.