Jake's Place, Little Corn Island, Nicaragua
this is how the dive briefing began for my second day of diving in little corn island.
"...jake is a friendly nurse shark."
a friendly shark? friendly and shark are two words not usually used in the same sentence, at least outside of the diving community.
this dive was actually my second time seeing sharks underwater, so i had a small idea of what to expect since we had seen a few nurse sharks on our dives the day before.
the first time i saw a shark while diving, it was sitting still under a coral shelf. lying on the ocean floor, it looked calm, resting and waiting for night to come.
i expected to see jake in the same way.
as i handed my fins and weights onto the boat, i casually asked my dive master how big jake was.
"about 7 feet."
when our boat arrived out in the middle of the choppy waters, i wondered if jake would be resting under his chosen coral shelf. securing my mask and air, i rolled back off the boat and into jake's place.
as soon as we got down to the coral, our dive master turned to us and gave the shark signal (a hand gesturing a shark fin on your forehead). within moments, just feet below my fins, jake swam through.
we stayed still to watch him, and he had no interest in our group. he swam out of sight and we kept going along the coral. after a few minutes, other divers signaled the shark hand gesture. jake swam by again in the other direction, close to the coral. he kept on appearing and disappearing throughout our dive.
i was not scared, but more amazed to see this creature moving peacefully through the water below us. the shark appeared perfectly in balance with all of the other fish and life we were seeing under the sea, and accordingly didn't feel threatening. there were even two foot-length blue fish following the shark around, as little ones might follow around their older siblings.
the underwater social hierarchy in balance, right before our eyes.
upon surfacing, everyone commented how good the dive was. how lucky we were to see a shark.
and i feel lucky too.
how special to witness a moment of life for a creature so misunderstood, to the tune of my own breath. i felt no fear, but rather peacefulness and a longing for the underwater dream never to end.
but like sleeping dreams, all dives have to come to an end.
even dives with sharks.