Log #41—The San Blas Archipelago

Swimming With the Shark

Here's another slightly-out-of-the-ordinary Buhl experience. Let me emphasize, may it prove to be neither normal, standard, common, commonplace, a daily occurrence, nor usual in any sense of the word.

We enjoyed snorkeling in the warm, clear, aquamarine waters around Green Island. Because of the many coral reefs, skin diving is especially good. We headed off in the dinghy, dropped anchor, and snorkeled outside of a nearby reef. It was unbelievable. There were gorgeous neon tropical fish everywhere, stunning coral of all types, colors, and sizes. We even saw several spotted eagle rays winging gracefully around the coral heads. Quite a contrast from the frigid, ever-murky water and near-colorless fish of Lake Margrethe, my old swimming hole in northern Michigan.

Then we watched in utter amazement, as just below us—only 5-6 feet away—swam what appeared to be a shark. A shark! I couldn't believe my eyes, and just kept staring at him as he swam away beneath us. Then I motioned Karl to go up, and we surfaced. I asked him, "Was that really a shark?" Wide eyed he answered, "Yeeesss." I nearly inhaled my snorkel.

We think that it was either a gray reef or bull shark. And unlike the 8-inch perch and 6-in sunfish in Lake Margrethe, he seemed to be about 4-5 feet long; too long at any length. And thank God, he wasn't looking for lunch! Our hearts were pounding to say the least, but we didn't panic. Holding hands, we swam back to the dinghy which was several hundred yards away. I kept looking back as we swam, to see if "he" was following us. Fortunately he wasn't. It was very sobering, to say the least, and it was the first time that I've ever seen a shark, other than in an aquarium. I've certainly never snorkeled with one! I do remember dad telling about the very-dead shark that was dumped into Lake Margrethe; a postwar prank to terrorize the locals.

We've since learned that there are a lot of very-alive sharks in these waters, and because we were outside of the reef, we were swimming in their territory. Martha Stewart, is there such a thing as shark etiquette? Manners for the well-behaved shark: Treat all snorkeling swimmers as your quests—ignore them.

Return to Log #41—The San Blas Islands … Continued

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