Sharks often get a bad rap; sure they’re powerful creatures that sport lots and lots of sharp teeth, but they are also some of the most beautiful and graceful creatures you’ll find in the sea.
People often equate sharks with fear. Mention the word shark while swimming at the beach and you’ll see heads turning in every direction. But for as many of the well-known big guys that you should use caution around, there are several passive guys who would love to swim right alongside you. Not all shark species are a reason to sound the alarm at the beach!
Of All The Sharks In The Sea, Attacks Are Still Limited
There are hundreds of species of sharks all over the world. Though they are painted to be savage hunters and violent killers, there are only about 4.3 unprovoked deaths each year worldwide. Those attacks come from only about 4 different species, so that leaves many sharks who have no interest in what your flippers are doing as they search the ocean waters for food and tranquility. Some of the sharks that are the easiest to swim with are as follows.
- The Angel Shark. Just the name itself can evoke feelings of lightness and peace. But does the Angel Shark live up to its pleasant name? Sort-of. They aren’t exactly named as such for being loving and peaceful, but rather for the shape of their bodies, which is like a cross between an oversized flounder and a ray. Flat with wide dorsal fins that run the length of their bodies, they like to bury themselves in the sand and wait for dinner to swim by; talk about fast food! Though just about any creature on the planet will defend itself if provoked, the Angel Shark will typically stay hidden or swim away when a human approaches its hiding place. If you happen to step on one, the possibility exists that his next bite will be a bit of you, but overall these are pretty safe creatures.
- The Leopard Shark. This is probably the least aggressive to humans of all shark species on our list. Though the name might make you think of big cats roaming the rainforest or desert, the similarities don’t go much beyond the design. Yes, they get their name from their beautifully spotted bodies, but they won’t chase you or leap upon you from a treetop! In fact, Leopard Sharks will flee from humans at first glance. They like to hang out in shallow waters feeding on crabs and fish, but not one of them has ever been reported to feed on a human. No bites, no blood. They are rather small sharks, ranging from 4 to 5 feet in length (that’s 1.2 to 1.5 meters), but they are very adaptable and hardy.
- The Nurse Shark. People often think of the Nurse Shark when they think of non-aggressive sharks. They are well-known, probably because of their lack of interest in humans. They do their hunting and are most active at night, so chances of running into one while they are foraging are slim. And when we say most active, it’s really an oxymoron for a Nurse Shark because they are notoriously sluggish and casual. They enjoy just hanging out motionless in caves and crevices, minding their own business and staying out of yours. They can grow to great lengths, though (up to 14 feet long, or 4.3 meters) and their dorsal fin runs about a quarter length of their bodies so running into one unexpectedly might give you a start.
- The Caribbean Reef Shark. This shark is one of the big boys, but without the aggressive reputation. They often top out at about 10 feet in length (3 meters) so seeing one up close is certainly a wonder. The interesting thing is; you really can see one up close because they are super non-aggressive. In fact, they are a number one diving attraction and some dives include Caribbean Reef Shark feeding observations. The presence of food can make any shark more aggressive, but this one is still a mild creature to be around even at feeding time. One particular skill that sets this species apart is the ability to lie motionless on the sea bottom; a trick that works well for catching breakfast. As their name suggests, these giant wonders are found solely in the Caribbean, so if you’re planning a trip to the islands, this is one attraction you don’t want to miss.
- The Whale Shark. The largest of all shark species currently residing in the ocean, this gentle giant is pretty much indifferent to you and your diving party. Younger Whale Sharks can be more playful and curious when you join them underwater, but the act of aggression is not in their repertoire. They are filter feeders, just like whales, and this is how they got their name. Divers have swum beside them in total safety for years and they are truly a sight to behold. Their beauty is made up of a pattern of white stripes and dots over a background that is either gray, brown, or blue. They can grow up to 40 feet log (12.5 meters), which can make it tough to believe that they can be so sweet.
There are many other species of shark in the world whose aggression levels are slim. Though one should never approach any creature on the planet with a blatant disregard for safety (even my domestic tabby cat can pack a mean scratch when provoked!), there is no reason to assume that every creature is looking at you and licking his chops. By enlightening yourself to the reality that not all sharks are aggressive, you become part of the peaceful movement that sees sharks for what they really are; beautiful, graceful, and an honor to share the sea with.