August 1, 2011
Green Travel: Shark week

There is no week I look forward to more than Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.  While it is true that I do not have cable and do not watch television on a regular basis, I am a total sucker for all things having to do with these fantastic fish.  So, how do I get my shark fix during shark week?  By doing the green thing of course.  I have already picked up several shark related items at my local libraries.  To be perfectly honest, I think I have ever single shark DVD available within a 25 miles radius.  I also have a collection of DVDs that I actually own.  I have my own list of programs that I want to watch and when.  It isn’t quite the same but there it is.

But just seeing these great fish on television simply isn’t enough and, if you are like me, you have to get out there and enter their world.  I mean, we are supposed to live every week like it’s Shark Week, right?  And it isn’t as if you really need an excuse to head out on a green vacation, but why not indulge your inner shark lover too?  And you really don’t have to go that far either to find waters teeming with sharks.  The waters off the coast of Florida are probably the deadliest in the world, but the waters off California, Hawaii, Texas, as well as North and South Carolina have had regular visits from these apex predators.  The remaining coastal waters are also shark filled but for a variety of reasons aren’t as favored by the sharks as the ones listed above, and this does not mean that those waters are safer than the rest.  Sharks are out there and there have been attacks everywhere, but some waters offer lower statistical chances of an attack than others.

So, does that put a damper on your eagerness to jump in the surf this weekend?  It really shouldn’t.  No, really.  The likelihood that you will actually be attacked by a shark are fairly small if you stay smart about it.  There are things that are simply stupid when you are entering waters known to be prone to shark visitations.  For example, if you are bleeding, don’t leap into shark infested waters, even if that is why you headed out on that green vacation.  A shark can detect a miniscule amount of blood in the water from 3 miles away. And this applies to any kind of blood, so be sure to check out the local activity as well.  Are there lots of fisherman tossing fish guts into the water?  If so, swim elsewhere.   Also, murky water is bad because sharks use the poor visibility to hide and sneak up on their prey.  The same goes for waters full of fish too.  Not only do large schools of fish hide the sharks, they also offer an abundant food supply.  And what ever you do, avoid swimming in the dark, either at night and just before sunset or sunrise.  These are the times when sharks are the most active and you are more likely to encounter them. Splashing is like ringing the dinner bell for sharks.  They have an amazing ability to sense the electrical impulses given off by moving muscles thanks to the Ampullae of Lorenzini, which are found on the sharks snout.  So, keep your own splashing down as much as possible and don’t forget, pets make erratic splashing when they swim and can be just as attractive to a shark.

Now, I know it is always fun to have a bright colored swimsuit when you are swimming in the tropical water on our green vacation, but did you know that sharks are attracted by contrasts in color?  Even an uneven tan can be enough, but I suspect it would have to be more serious than a slight shift from this suit to that suit.  Think farmers tan meets bikini.  And what ever you do, avoid shiny sparkling jewelry while swimming because it can resemble fish scales and offers even more of that contrast that sharks look for.  This seems like a no-brainer, but I have seen it.  While on a shark feeding trip on Bora Bora, the Italian family that was with me was covered in more gold than they store in Fort Knox.  They were instructed to take it off, which they did, very grudgingly.  And lets not discuss the guy that tried to grab a shark by the tail.  No joke.  He deserved to be bitten,. But happily, he never quite made contact.  So, for heaven sake – don’t try to touch them.  You might come back with less than you put out there.  I’m just saying.

And finally, stay close to shore and in groups.  Sharks like to keep it simple and favor the lone target as opposed to a larger group, which might cause them harm.  This will not ensure your safety but it can help.  Sharks can attack in as little as 2 feet of water so be aware, even if wading in the shallows.  It is also wise to avoid sandbars and areas where the ocean floor drops-off considerably and fish congregate.  This will attract sharks as well.  Granted, this can also offer up some truly amazing photo ops as well.  For example, off the coast of South Africa, the Great Whites are known to regularly launch themselves completely out of the water, in what is known as a Polaris Breech, as they snack on seals.  The ocean floor drops dramatically away from Seal Island and the sharks are able to use the depth to their full advantage, and as they hit the seal with the force of a freight train, they fly out of the water, making for spectacular viewing, if you keep your eyes peeled.  And believe me, I am desperate to go see that for myself. While it is true, I do get sea sick, I will happily stick enough sea sick patches to cover my entire body just to witness this amazing sight, never mind actually getting a photo of a Great White flying out of the water.  Certainly gives the idea of flying fish a new twist.

If all that just makes you want more, welcome to what everyone else calls the loony bin.  I have been told many times that I am a nut, even by my own mother, and to be perfectly honest, I am totally ok with that.  I have always loved sharks.  Heck, Jaws came out on my 5th birthday (yes, I did just date myself) and I have never been the same since, even though it took me 10 more years before I actually saw the movie for the first time.

So fellow loonies, why not plan your next eco-adventure to include an indulgence of our fish fancy?  It is easy to do and many hotels, green or otherwise, have options that can help you meet the denizens of the deep in what might be a safer environment than just heading out with a snorkel and fins.  There are also entire trips that are designed to cater to fans of the great fish.  I know I’m in, well, as soon as I learn to Scuba that is.


Travel green.  Pass it on!



For more information about shark attacks, follow this link for Shark attack information by year.  Also, The Discovery Channel has a great deal of information on their site, including shows and apps.  Yes, there is even an app for this.




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