Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could have been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here:
They are beautiful, long-legged sharks! I loved watching them and photographing them in the Red Sea. But I admit, they are also a little scared ...
Fascinating face-to-face with sharks
Whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, black tip and white tip sharks, gray reef sharks, silky sharks, nurse sharks, fox sharks, walking sharks, bearded carpet sharks ... This is not the first time I have the chance to observe, photograph or film sharks while diving.
But longan sharks, also known as oceanic sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus, of their scientific name), it's new for me! I give you below a short video of 30 seconds, made in the Red Sea in October 2016during a cruise aboard theExocetby one of my diving friends, Doniphane Lachat.
It shows a long-distance coming to meet me, not really frightened by my little person ...
The longimane can measure 2 to 3 meters long. It's a beautiful shark! I find it very beautiful, very photogenic, almost elegant with its long fins (hence its name longimane shark or "long hand") with a rounded white tip and his faithful cohort of small pilot fish.
What a pace! And watching it swim is absolutely fascinating.
Here is the series of three photos I took, during this little face-to-face we see in the video:
I come out of the water with stars in my eyes, after my very first encounter with a long-distance dog. And I will see others during the following dives! It was the Brothers, the "Brothers," two arid and isolated islets in the Red Sea, in Egyptian waters.
Big Brother and Small Brother are renowned dive spots and the area is a protected marine park. When the swell is not too unfavorable, you can also explore two wrecks.
The Brothers Islands are located very off the coast, their falls are exposed to the currents and descend to several hundred meters of depth, so that one can cross there a so-called pelagic fauna (which lives on the high seas and does not normally does not approach the coast) in addition to the usual small fauna of the reefs.
In addition to the longimanes, I saw a huge tuna and barracudas. Several of my dive companions managed to observe a fox shark and hammerhead sharks. As for the coral, it seemed to me overall less spectacular than in Indonesia, but some parts of the reef are splendid.
To learn more about the Brothers, I refer you to the site of Alimata, a traveler diver who has explored these sites years before me, and who makes a very complete description on this page → Brothers Islands.
Small "detail" that made me appreciate being on the huge and comfortable Exocet: The crossing to the Brothers lasts long hours and is not exactly a quiet ride at sea, at least during my stay in October. Swell and waves can be strong. Many of us have been sick and I, who did not think I was prone to seasickness, admit that I was not very brave enough to go ... On my return, it was much better: I did not do it the hard to cook, I opted for the seal against seasickness. Effective!
A dirty reputation
Even among divers and ocean lovers, the longimane has the reputation of being a shark to be wary of.
"This species is a bit like a dog, explains the underwater photographer Phil Simha, organizer of the cruise, the day before our immersions to the Brothers. Longimane is curious, opportunistic, he comes to run under the boats, and everything that moves on the surface attracts him. Under the water he is not afraid to approach divers, sometimes to come into contact ... "
In short, where most of the other sharks that I have already met in diving prefer to keep their distance, when they cross palanquées with plumes of bubbles, the longimane, he will be quite intrigued, attracted and will readily come to see more closely what is happening ...
Although I find it beautiful, the sinister reputation of the Longimane is not really usurped. In recent years, in the Red Sea, there were deadly attacks (one in 2009, several in 2010 and one in 2015, in particular). Each time, bites inflicted from below or from the back, to persons swimming on the surface, bathers or palms-mask-snorkel. But never on submerged bottle divers, to my knowledge.
Update 2018: Unfortunately, the brothers had two cases of bites on bottle divers in 2018, one on the thigh and the other on the calf. I take this opportunity to add below the educational sheet designed by Steven Surina de Shark Education, on the right attitude to adopt when you are in the presence of a shark under water:
On the boat, we are seriously briefed before our dives at the Brothers, territory of fascinating and worrying longimanes ...
Prohibition for freedivers to go in the water and for all absolute prohibition to go splashing in the sea. To observe the sharks, only the scuba-diving is allowed, with some precautions: one avoids to drag on the surface at the moment of immersion like the ascent, we stay together under water, especially when we are under the boats where the sharks like to hang out, and at the end of the dive, we do not resurfaced all together but the one after another. We are of course asked not to lose his partner, to remain calm under the water and to think to monitor the blue in the different directions ...
Drift in the blue
But during one of our dives at Small Brother, my partner Françoise has the misfortune to lose her camera, at the time of the launch from the stern of theExocet. There is a lot of swell, I just went down a few meters to wait for it and, already a little deported by the current, I attend the scene under the surface, helpless.
I'm a little too far to darken and try to recover the device, that I can only watch flowing ... 😱 The longimane rode near the boat and I watch out of the corner of the eye is more alive than me. But he immediately disinterested in this non-edible object, which continues its course towards the depths ... There is a hundred meters of bottom where we are moored, alas, which makes any project of recovery impossible.
Atrocement frustrated, terribly annoyed, Françoise still wants to go diving and joined me, with big sad eyes behind his mask. 😢 I sympathize with my heart and check again that my own device is secure, attached to my BCD ...
We remain shallow, between 10 and 5 meters, captivated by the spectacle of this longimane who turns us around. As a result, we drift, and when we recover, it is already too late: we are moving away from the reef of the island, towards which we were supposed to lead. After a few minutes, we fall into the blue on a drift of several other divers of theExocet. A little lost too, one would say. Like us, they were surprised by the surface current ...
But they are two longimans who are turning around now! And they pass nearby. What luck ! I had been a little disappointed with the dives at Big Brother, where not a shark had deigned to cross my path. But Small Brother fills me! Longimans are here and there. And they are not shy models ... 😮
We are several photographers in the group and everyone is happy, I think, to be able to make images ... But hey, it's still a little while drifting without knowing where we are. Better to report without further delay on the Zodiac surface and back up. This dive lasted only 20-30 minutes instead of the usual 50-60 ... But what intense minutes!
One of us deploys his parachute (for non-divers: it is a sausage-shaped buoy, which is filled with air under water and let it fuse towards the surface, so that the boatman spots us and knows where to pick us up). The Zodiac appears immediately. Françoise is the first to go up. One by one, we climb aboard the annex, without any trouble, while those who wait underwater watch the sharks passing and repassing.
Of course, we all have an emotional thought for the last of the team to go up again: alone under the parachute, he lived a little moment of solitude with the longimans ... Rich in emotions, this dive! I'm not about to forget it.
Overfishing and fin soup
I come back marveled at this cruise in the Red Sea thanks to the longimanes. But like many other sharks, the species is a victim of overfishing: its huge fins are highly coveted for the Asian market, where they end up in soup at the restaurant or in a supposedly medicinal or aphrodisiac remedy ...
As longimane willingly follows boats, cetaceans and schools of pelagic fish opportunistically, it also often ends up in so-called accidental catches ...
I measure the chance that I have, as a simple diving tourist, to have observed in their natural environment these magnificent sharks. In ten or twenty years, if the shark-finning (fishing for fins) continues at the same rate as today, there will be nothing left to observe under the sea ...