When I was making a list of things I wanted to cross off the ol’ bucket list in 2018, swimming with sharks went on that piece of paper pretty near the top. Dane and I have done the cage dive before and while it was nice – I wanted to do it the more natural way. No cage, no chum, just me and them. Well, of course, there was no way Dane was going to let me have all the fun, so he added it to his list as well. When we were planning our trip to Tahiti and had the opportunity to hang out with the amazing Moorea Ocean Adventures team – I figured I should take the plunge (cheesy pun fully intended). Today I’m sharing our experience, a video, tons of photos and answering a few of the questions I got about it all. If you’re interested in hearing more, stick around!
My Experience Swimming With Whales + Sharks
First things first – the video above was created by our new friends at Moorea Ocean Adventures, Matthieu + Trevor. If you would rather see our day via video, be sure to check it out! And if you only want to see highlights of our specific tour, go ahead and fast forward to 2:30. Now – let’s chat details. We got picked up at our hotel super early in the morning, because I knew that if I booked something later in the day that would give me too much time to panic and back out. So, we headed out from the dock and the first thing we saw was a huge pod of spinner dolphins just playing and having the best time in the protected lagoon area. The water wasn’t very clear, so we opted to stay in the boat and not get in with them, but I loved seeing them from the boat. There was even a tiny baby just flipping around – adorable!
After we saw the dolphins – I was like okay, this was really cool, but if we hang out in this boat much longer I’m going to back the heck out of this whole operation. After we hung out with the dolphins for awhile, it was time to head to a reef a few miles offshore. Thankfully, the guys were so cool about my fears and answered all of my questions. Matthieu is a marine biologist who has been studying these animals for years, so while he was super reassuring about safety, he backed it all up with facts and experience which put me more at ease. I’m sure he answered probably 100 questions from me before we even got a mile out. We saw tons of amazing fish and beautiful live coral. It was incredible! The seas were exceptionally flat during our cruise, which they said is not always the case, so we really lucked out and were able to move around quite a bit and see places that can’t always be accessed due to choppy water. After enjoying the reef for a bit, Matthieu told us that super early in the morning there had been reports of pilot whales off the coast, so our first order of business was going to be to scout and see if we could find them. GREAT SUCCESS! After about 15 minutes of cruising, we spotted some fins and made our way to where they were moving. Since they were pretty active, we didn’t have a lot of time to dilly-dally, which is probably great because otherwise I may have been like…JUST KIDDING I’LL STAY HERE AND WATCH THE BOAT! Incredible doesn’t even begin to describe what it was like watching these beautiful creatures. Jumping straight into the ocean a few miles from land knowing there are huge animals a few feet away can be an unnerving feeling, but wow..There are very few moments in my life that have taken my breath away and this was one of them. It was amazing.
Honestly – if our adventure would have been over after the whales, I probably would have been content. It was amazing to me to just be living in their world and watching from afar. But Matthieu and Trevor were all – no way girl, it’s shark time. And so off we went….Now, this is the part where I tell you that another human being jumped inside me. Another human being that isn’t afraid of anything. As soon as the boat stopped, the sharks began circling it, almost as if they knew I was inside and jumping out of my own skin. But after a little pep talk from the guys, I plopped right into that water and swam with those beauties like we were old friends. They were beautiful. And if the Moorea Ocean Adventures team taught me one thing that I will remember it’s this:
Right before we jumped into the water I said “Guys, I don’t know if I can do this – they’re not going to eat me right?” And they said “You didn’t ask that at all right before you jumped into the water with the whales who are also predators, 6 time the size and could have eaten you. The bad things you think in your head are from how sharks are portrayed in the media, not because of how they actually are.” And that was that. My perspective of sharks is forever changed and I am so grateful. The photo just below is the first photo Dane took when I jumped in (of course I sent him first) and you can tell in my eyes I’m 100% not sure what I’m doing, but by the end of it, I was obsessed.
While we were swimming with the black tip sharks, we also saw a few grey sharks and a lone lemon shark. All were curious and most surprising of all – gentle. I was in total awe of how they gracefully glided through the water and came up to us, but more or less just to say hi, see what was going on and then move along. Sharks don’t want to eat humans – we are not part of what makes their stomach growl, so to speak. Shark bites and attacks occur when the ocean is in imbalance and sharks are in an area that has been overfished (creating a lack of food source for them). I could probably go on and on with all that I learned during our day, but my biggest takeaway is how misunderstood and horribly represented these apex predators truly are. It really made me sad! The rate at which sharks are killed for their fins and/or just to be killed is alarming, terrifying and just plain wrong.
Before our day was done, I asked the guys if we could head to the majorly touristy lagoon area near our resort that was home to friendly pink whip rays (commonly known as sting rays) and some other sharks. It was the opposite of what the rest of our day had been like (no tourists, no tours), but I’m so happy we experienced these beauties who came right up to us and offered hugs. I could have hung around with them all dang night – seriously! Their bodies feel slippery and smooth and I learned that their mouths are like two plates that close down on one another – pretty cool!
If you can’t tell – I’m pretty smitten with our experience and the whole entire day we enjoyed. It was our last full day on Moorea and I honestly cannot think of a better way to have spent it. We laughed until our stomachs hurt, learned a ton about the marine life in Tahiti (both similar and different to Hawaii) and I proudly crossed a major item off my bucket list. Dane and I both agreed this was in our Top 5 travel moments of all time – truly amazing – and are already planning our next trip to Moorea for the beautiful friends that hang out there in late summer and fall…humpback whales and their adorable babies! Stay tuned for that experience 😉 If you missed reading about our Tahiti trip, be sure to read about our time in Tahaa and 3 days on Moorea. I’ve gotten a few questions about what kind of camera we use and who makes my swimsuit. First things first – this swimsuit is one of my absolute favorites – perfect for sportier adventures and stays put. Second, we use this camera ($150 OFF right now!) and it’s amazing for both photos and videos!