White Tip Shark Ilot Mato South Reef New Caledonia in New Caledonia
Panoramic photo by Richard Chesher
When I took this image of the white tip shark, Triaenodon obesus, it was about one metre from the camera lens. It looks big because it was so close, but was only about 1.4 metres long. Normally these sharks are kind of hard to get close to – at least on normal terms. One can get a lot closer when feeding them – but that’s one thing I don’t get involved with; feeding them with bait or feeding them with parts of myself.
I have to admit that I don’t think sharks are cuddly creatures. I don’t trust them. They have a chilly, unintelligent persona and I don’t feel comfortable taking my eyes off one when I see it in the water. They normally reciprocate the feeling (humans are a lot more dangerous than sharks) so we tend to go our separate ways pretty quick if we happen to meet unexpectedly. But this shark was apparently unaware of what I was and seemed quite comfortable hanging around. In fact 3 or 4 of its mates were hanging around, too. They were not sure of what kind of creatures Freddy and I were because we were wearing our stunning zebra-striped leotards. You can see Freddy in hers, swimming up the coral gully on the reef behind the shark.
The sharp, high contrast pattern of these leotards confuse our normal human shape in shark eyes (also in fish-eyes) and the reef creatures are a whole lot less worried about us than when we look like a normal human killer fish. The suits also have the benefit (if you call getting close to sharks a benefit) of protecting our tender skins from the sun, the occasional jellyfish or stinging coral. It even holds a little body heat.
For more about diving and snorkelling spots in New Caledonia’s fabulous lagoon, check out the cruising guide to New Caledonia.