This is a gallery of sharks and rays that we have encountered over our diving career and some of the trips where we have seen them.
While cruising around, we searched for kelp paddies where marine life would congregate underneath. Every now and then, with anticipation, we eagerly tossed chum into the water, expecting the arrival of curious blue sharks that swam around before eventually departing. However, the real excitement unfolded when a shortfin mako shark appeared. These fast-swimming mackerel sharks can reach speeds of 30 miles an hour. Despite never facing any issues with them, if a shortfin mako shark made an appearance, we promptly exited the water, opting to observe them from the safety of the boat.
Caribbean reef sharks
These reef sharks in our Sharks and rays gallery are renowned for their grace and beauty, making diving with them an unforgettable experience. However, approaching diving with reef sharks should be done with caution and a respectful attitude toward these animals.
Typically inhabiting shallow, clear waters near coral reefs and seagrass beds, these sharks are generally peaceful and not considered a threat to humans. Nevertheless, it is crucial to treat them with respect and maintain a considerable distance while underwater. Adhering to established guidelines and best practices is essential, involving actions such as avoiding sudden movements, swimming slowly and smoothly, and refraining from pursuing or touching the sharks.
On two occasions, both in the Bahama Islands, we had the opportunity to dive with these magnificent creatures. The first encounter involved an organized shark feeding outing, where chum lured the sharks to the group of divers. These outings have sparked controversy, with opponents claiming an increased risk of shark attacks on humans and proponents asserting they serve an educational purpose about the sharks.
The second occurrence happened during a dive with Atlantic spotted dolphins in the Bahamas. Taking a break from interacting with the dolphins, we dove on a shallow reef, and a group of sharks unexpectedly appeared to inspect us. Whether it was a coincidence or their interest in potential feeding, the experience of diving with them, without chum in the water, truly inspired awe
To ensure the well-being of these endangered species, it is imperative to protect and preserve their habitats. This can be achieved through the establishment of marine protected areas, reduction of pollution, and minimizing other human activities that harm the ocean environment.
Great White Sharks
Leopard and Horn Sharks
Horn sharks and leopard sharks are 2 sharks that we have seen locally here in Southern California. We find the horn sharks usually laying on the sand flats in La Jolla or around rock formations in the kelp beds.Unless provoked, horn sharks pose no threat and allow for easy approach. They got their name from the 2 dorsal fins with the sharp spines at the front of the fin. They eat mainly hard-shelled mollusks and crustaceans that they crush in their powerful jaws.
Leopard sharks occasionally swim in the kelp beds, but every summer in August and September, they enter the shallow water at La Jolla Shores in San Diego to mate. You can observe them by slowly drifting over them while snorkeling, but any sudden movement easily spooks them.
On a few occasions in Hawaii, we have had the pleasure of seeing manta rays. During early mornings in Maui, we observed them gracefully gliding next to and over the reefs, unreservedly approaching within 15 to 20 feet from us.
Moreover, at Molikini Crater during boat dives, we witnessed mantas swimming into the protected side of the crater. There, they hovered over coral heads while small fish approached to clean the bottom of the rays. To avoid disrupting the activity, we stayed back, simply observing the diligent work of the little fish.
Another remarkable encounter took place during a night dive on the Big Island with Big Island Divers. Departing at dusk with 10 divers, the dive boat motored to the dive site. Upon entering the water in darkness, the dive masters placed a milk crate with multiple dive lights pointing straight up on the bottom. After a while, a plethora of plankton was attracted to the light, and within 15 minutes, the mantas made their appearance. The exact number was uncertain, but there were more than two. Gliding through, they feasted on the plankton, taking turns in a mesmerizing display. Other dive boats in the area were engaged in the same activity, adding a fun element as divers attempted to identify their respective boats.
Tope and Sevengill Sharks
At La Jolla Cove in San Diego, we have seen many sharks and rays. We have seen the horn sharks and leopard sharks mentioned above but another highlight is the tope sharks that show up in the summer. They glide gracefully through the kelp usually in mid-column. They are shy and frighten easily, especially with a loud exhale of bubbles. We just get to neutral buoyancy in the water and hold on to a piece of kelp and watch them glide by.
On a couple of occasions, we have seen a 7-gill shark at the cove. They are large sharks with the male getting up to 5′ long and the female up to 7′. They mainly stay close to the bottom and will occasionally swim up toward the surface.
Off the tip of Baja at Gorda Banks. a deep water reef, pelagic animals sometimes congregate. We have seen hammerhead sharks and whale sharks there. The whale shark isn’t a shark at all but the largest fish in the ocean. It is a slow-moving filter feeder. They will glide over and around the bank feeding on plankton. These are the only photos of them I have captured for our sharks and rays blog.
Skates, Rays, and Guitarfish
There are other skates and rays that we have seen in Baja, mostly around Cabo San Lucas. Over the years, we have done a lot of diving there, and there is a ray that I haven’t seen anywhere else, even though they can be found at other locations. The Bullseye electric ray is light brown with leopard spots and a large bullseye in the middle of its back. They lay or burrow into the sand and feed on small fish and crustaceans and can deliver a jolt of electricity of touched or disturbed.
Additionally, we got to witness guitarfish mating. Initially, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. The female was laying on her back and the males were swarming over her pinning her to the bottom. It looked pretty rough for the female.
We have seen many other sharks and rays over the years. This is the start of the collection and I hope to add to it in the future.