Tips for Amazing Marine Life Interactions
Each time someone goes in the water they have an amazing opportunity to interact with the marine life there. They also have the potential to do harm. The less intrusive our behaviour is the better our experience will be, as many underwater photographers know. So what is the best way to interact? As we were all taught when we learnt to dive, it is basically to look and appreciate but not to touch. There is nothing better than observing wildlife in its natural environment and to let it come to you. At Sharks Bay Umbi we love all the marine life we thought we would put together some basic tips on how to get as close as possible, without causing any damage.
Stay calm and relaxed
We have all seen the ‘inexperienced diver’ or ‘selfish diver’ who get over excited and barge past chasing after something. Generally all this does (other than annoy everyone) is to chase the animal away. But if you watch carefully, you will also notice that the rapid movement puts the rest of the reef onto high alert. The marine life retreats into the reef and is generally far more cautious.
There is little point chasing after something as all you will do is to scare the fish or pelagic away. They will always be able to swim faster than you and me. By remaining calm and relaxed you will make less noise and blow fewer bubbles. This is turn will definitely helps you get closer to whatever it is you want to see.
Think about your position in relation to whatever it is you are looking at. Being above a turtle is more likely to cause it to flee as you will be blocking its access to air. Also if you get between a mother and baby this will be perceived as threatening so they will quickly move away from you.
Staring directly at animals is normally perceived as threatening behaviour. With marine animals sight is not normally their primary sense however swimming head-on towards them will be seen as threatening. Additionally your rapid movements and heavy, noisy breathing underwater will also make them quickly move away. When you see something edging forward, slowly, once it has got used to you being there. This is a great way to get closer to resting stringrays or sharks. In fact the best way to get close to a shark is to ignore it completely. If they do not feel as if they are being perused then often their curiosity will get the better of them and they will come and check you out.
Find a clearing on the sand for you and your buddy and just stop and wait. You will notice far more things happening around you than you if you had just swam past. Alternatively, just hang back a bit and wait for the other divers to move on. The more timid fish will often re-appear once most of the group have moved away.
Do what the best underwater predators do and use your surroundings as camouflage. Stick close to the reef wall where you will be less visible or hide behind outcrops. Then, if you need to, slowly move forward.
Keep your hands off
The first and most important rule and the one that everyone (should!) be told when they learn to dive, is not to touch anything. Wanting to ‘ride a turtle’ or get a ‘puffer fish to puff up’ is an abhorrent idea for all responsible divers.
Next time you go diving keep these tips in mind. Hopefully they will help you have some truly amazing marine life experiences and maybe even assist you in getting that underwater photograph of your dreams. Remember, if you are polite and respectful the marine life will be far more willing to let you into their home.