Date de publication : 2010-08-10

[texte en anglais seulement]


 The tiger shark is a predator well known for eating a wide range of animals,  including humans because they often visit shallow reefs, harbours and canals. This shark is responsible for a large percentage of spearo fatal attacks, and is regarded as one of the most dangerous species. Tigers are protected in some Durban areas.

I met Walter Bernardis (African Watersports) years ago during an Underwater World Film Festival at Antibes (South of France where i'm native). I remeber having made this proficient diver tasting Medditerranean sea urchins...

He has been for years pionnering unique and amazing diving expeditions such as "sardin run" and "African tiger shark".

Although the tiger appearances cannot be guaranteed during the high season of May, I stayed in Durban area in 2008 and 2009. I was motivated by the opportunity while freediving  to observe and to interact these magnifiscent creatures in their natural environment.

They are very few spots places on the Blue Planet that you can view tiger sharks:  a southern reef of Aliwal Shoal is one of the only known spots where the diver can interact with one of the top apex predators without a cage close up and personal.

The dive takes place on the reef at about 15 to 20 meter depth where the baiting station takes place.

On the place the dive use baiting technics wich mimic the natural feeding pattern as close as possible. It needs a couple of hours chuming from the boat to attract  by using a drifting "tiger coa cola" can: a stinky fish and oil mixture. The best clue announcing the sharks  visit is several sharksuckers coming first eating the bait, then come over and over countless blacktips and reef sharks.

Then the  filled drum with sardine and tuna is dropped at 15 meter depth... a small scuba dive group stay at the same depth observing the action. At the same time I did several dives close to the drum and checked everywhere if a tiger was visiting the place. Sometimes the visibility was pretty bad,a green water due to the heavy rain the days before. That's made the things al little bit srtessfull, despite I could be surprised by the simplicity and the confidence with wich Walter interacts with the sharks. I was told there that he was able to take a tiger by the waist, to stroke it and to make it falling a sleep in his arms!

So I could during my stays learn to freedive very close to tigers. I could see some 4m great females in particular,  swim close and touch them. Different amazing interactions wich offer to me the opportunity to change my attitude and my perception of these predators. Sometimes I had to strugggle with myself at the time I had to go back to the surface:  the tiger followed me  slowly while probably  resolving basic shark questions: what kind of possible prey are you, why are you staying vertical in the water, what part of your body shoud be the best to bite, is it too risky to try a frontal attack?..

During this short and intense close encouters you have better to relax and constantly  to visually control the shark. This face to face makes the tiger changing it's path most of the time, but if it keeps on  you have to shout and blow bubbles. If it does'nt work and if the tiger enters in your personal space the best way is by pushing the shark snout, it will deviate.

Each stay was an unique and unforgetable opportunity to do video that is not easely duplicated anywhere else on the Blue Planet.

Philippe Virgili

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