swimming with the sharks

Not being content with snorkeling the coral immediately in front of our Tioman Island resort, we hiked about 45 minutes north to Monkey Beach. It was deserted. We snorkeled the north side of the bay. This area is used for beginner diver training and I could see why. The water dropped off from 20-30 feet to what appeared to be 70-100. I had a sense of vertigo and falling as I snorkeled above the precipice.

After warming up, we snorkeled the south side. It was high tide. I enjoyed the environment. Large boulders had tumbled down into the water from the steep cliffs above. Coral grew among the boulders. Deep blue water was nearby. I saw large angel fish, a cuttlefish and was generally enjoying myself. As I went farther out, I peered into the deeper water. From my left on the shallow side, I saw a six-foot shark make its way into the deeper water. My adrenalin went ski high. I froze. It seemed to be gone. I swam over to Dawn and warned her there were sharks. Shortly thereafter, we both saw a smaller, five-foot shark. We waited about ten minutes and decided it was best to get out of the water; we were spooked.

Several hours later, I said the sharks were probably only there during high tide and now it was low tide, so therefore…. We swam back out there, but immediately saw another shark and got out of the water for good. Two Canadians were swimming on the beach and asked how the snorkeling was. I responded it was great, if you don’t mind sharks. It took some doing to convince them I was serious.

Back at the dive shop, the dive-master told us we were lucky to have seen the sharks. They were reef sharks focused on small fish and harmless to humans. It was the black tip reef shark, Carcharhinus melanopterus, a shark of tropical and warm temperate seas. One of the most common sharks found in shallow (sometimes as shallow as 30 cm) water around coral reefs of Indo-Pacific waters. The water they swim in is usually between 20 and 27° C (70 to 80º F).

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