January 17, 2014
Although most visitors to Hawaii””especially those who enjoy swimming, surfing and snorkelling””prefer not to see (or think about) toothy predators while frolicking in the sea, there are those who feel otherwise. Shark cage dive experiences exploded on Oahu a few years ago. But a few controversial investigations into whether or not they were both safe or “good” for the marine life habitats has slowed the enthusiasm a bit.
However, in its wake, a great experience has surfaced that will in fact get you swimming with sharks in Hawaii. It involves a conservationist’s dream.
The folks at Water Inspired are scientists, biologists and photographers. Their goal? To demystify the notion that sharks are killers by teaching people about the ocean’s apex predator, and its significance in both their natural habitats, as well as in the full cycle of life beyond the sea.
Partner/founder of Water Inspired, Ocean Ramsey, made headlines (and news media worldwide) when she was doing shark research off Mexico and had a “run in” with a Great White. In front of her dive (and Water Inspired) partner Juan Oliphant – who was rolling a video camera – Ramsey swam side by side with a goliath, even holding onto his dorsal fin for part of the ride.
“Sure, a lot of people may have seen it as ‘some crazy blond girl swimming with a massive shark.’ And the news media got the story horribly wrong, saying I was a daredevil. But (we’re) actually marine scientists studying shark habits, and learning how these integral predators maintain balance within the oceans,” Ramsey says. “If we can show people – be it in stunning underwater images, or on our boat during our daily excursions – how gentle these animals are, we can initiate a change in the perception of sharks.”
Indeed, you can drive to the Haleiwa Boat Harbor on Oahu’s North Shore and hop in Ramsey’s boat for a day on the water that ends with an open ocean swim with sharks. (This writer speaks from experience, having recently been coerced into the water by Ramsey, and returned with all limbs intact.)
En route to the relatively short (3 miles out) location for most dives, Ramsey and Oliphant explain shark habits and their significance while motoring over storied North Shore swells. At the site, the team will explain how counting and recognizing return sharks is useful to their research. Then, you’ll suit up with snorkel (you can bring or arrange for Scuba gear beforehand) and follow Ramsey into the water after she’s established a “safe zone” around the boat with whatever animals may be present.
She’ll dive below the surface and capture data (and sometimes photos/video of you swimming), all the while keeping a keen eye on shark behaviour, insuring a safe day on the water.
Header photo: Ramsay swimming with sharks © Juan Oliphant and Ocean Ramsey for ‘Water Inspired’
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Have you ever swum with sharks? Have you ever seen them in Hawaii? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Written by Brian Berusch