... a species of fish, which are like a pack of dogs during feeding.
The time has come for the tourist divers to get into the water. They jump in one at a time without hesitation and wait for the rest of the staff divers to get into the water before going under.
Manasa and Rusi are the other two feeders and are the last to make the dive. This is the first of two dives they’ll be making.
The first dive takes place on a reef ledge next to the drop off into the abyss of Beqa Passage. There at a depth of 30m/100ft, the feeders bring in the main attraction; the Bull sharks.
After spending 17 minutes in "The Arena", the divers head on up to the shallows for the second part of the dive.
Up in "The Den", the smaller shark species, Whitetip Reefs and Blacktip Reefs, are found circling, completely at ease with the presence of divers.
Slowly the tourist divers begin to surface along with staff divers and begin making their way on board the vessel.
“It is simply amazing down there,” says one of the tourist divers just as boards the vessel.
Shivering with cold, they take off their gear and are given towels to dry themselves up.
The tourist divers are then offered hot tea and biscuits as they discuss what each of them saw during the dive.
The surface interval lasts for almost an hour and soon its time for the divers to gear up again.
The second dive takes place halfway down the reef slope at 16m/55ft.
'The Take Out' is where most of the feeding occurs. Often times the Tawny Nurses are the first species to feed before giving way to the Bulls.
Having become comfortable with the divers' presence they will approach the feeders before opening their massive jaws to take the bait on offer.
Silvertips, Lemons and Grey Reefs come in to feed when the Bulls allow, but if one of the Tigers turn up then even the Bulls give way.
Moving slowly and with purpose the Tiger will take food from the feeders' hands giving the divers a view of one of the oceans' top predators.
Tiger sharks I’m told are very rarely seen during the dives.
35 minutes have passed and now it’s time for the divers resurface. First they make a safety stop to equalise before surfacing and climbing back onboard the vessel.
Both dives last for 45 minutes and offer tourist divers sufficient time underwater.
“The tourist divers pay a lot of money to dive with us, which is why we try to give them as much dive time as possible,” says Andrew.
A short 20-minute boat ride and we are back at the dock. The dive equipments are taken for rinsing and drying by the staff and the tourist divers are shown the way to a hot shower.
Although having begun operations only a year ago, Beqa Adventure Divers has earned a reputation for being one of the best and safest shark dive operators in the world.
The company has worked tirelessly to ensure that the villages of Wainiyabia and Galoa who own fishing rights to Shark Reef are compensated.
Since the reef was declared a marine reserve, the villages have been unable to fish there.
This is why the company charges every tourist diver a levy of $10 extra from what they pay for the dive.
The money is divided equally and at the end of the year and given to the two villages.
Shark dives have been done on Shark Reef for the past 8 years without a single mishap.
It was originally being done by Aqua Trek, which stopped conducting the dives.
The shark dive experience was revived by Beqa Adventure Divers, which began operations in April 2004.
“We have collected data on sharks, which dispel the myth created by Hollywood sensationalism. Jaws is one good example. People stopped going into the water fearing an attack by a shark,” said Andrew.
“Each shark has a different personality. Some are shy and nervous which has been mistaken for aggressiveness.”
The regular shark population of Shark Reef comprises of Blacktip Sharks, Silvertip sharks, Grey Reef Sharks, Whitetip Sharks, Twany Nurse Sharks, Sicklefin Lemon Sharks, Bull Sharks and the occasional Tiger Shark.
The opportunity to see these sharks will cost you $200 plus the added $10 levy.
Beqa Adventure Dives conducts shark dives on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
They also do what they call pretty dives on the world famous Beqa Lagoon with colourful soft corals, intriguing wrecks and exhilarating drifts.
These are done on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
What these individuals had to say about the experience:
"The hand feeding of the great Bull and Tiger Sharks sets a new standard for rapport between man and great predatory animals. My footage of the action is as dynamic as anything I have ever shot."
Stan Waterman, (Diving pioneer, writer & u/w cinematographer) -January, 2005
"At B.A.D.'s Big Fish Encounter you have, not only the thrill of viewing multiple species of sharks at close range, but also the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that if you weren't there paying to see these sharks, they would almost certainly be lying on the bottom with no fins instead of soaring gracefully through the undersea 'atmosphere'.
Seeing the sharks totally focused on getting their share of the fish scraps and ignoring the divers is bound to be an attitude-altering revelation for the many divers who have been brainwashed by the media into believing that sharks will attack and devour humans on sight."
Doug Perrine, (Writer & u/w photographer) -January, 2005
"The best shark dive in the world!""
Ron & Valerie Taylor, (Shark pioneers, writers & u/w cinematographers) -January, 2005