Tiger Shark

I got a text a few weeks back from my master’s swim group coach and friend Dave Prutow asking if anyone wanted to join him on a dive at Honokohau Harbor. I knew it was an invitation to dive safely with a Dive Master and also to see large Tiger Sharks and possibly Spinner Dolphins. Rachel and I took Dave up on his offer, and we all met at 7:30 a.m. sharp at the ocean’s edge with a great view of the sea at the harbor’s channel entrance.

“Dog Beach” was to our left with only a few campers making their way up the very rocky path to their cars. We were the first divers to assemble and carefully put on our gear as several other dive groups began to gather. Dave was right in gathering us there early as I could see, this was going to get crowded fast, which is never useful in observing sea life.

Scuba gear is heavy and cumbersome, making it somewhat treacherous to walk the downhill and sharp lava path to the ocean. I took it easy knowing the rocks were slippery and unstable, and one wrong step would bring a face-first fall into the sharp stones with 60-70 lbs of scuba gear on my back. We all arrived safely, turned on our air, and leaped safely off a 4′ ledge into the swell as it crashed toward us.

We finned on our backs 100 yards or so on the surface to save our air supply, gathered ourselves, cleared our masks and slowly released the air from our BC’s and starting our slow descent to a 20′ depth. Dave had given us great pre-dive instructions including our route into the water and dive highlights. He included instructions to stop at 20′ for 2 minutes on our ascent as a safety precaution as our dive would include depths of 80′.

Off we went, Rachel and I following Dave down a slight incline filled with vibrant corals and all the sea critters darting in and out. He told us this shoreline had an abundance of sea life and was one the most undisturbed reefs on the west coast of Hawaii island. We saw schools of yellows tangs, multi-color parrotfish., eels, and as we moved deeper, schools of large jack crevalle or trevallie.

Once we reached 50′-60′, positioned under the green buoy marking the harbor entrance, Dave informed us in our pre-dive meeting that at that depth, he would go alone to the sand bottom at 80′ and pound a few large boulders together to “call” the sharks. These boulders had been placed there for this purpose, and per Dave’s instructions, Rachel and I had our heads on a “swivel” as we heard the deep thump of the rocks. We waited for sharks, dolphins, or anything significant to move in our direction for several minutes. Nothing appeared other than multiple, large watercraft that buzzed loudly over our heads as they exited and entered the harbor.

We all three checked our air supply, and Dave instructed Rachel and me to ascend to 20′ for our stop then continue up the embankment to the small beach. After comparing our dive experience we made our way back up the rocky hill to our vehicles and a 30-minute rest before our next dive.

On our second dive, we followed the same route, but this time we descended to the sand bottom at 50-60′ and proceeded toward the harbor entrance and away from the green buoy. Spotting nothing “big”, we doubled back toward the rock pile. Dave asked us to check our air-I had plenty, but Rachel needed to head up.

As Rachel ascended, I saw Dave head down to pound the rocks together to call the sharks. I could see Rachel hovering above me at 20′-30′ for her safety stop and Dave 20′ below me when out of the blue darkness I saw something grey and large moving right at us. I knew it was a Tiger Shark immediately and wondered if Dave saw it. He looked up at me, motioning toward the shark as he grabbed his camera and slowly moved in its direction.

My best guess is it was 30-40′ from us, and you could easily make out its distinctive stripes and body contours. I was amazed by how calm I was and certainly how tranquil Dave seemed to be 20′ closer. It disappeared into the deep blue water right about the time my pressure gauge showed 700, indicating it was time to GO!

We joined Rachel on the beach with several dog owners splashing and playing in the surf. Rachel didn’t see the shark, but I sure did! What a great experience to see one of the oceans largest, apex predators in their natural environment. I’m glad we were not on her breakfast menu that morning, and I look forward to our next Shark Dive! Thank you, Dave, for another great experience!! Check out Dave’s website for more amazing photos of our beautiful ocean inhabitants-https://www.prumarinephotography.com/favorites