Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text:
How beautiful are longfin mako sharks! I loved watching and photographing them in the Red Sea. But I must admit, they're also a bit scary...
Fascinating face-to-face with sharks
Whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, black tip and white tip sharks, grey reef sharks, silky sharks, nurse sharks, fox sharks, walking sharks, bearded carpet sharks... This is not the first time I have had the chance to observe, photograph or film sharks while diving.
But longan sharks, also known as oceanic sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus(from their scientific name), it's something I've never seen before!
Below is a short 30-second video, made in the Red Sea in October 2016during a cruise aboard theExocetby one of my diving buddies, Doniphane Lachat. It shows a longimane coming to meet me, not really frightened by my little person ...
The longiman can be 2 to 3 meters long. It's a magnificent 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 its faithful cohort of small pilot fish.
What a look! And watching him swim is absolutely fascinating.
Here is the series of three pictures I took during this little face-to-face that 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 diving spots and the area is a protected marine park. When the swell is not too bad, you can also explore two wrecks.
The Brothers Islands are located very far offshore, their drop offs are exposed to currents and descend to several hundred meters in depth, so that one can encounter a so-called pelagic fauna (which lives in the open sea and does not normally approach the coast) in addition to the small fauna usual to the reefs.
In addition to the longimanes, I saw a huge tuna and barracudas. Several of my diving companions managed to observe a thresher shark and hammerhead sharks. As for the coral, it seemed less spectacular overall 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 ExocetThe crossing to the Brothers takes long hours and is not exactly a quiet sea trip, at least during my visit in October. The swell and the waves can be strong. Several of us have been ill and I, who didn't think I was prone to seasickness, admit that I wasn't very brave on the outward journey... On the return journey, it was much better: I didn't do the hard work, I opted for the seasickness pill. It's effective!
A dirty reputation
Even among divers and ocean-lovers, the longnose dolphin has a reputation for 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. The longiman is curious, opportunistic, he comes to lurk under boats, and anything that moves on the surface attracts him. Underwater he's not afraid to approach divers, to sometimes come into contact... "
In short, where most of the other sharks I've already met while diving prefer to keep their distance when they come across lines with plumes of bubbles, the longiman, on the contrary, will be intrigued, attracted, and will gladly come and see more closely what's going on...
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 therefore seriously briefed before our dives at Les Brothers, the territory of the fascinating and worrying longimanes...
It is forbidden for freedivers to go into the water and for all, it is absolutely forbidden to go splashing in the sea. To observe sharks, only bottle diving is allowed, with a few precautions: avoid hanging around on the surface during both immersion and ascent, stay together underwater, especially when you are under boats where sharks like to hang around, and, at the end of the dive, do not surface all together but one after the other. We are of course asked not to lose our buddy, to stay calm underwater and to remember to watch 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 bit too far away to go and try to recover the device, which I can only watch it sink... 😱 The longimane that lurks near the boat and that I watch from the corner of my eye is sharper than me. But he immediately loses interest in this inedible object, which continues its course towards the depths... There are about a hundred metres of depth where we are moored, alas, which makes any recovery project impossible.
Atrociously frustrated, terribly disappointed, Françoise still wants to go diving and joins me, with big sad eyes behind her mask. 😢 I sympathize wholeheartedly and check again that my own device is well secured, attached to my stabilizer vest .
We stay at shallow depth, between 10 and 5 meters, captivated by the spectacle of this longimane that circles around us. As a result, we drift, and when we start to swim again, it's already too late: we drift away from the reef of the island, towards which we were supposed to be heading. After a few minutes, we fall into the blue on a group of several other divers from theExocet. A little lost too, one would say. Like us, they were surprised by the surface current ...
But they are two longimanes who are circling us now! And they're passing by. How fortunate! 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 up! The longhorn seals are here and here. And they're not shy models... 😮
We are several photographers in the band and everyone is quite happy, I think, to be able to make pictures... But anyway, we've been drifting for a while without really knowing where we are. It's better to signal ourselves without further delay on the surface on the semi-rigid and to go back up. This dive only lasted 20-30 minutes instead of the usual 50-60 minutes... But what intense minutes!
One of us deploys his parachute (for non-divers: it's a sausage-shaped buoy that we fill with air underwater and let it fly to the surface, so that the boatman can spot us and know where to come and pick us up). The Zodiac appears immediately. Françoise is the first to go back up. One by one, we climb aboard the dinghy, without any trouble, while those waiting underwater watch the sharks passing by and passing by again.
Of course, we all have an emotional thought for the last of the group to go back up: alone under the parachute, he lived a little moment of solitude with the longimanes... Rich in emotions, this dive! I'm not about to forget it.
Overfishing and fin soup
I've just come back from this cruise on the Red Sea in wonder, thanks to the longimanes. But like many other sharks, the species is a victim of overfishing: its huge fins are much coveted for the Asian market, where they end up in soup in restaurants or as 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 how lucky I am, as a simple diving tourist, to have been able to observe these magnificent sharks in their natural environment. In ten or twenty years, if the shark-finning (fin fishing) continues at the same pace as today, there will be nothing left to observe under the sea .