Oceanic Whitetip Sharks; Predators on the Reef!

Caribbean Creature Feature for Novice & Experienced Shark Divers
By Jonathan Lavan

 

Oceanic Whitetip Sharks; Predators on the Reef!


Caribbean Creature Feature for Novice & Experienced Shark Divers

Text and Photos By Jonathan Lavan

 

Oceanic Whitetip Shark

 

 
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So a little reality check now that shark week is over. Diving with and photographing sharks when done safely can be a thrilling and incredible experience. Going with a trained guide and understanding their behavior is the key. Oceanic Whitetip Sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus) are a great starter shark as they are big, graceful and impressive but not particularly aggressive.

Oceanic Whitetips are Requiem sharks, a family of pelagic sharks that must keep swimming to ventilate properly. They will often pass over reefs in search of prey, particularly at dawn or dusk. During the rest of the day they will be found in open water from the surface to well below recreational dive limits. They are truly beautiful and photogenic sharks having very large rounded pectoral and foredorsal fins, usually with white tips, hence the common name. It is a viviparous species meaning that it gives birth to live young. Its gestation period is about twelve months and will give birth to 5-15 pups from 2-2.5 feet in length. The pups, of course, immediately start swimming as soon as they hit the water and from that moment on they are on their own.

 

Oceanic Whitetip Shark

 

Naturally curious and intelligent animals, they will readily approach, which will afford you the opportunity for some great shots. As long as you have a large camera (or failing that a piece of pvc pipe) in case the sharks get a bit too curious, you should feel completely at ease. Usually they will approach and then turn at the last minute, particularly if you continue your own approach. On the rare occasion that they do start actively bumping you or other divers and the behavior continues, it is time to move slowly back to the boat. Remember, they want to go to as little trouble as possible for their meal so the likelihood of them trying to make you one is extremely remote.

 

Oceanic Whitetip Shark

 

Photographing Oceanic Whitetips

You will get as many good shots while snorkeling at the surface as while actually diving. This takes a bit of aerobic work but it is well worth it. The light is usually fantastic and the accompanying Pilotfish (which prefer the shallower water) will really add to your composition. There are many dive operations that can give you a great and safe shark diving experience, but I can’t recommend Epic Diving (epicdiving.com) more highly. They know just how to make the sharks come around but not get too agitated. Epic Diving runs out of Cat Island, Bahamas, which you can reach through Nassau.

 

Oceanic Whitetip Shark

 

Protecting Sharks

Sharks are fascinating and beautiful creatures worthy of our respect and protection. If you are lucky enough to see a species like the Oceanic Whitetip Shark over a Caribbean coral reef, share your shots with the world so people can better understand that these majestic creatures should be cherished and appreciated, not feared.

 

Oceanic Whitetip Shark

 

 

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About the Author

Jonathan Lavan: The owner/operator of Underpressure Diving & Nature Photography is a citizen scientist and wildlife expert and has been SCUBA Diving for thirty years and taking photographs both above and below the water for about 10. He was pleased to have been made Volunteer of the Year for 2012 by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation. As a SCUBA Diver he has been a photographer, teacher and research associate for many different organizations.He is a staunch environmentalist and educator of young people. Jonathan is committed to making a difference on this planet through his images and his message of good will to all creatures.  

 

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