Aboard a Belize adventure tour, you’re sitting in a boat on the backside of Ambergris Caye outside Belize’s barrier reef. Your mission: find a patch of water known as ‘Shark Ray Alley’, jump in and swim with a school of fully-grown sharks.
At this point, you think to yourself, “What happened to the stress free vacation I promised myself?”
The good news is these aren’t great whites – instead, today you’ll be swimming with nurse sharks. Don’t let the name “shark” fool you; these gentle giants are harmless…at least most of the time.
To help you relax and enjoy this special experience, here are helpful facts to keep in mind while swimming with nurse sharks.
Nurse Sharks Are Mostly Harmless to Humans
When it comes to dinnertime, nurse sharks simply aren’t interested in swimmers. They are unable to consume large fish, much less a whole human. However, like most wild animals, they will bite defensively if provoked. The lesson? Respect them and they will respect you. Few attacks have ever been recorded, none of which were fatal. Only one of those attacks was unprovoked.
Nurse Sharks Have Small Teeth and Mouths
Perhaps a large reason for their lack of aggression towards humans is related to the small size of their teeth and mouths. Rather than eating pray with traditional ‘shark bites,’ they opt to suck in their food with the vacuum produced by their large throat cavities.
They Are More Likely to Dine Like a Human than On a Human
Nurse sharks can be very large. In fact, they have been known to grow as long as 14 ft and weigh over 730 lbs! Despite their large stature, their diet is quite similar to that of a human. Shellfish, shrimp, squid, and small fish are common menu items for this open-water foodie.
Nurse Sharks are Bottom Dwellers
Nurse sharks catch their pray on the sea floor and spend most of their time down below. Occasionally, however, they can be coaxed to the surface at ‘Shark Ray Alley’ where cautious snorkelers can take a closer look, without encroaching too much.