Kailua Kona, Hawaii
We love sharks! Seeing one for the first time can be a little intimidating, but soon their ethereal beauty and grace captivates you. As long time Hawaii residents who are in the water every day, seeing any shark is a real treat. When we do see them ocassionally, it is never enough to really satisfy. They usually swim quickly away leaving us wanting more.
A couple of months ago while snorkeling at Honokohau a boat captain yelled at us from his boat " don't be scared, there's a really big shark in front of you". We looked and looked but never saw it. Until yesterday that is.
Douglas' hobby and part-time profession is underwater photography and videographer. All of his work is done while snorkeling/freediving. He was near the bottom at around 20 feet hovering over the coral reef taking pictures of colorful endemic (found only in Hawaii) Potter's Angelfish. These frisky orange and blue fish dart in and out of the reef so it takes concentration and patience to get a good shot of one. Completely focused on the little angelfish, Douglas felt a bump on his left fin. He turned to see what it was, thinking maybe it was his snorkel partner (his wife). What he saw was a massive dark shadow to the side of him. Then he thought maybe it was a whale as we had recently bluewater snorkeled with 18 foot Pilot Whales and 7 foot Oceanic Whitetip Sharks. Then he realised it was "Laverne" the well known Tiger Shark that frequents the area. He felt no fear, just awe as he turned his camera towards her.
As the camera was set for zoom for small fish his images are blurry, but Laverne's beauty and tremendous bulk shines through. She is around 14+ feet and absolutely amazing. The impression that Douglas has of the encounter was that there was no ill intent. He did have a cut on his left toe from the day before, on the same side that the shark nudged (it may even have been a tug). Doug thinks she sensed the wound, came close to check it out and realised that he wasn't on her food list and she quickly swam away. "If she wanted me, she could have had me" he says.
People keep telling Douglas that he is lucky he didn't lose a foot or a leg. Douglas simply replies "I felt no ill will or aggression. It was probably the greatest experience of my life and it goes to show that sharks aren't mindless eating machines that we have to fear".