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Some people choose to run with the bulls. I chose to swim with the bull sharks!
My experience with Florida Shark Diving out of Jupiter, Fla., was JAWESOME! I needed a little adrenaline rush in my life and this trip on April 1, 2023, yes, April Fool’s Day, was perfect.
Before Jumping in to Swim with the Sharks, Take Note
Important, DO NOT TRY THIS ON YOUR OWN! These tours, and similar ones by other operators, are conducted by trained guides.
Let’s clear some things up. This isn’t necessarily a diving trip. It’s a snorkeling excursion and you’re technically not swimming with the sharks. You’re holding onto a rope (with both hands) which is tied to the boat. You’re observing the guide toss bits of fish to sharks. If you’ve snorkeled before, you can handle this trip. Even if you haven’t snorkeled, you’ll receive a crash course to learn how and enjoy the experience.
Over your swimsuit, you’re wearing a black rash guard provided by the operator along with fins, snorkel, mask and gloves.
Since this is a wild, natural habitat, what you’ll see and experience varies. It wasn’t until the boat stopped at the fourth spot that the guide saw two bull sharks. At the other three sites, she didn’t see any fish or sharks.
The captain, who chopped fish and tossed pieces into the water, mentioned that if we don’t see a shark, we receive a refund.
Although receiving my money back seemed nice, I didn’t pop Dramamine and chew motion-sickness gum to turn back. Yes, it was a little choppy that day and I’m thankful I didn’t contribute to the chumming. My stomach was queasy, and I was so, so close, but I kept chewing gum while looking out onto the horizon.
What Did I Get Myself Into?
The experience was incredible and surreal.
We jumped in the Atlantic Ocean, grabbed the rope and observed. The water depth was about 100′ and here I was bobbling in shark infested waters.
The two bull sharks were about 7′ feet long and the closest they swam by me was about 10′ away. When I saw the first one swim towards me, my heart pounded, and adrenaline pumped through my body. I remembered what Sophia, our guide, said. Sharks need eye contact and calmness. Meaning, don’t look away and don’t scream.
I was nervous, wondering what I got myself into. When hiking, it’s always good going with someone slower than you, in case an animal will attack. In this case, I knew I was the weakest swimmer – the two other customers were more than half my age and SCUBA certified. Even though there’s less of me than a year ago, I’d still be a nice shark snack.
It comforted me thinking that the sharks knew the rope was a boundary not to cross. Wearing the magic rash guard to repel them and protect me helped, too. Of course, this is all fictional but thinking this kept me calm.
A Surreal and Fabulous Experience!
I found my Zen floating, holding onto the rope for dear life as the intense wave action jolted and tugged me. Yet, it was a peaceful, calming experience. Other than the initial fear for coming eye-to-eye with an apex predator. As I bobbled, I felt as though I was looking in through a window. I didn’t hear anything except a soothing symphonic soundtrack – not the Jaws theme – in my mind. This lasted until I gulped the Atlantic Ocean and struggled to cough it out.
Sharks swam parallel and beneath me. Every so often, I looked behind to make sure one wasn’t stalking me. It was so tempting to reach out and stroke their tan skin, but we were instructed not to. Apparently, sharks are flexible and can easily bite if they feel threatened. Plus, taking a hand off the rope may send a signal to the sharks that you’re about to feed them.
One of the sharks had a big hook lodged in its side. Time will need to rust it away. I looked into the eyes of these incredible predators and watched their gills flutter in the water. A handful of remoras swam with the sharks like rockstar groupies. Being this close and observing them makes me appreciate them more. Seeing that hook reminded me of the impact humans make on other living creatures and habitats and how we need to be more respectful of Mother Nature and all her children.
After about 45 minutes, I was chilled to the bone and voluntarily got out of the water and into the boat. When I returned to my hotel, I immediately hopped in the shower and stood there for 15 minutes until the hot water warmed me up.
Snorkeling with Florida Shark Diving is an experience I won’t forget and hope to do again.
Several trips are typically available daily and reservations are strongly encouraged.
Plan Your Visit
Florida Shark Diving
Located in Jupiter, Fla.
Where to Stay
Hampton Inn Jupiter/Juno Beach
13801 U.S. Highway 1
Juno Beach, Fla. 33408
Underwater cameras are permitted but not cellphones. Photo and video packages are available and it’s what I purchased to document, share, and remember the experience.
Image credit: Sophia Gumbardo/Florida Shark Diving
Thanks to Lauren of Outdoorsy Diva for her podcast and sharing her experience about Florida Shark Diving. Go check her out!
Watch My Brief Video on YouTube
If the video doesn’t play, view the video “Swimming with the Bulls with Florida Shark Diving, Jupiter, Florida” on YouTube.