Diving With Ragged Tooth Sharks
Have you ever been in the water with a shark? Well, if you’ve ever been in the ocean then the answer is yes, yes you have.
In November I had my first dive with ragged tooth sharks, and to say the least it was both exhilarating and humbling to watch as that snaggle-toothed grin swooped directly over my head. The first thought that went through my mind was that my mother was right – there was no way I could survive Africa and return with all of my limbs and brains intact. But as I watched, the shark meandered slowly past and returned to its cave in Chunnel, curiosity satisfied.
So what’s it like to swim next to one? Well some of them are HUGE. Some of the males definitely outsize our new bus, and that humped back makes you wonder if the Hunchback of Notre Dame ever canoodled with sharks. Okay, they only get to a maximum size of 4.3m, (14ft for my American compatriots out there), so not quite the length of the bus (Which measures in at 5m or 16ft).
You can read more about them HERE.
I suppose we can conclude that the hunchback of Notre Dame did not romance with these sharks on the grounds that he was not marked by oodles of shark teeth. When ragged tooth sharks mate, the males like to give lots and lots of kisses to the females. Unfortunately for her, all those teeth tend to get in the way. Divers will witness gashes and scars on the sharks as the mating season progresses, but lucky for us this also means that there is a good chance to come across discarded teeth in the sand!
With their inability to close their mouths, they’re the kind of sharks that you’d imagine probably drool all the time. They look like mouth-breathers, and in fact, they are mouth breathers. Ragged tooth sharks (Raggies) are unique among shark species for their tendency to gulp air at the surface as a secondary method of maintaining buoyancy aside from their swim bladder. The swallowed air allows them to hover motionlessly in the water as they hunt, and gives them an eerie presence on a dive.
Despite their unnerving aura, these sharks still come across as an adorably vacant species. They have been known to terrify themselves by bumping into divers as they drift slowly around the reef. It isn’t uncommon to see one startle in surprise as you come into its field of vision and swim off in a hurry, but they’re also incredibly tolerant of divers, and fascinating to watch.
In answer, it is humbling, fascinating, unnerving, and above all, gratifying to be in the water with these animals. So if you haven’t yet seen the sharks with whom you share the ocean, now is the perfect time to come and meet them!
More information about our Shark Diving, Aliwal Shoal and Southern Reefs diving adventures.