the view of the “stranger”

We leave the cobble beach and start kicking with the first lights of
the warm morning. The water is a comfortable 22; but the sudden feeling of water getting into the wetsuit is always unpleasant. We still have a 20 min swim to our destination but our hearts are happily pumping with excitement and our thoughts and eyes are focused on only one thing, to experience once more one of the ultimate undewater encounters, to observe at close range a legendary sea creature.

This beautiful small bay in the coast of Turkey is a unique place, unmatched in the Mediterranean and possibly worlwide. Here, skin divers can see up to a dozen sandbar sharks in their natural environment: beautiful, unspoiled and relatively shy sharks in just a few meters of water and as close as a few centimeters from the shore! This is an amazing place, for divers do not need to lure these 2-metre sharks or trick them into coming close by any means. These adult and subadult sandbar sharks are here seasonally, just doing their own thing, moving back and forth patrolling the northern shore of the small bay from dawn to dusk; or at least that is what we think, since nobody knows whether they leave at night or remain in the same place. In fact viewing them is not that easy as they tend to avoid people; these sharks are neither used to humans nor interested in them. They are practically inoffensive (if not provoked) and at best disregarding of our presence; at worse they can be difficult to enjoy for more than the few seconds it takes them to realize we are there. But to my fortune I am with the best possible company to enjoy these sharks: Eleonora de Sabata and Simona Clò, two researchers from Italy who have been studying this congregation of sandbar sharks for the past 5 years. They know the best spots and times to see the sharks, and how to sneak into their predictable path. The best and most comfortable view is from an incredible and perfectly natural ?balcony?. A rocky platform on the rugged coast forms a cosy bed for up to 3 divers. With our head and butts sticking out of the water we rest on our bellies and elbows and wait for the sharks to come to the 2 m terrace lying just beneath our hide out place. In time, up to 12 sharks come in a close group and start an unbeliavable natural parade in which some individuals come as close as 50 cm from our touch and all we need to do is dip our heads just under the surface and watch. If we keep silent and don?t move, the sharks will remain here for a few minutes.

The opportunities for research into the behaviour and ecology of sandbar sharks are incredible in this small bay and Simona and Eleonora have started already identifying individuals and trying to find out what role the bay plays in the life cycle of Mediterranean sanbar sharks. I thank them for allowing me to invite myself to join them in this years campaign (in exchange for some precious advice on how to start a study of migrations using pop-up archival tags) and I hope they will be able to raise the funding that is sorely needed to develop this research project into the full potential it has for learning more about sharks, which are one of the most mysterious sea animals and one that needs a lot of our help. Ultimately, I hope that these two passionate Italian beauties manage to ensure that the Turkish government and people will protect these mangnificent sharks and their little bay because I have never seen such a nice and unique shark diving place in my many years as a shark researcher.

Ramón Bonfil, PhD
Wildlife Conservation Society
New York


3 commenti ↓

#1   Stella on 23.05.05 at 14:14
Can’t wait to come over and take a picture of those heads and butts sticking out of the water!!! :) Stella

#2   piergiorgio on 24.05.05 at 00:54
Pay attention!
Turkish seagles enjoy to peck everything stick out of the water, expecially round butts :-)

#3   Stella on 24.05.05 at 13:25
On a more serious note, we are very happy to learn that EVEN Ramon is enthusiastic about your work (not that we had any doubt!).
He will surely be a good ambassador.
cheers, Stella


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