Wednesday, December 19, 2012


GREAT BARRIER REEF 2012 - Part 4 – Sharks Alive!

A shark just chased me out of the water!  I’m thinking there was no genuine threat, but a grey reef shark dropped its pectoral fins, waggled its tail and swam at me at full speed!

I expected it to veer at the last minute, but it didn’t and kept coming until it ran into my strobe arm.

I left the water quite quickly.”
 – my notes after diving at ‘Amazing’, Holmes Reef.

This trip was full of firsts… my first trip on a liveaboard, my first dive on the Great Barrier Reef… and my first dive with sharks (well, sharks I knew about).  So, it was fitting that on my first dive with sharks, I should get chased out of the water by one that was a little too interested. 

The dive started with a couple of fish heads placed inside crates, to act as an attractant for any sharks in the area.  Sure enough, as I dropped down to the sand, I could see a small group of sharks swimming over the sand.  ‘Wow, sharks!’ I thought.  ‘How cool.’

I tried to remember everything I’d read about photographing sharks – get low, lots of strobe, and pan.  Sure enough, I started getting a few shots that looked half decent.  I could see a couple of different species and tried to shoot each one.

There was a particular shark that stood out.  On its right side were black scars, around the gill covers and behind the pectoral fin.  I managed to grab a shot, but panned too fast and cut off the tail.  Oh well, chalk another one up to experience.

On the sand near the bait, rebreather divers were getting a lot closer to the sharks than I could.  My bubbles made the sharks wary, and they would pass several metres away, but passed much closer to the bubble-less rebreather divers.

The rest of the dive I swam around the coral bombie, which formed the anchor for Spoilsport’s mooring.  On top of the bombie were anemone fish.  Another first for me, I found Nemo.  I also found one of his cousins.  I’m not certain of the species, but it looks like something that’s not common to the east of the Wallace Line.

Getting towards the end of the dive, I followed the mooring line towards the boat, doing my safety stop on the way.  Far below me, I could see the outline of a couple of sharks.

One shark took a particular interest in me.  It turned, dropped its pectoral fins and started swimming with big tail sweeps… straight towards me!  I remember seeing the black scars and recognising it as the shark I’d seen earlier.  I was thinking that it was cool and I should get my camera ready, but the shark accelerated and kept coming. 
I glanced over my shoulder to the ladder, knowing I had about twenty metres to go, but didn’t want to turn my back on the shark.  Next thing I knew, I was fending the shark off with a strobe arm.  I thought one push would do the trick, but it swam to one side, trying to avoid the arm and I had to give it another tap on the nose.  By this stage, I was at the ladder and quickly exited the water, much to the amusement of the very helpful crew.
My trip was off to a great start!  On only the first day of diving I was notching up firsts... and there were more adventures to come. 

Read earlier posts about my Great Barrier Reef trip:


  1. Great to see Mike Ball going out to Holmes Reef again. Amazing is a great dive site, not only for the sharks but did you get to the caves? Requires two dives at that site. I am also glad you saw Scar. I took this video of him in November 2011 on a Rum Runner trip. I just uploaded the video when I read your blog. Its the same shark.

  2. I made it to a cave during the night dive. Found a big sleeping wrasse, with a cleaner shrimp.

    'Amazing' is a great site. Did you see all the anemone fish on top of the mooring bombie?

  3. Yeah I did, I visited there twice last year in October and November. I first visited Amazing in 1999 with Rum Runner and the anenome fish are still there. Other sites at Holmes are Turtle Graveyard which the last time I was there saw lots of baby grey reef sharks. Its also a great night dive, then there is the Abyss, Cathedral which are great wall drift dives. :)

    In November last year our last dive with Rum Runner were at nearby Flora Reef. We saw 6 silver tips, 5 grey reef sharks and some white tips there as soon as we jumped off the boat. I got this video.

    I also go out with Mike Ball to Osprey and was there last February 2012 and last July 2011 with Mike Ball himself aboard to see the Minke Whales. :)