Thursday, February 22, 2018

Swimming with sharks ...

True adventure for scuba divers at Cove Reef


Mark Fraser

WE met the first shark resting under the shelter of an overhang. He was small in body, probably about six feet long.

We drifted over him and encountered our second shark under the elongated lid of another overhang. My buddy and I signalled to Aurora to draw closer with the camera. Fighting against a strong drift we approached the shark. This one was huge, over ten feet long. Because the water was spotted with tiny particles, visibility was not as good as we would have liked.

The shark moved slightly but Aurora continued to go closer. The drift was so strong that it was a battle to reach for and pull her feet in an attempt to draw her away from such close proximity to this large selachian species.

It was then that we realised that there were three sharks in the hollow of the coral as a second shark came cruising out and passed between us and the first. This one was also over ten feet long. A third showed his presence at the entrance and remained there.

The second shark gracefully swam past us and re-entered the shelter at the tail end of the first.

These were sand sharks, generally not known to be aggressive to humans. They inhabit shoreline habitats such as our Cove Reef. If feeling threatened, however, the sand shark will defend itself. It was wise in this case to remain some distance away so as not to agitate this large fish.

We surrendered ourselves to the persistent strong drift and passed on to more sharks among the coral.

This was true adventure on the Cove Dive Site. Cove is a very advanced dive because of the strong drift coming in with the currents of the Atlantic into the Caribbean Sea. Alvin Douglas of Frontier Divers Tobago Ltd took us out in his boat towards a dive site that we would always remember.

We had left the calm waters of the Shallows of Pigeon Point and rounded the south western tip of Tobago where we encountered rough waters. The strong winds coming across only whipped up the waters to greater turbulence.

Reaching the dive site, we rolled overboard without delay and just as quickly submerged towards the reef. Our swim was effortless as the strong drift took us along at its own pace.

Cove Reef teemed with fish. Equally as impressive was the wide variety of colourful corals. Those that reached up to some height grew tilted towards one general direction because of the influence of the current. Small fish colonised the interior of barrel corals while larger fish cruised over the reef. These seemed unperturbed by the strong drift.

A green moray eel peered out of her shelter. We could see the rest of her long body stretched out against the back of the cave. Two lobsters waved their limbs outside their shelter. They too remained where they were. A sting ray rested on the sandy sea bed fringing the reef. She seemed to be enjoying sweet repose.

Further along we met our first sand shark and realised that Cove Reef was just teeming with this species. Some cruised along with the drift while others rested under the numerous overhangs characterising the reef. Later, they would emerge from their rest spots and hunt for the night.

The presence of such a large number of sharks was the highlight of our scuba adventure at Cove Dive Site.