‘We never see sharks off Roatan’ was the resounding agreement on the boat as we made our way to the reef under the beautiful sun with the ocean sparkling around us. I was coming to the end of three weeks on the island and many good dives and this was to be my last diving day.
Having dived alot in Roatan and a little in other locations; I had never come across a shark underwater. It was really just back luck. Other divers on the same dive in Mexico had seen them and I’d typically been looking the wrong way!
This time was very different.
Roatan, one of the Bay Islands of Honduras, is surround by a barrier reef, which forms a wall on the outside edge, down to around 100 feet before extending off into sand and the blue. I was diving from West End, on the North East shore of the Island. We dropped in, just inside the wall and made our way to the outside and swam along. It was a nice dive. I have always like diving beside the wall as you can peek in all the cracks and find lobster and crab and numerous corals hanging off the wall. On this day there was also a fairly strong current which was bringing alot of small transparent creatures on it such as a ‘venus girdle’ which added something a bit different. We drifted along the wall, it was a relaxed dive, everything working properly and only myself and the divemaster so we could take our time and enjoy it.
I looked up to see the divemaster giving the shark sign… I followed the line his arm was pointing and just disappearing on the sandy bottom there was indeed a nurse shark, small and clearly shy; it swam rapidly off into the blue. I grinned and gave the OK sign… finally, however small and briefly, I’d seen my first shark underwater. As we carried on I kept on checking the sandy bottom at the base of the wall to see if there just happened to be any more.
We ascended a little to dive along the top of the wall and ensure our dive profiles were safe. We’d spent enough time at around 60-80 feet to need to reduce our depth to 20 feet or so.
I looked up and the divemaster was again gesticulating wildly. Shark sign, he pointed and glanced to check I’d seen him and off he went. It was all I could do to keep up as he crossed back inside the wall and followed the spurs of the reef towards the shore.
I caught sight of where he was aiming for. Under an overhang of rock, and resting on the sand was a nurse shark which was around 10 feet long. Quite relaxed at our approach, we were able to get a really good look and him. The tail extended out of one side of the overhang, and being careful not to block his exit, we were able to get down to the sand and look into his tiny eyes.
We used our air up pretty fast in the excitement but we did get to spend a good 10 minutes or so with this incredible creature.
On the next dive boat we loudly proclaimed ‘you never see whale sharks off Roatan!’.
Well… you can live in hope!