Swimming with pilot whales and oceanic whitetip sharks

One of the oceanic whitetip sharks that we spotted off the coast of Roatán, on our way to the Odyssey wreck.

Last week, out in the deep about three miles off the coast of Roatán, we jumped off the boat to swim with a pod of pilot whales, and quickly we found ourselves surrounded by a handful of oceanic whitetip sharks, described by Jacques Cousteau as the “most dangerous of all sharks,” aggressive, opportunistic predators known to attack shipwreck victims and others stranded in deep waters.

The sharks circled between us and the boat. We had to swim directly toward them.  Pure adrenaline.

Being the only one with a snorkel, and also the fastest swimmer, I had been able to keep pace with the pilot whales prior to discovering the sharks, and at one point even outpaced the whales. I counted at least 17, mostly adults but a few calves too. After trailing them for a few minutes, I watched them swim off into the blue, their quiet grace interrupted by my friend screaming HELP.

My rescue diver instincts kicked in, and I swam toward Mark, a rescue diver and Divemaster himself. He then screamed for everyone to get back on the boat. Trusting his instincts, I changed course and swam toward the boat, at which point I realized that we were surrounded by sharks.

I think the sharks were tracking the whales to pick up the scraps from the whales hunting squid. I don’t think the sharks were hunting the baby whales, nor do I think the sharks wanted to eat us, but they were curious. At least one shark approached, circled, and bumped Mark.

An absolutely beautiful experience in the wild.