DIVING WITH BULL SHARKS IN PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Back in the days, Playa del Carmen used to be a tiny fishing village in the Caribbean coast of Mexico. Those days have long gone. Today, Playa del Carmen is an ever growing tourist heaven and one of the top relocation choices for expats from all over the world.
It is not just tourists that find this town appealing, every year from November to March, the waters of Playa del Carmen become home to the Carcharhinus Leuca aka the Bull Sharks. They love warmish shallow waters. Caribbean waters are fairly warm throughout the year however; from November to March they cool down to about 25-26C. Bull Sharks seem to love that temperature. They make their home quite close to the shores of one of the town beaches.
These stunning sharks are known for their aggressive nature. They are among the most aggressive kind of sharks. Nonetheless, they are beautiful and fascinating creatures.
Bull Sharks grow to an average of approximately 2.5 meters. They are very large and stout. Females are normally larger than males.
They have strong jaws with a bite force of up to 600 kilograms. That sounds a bit scary! I would say also quite useful since they need quite a force to chew on turtles, dolphins, other sharks and fish in general.
They are apex predators and rarely get attacked by other animals. We, humans are the biggest danger to them.
Dive with Bull Sharks
Last year in June I came to work in the Riviera Maya and I have had the privilege of diving with Bull Sharks few times.
There are countless dive centers and dive operators in Playa del Carmen. When the Bull Sharks arrive they all offer the service of this spectacular dive.
Jardines Deep is the designated site for this adrenaline filled shark dive. It is a short ride from the shore. Dive shops charge a premium for the trip. Divers are willing to pay for it. For most of them it is a once in a lifetime experience.
Divers need to be at least Advanced Open Water certified to be able to join in the dive. It is a 25mt deep dive and it is required a certain level of competence in the water.
Feeding has become a common practice during the dive. Once upon a time, only one dive shop used to feed the sharks during the dive. Nowadays most shops do. Feeding add spice to the dive. ( I personally do not agree with that. )
Bull Shark Diving Experience
Each bull shark dive I have done was spectacular. One in particular left a special mark :
It’s a beautiful sunny day. The early morning air is cool and crisp.
We gear up at the shop and make our way to the boat. After a thorough pre-dive briefing and a short ride we get to the dive site. I am following the group as the photographer or Paparazzi as often the divers address me when I am on camera duties.
I have guided several Bull Sharks dives, but in this occasion it is the first time I join in as the photographer. During my previous dives, about three or four sharks kept us company. So i am hoping for the same, or more!
All divers are ready to back roll in the water. There is a lot of excitement around and few concerned looks. Once everyone is in the water, we start making a free descent down into the blue water. Below us we can already see two bull sharks swimming in circle. Are they expecting us?
Once we reach the bottom we cannot see them anymore. They seem to have vanished. All the divers kneel down in the sand and wait. We look around the clear Caribbean waters, excited.
Then... they start coming. First, there is one alone. Then another one joins in and then a third one. I can make out more shadows in the distance. Before we know it we are surrounded by six bull sharks. They are intimidating. Their body is large and strong. They could be the warriors of the ocean.
Some of them have big scars and marks on their body. They must be the females, since apparently the male Bull Sharks are very rough when they mate.
They look straight at us for what seems like an eternity. They make me wanting to hold my breath. They come very close and then, they swim away and around. During the dive the divers stand on their knees all the time.
My heart is racing, I am almost hypnotized. I have never seen so many sharks of this size so up close and personal. I have to remind myself that I am supposed to film and take photos.
I start swimming around, cautiously following the sharks and trying not to be too invasive and annoying. I do not want to be too much in their faces. I take as many shots as I can from every angle. At times I feel like my heart is stopping and I wander if one of them is going to open its jaws at me.
During the entire dive the sharks come and go and swim around the group. They are not shy. It is an intense but short dive, since most of the time is spent at around 25 meters. At the end of the dive, we start swimming away from the shark area and slowly ascend to the surface.
Everyone is ecstatic, what a memorable experience! I am in love with these animals. It is a privilege to see them so close and in their natural habitat. It is overwhelming and exciting but also intimidating. After all, they are sharks...big ones! They deserve respect.
Diving with the Bull Sharks is definitely a must do for anyone that gets a chance.
@ This article is written by Carlotta Arona (PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer #284952), please give respect to her copyright!
This article & photos are not to be reproduced or distributed without written permission of Carlotta Arona.
You can find more articles written by Carlotta Arona via her personal blog here: HOPSKIPDIVE.