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Shark feeding

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                   Lions Head, shark feeding

                Hélène and Cees, 06-08-1984

Carcharhinus perezi feedingCarcharhinus perezi feedingHélène going downAfter the dive, me and Hélène

With an international reputation for encountering grey reef sharks, the Lions Head in the Maldives is a popular dive spot. Even with a new ban on shark feeding in the area, the chances of seeing these impressive predators patrolling the area are still vast. 

Well Hélène and I were lucky enough to be at Lions Head when shark feeding was still allowed. On 06-08-1984 we went with the diving boat from Fiha Lohi, with the German diving master Lutz Hageman to Lions Head. This protrusion of rock juts ominously towards the 4.5 km wide Vaadhoo Kandu. 

The site is flushed with clear water from the 500 metre deep channel making it ideal for viewing the territorial greay reef sharks that patrol the area. A gently sloping ledge on the east side of the rock at 10 metres is a suitable place to sit and wait for the show to begin.

And boy dit it begin !! dozens of sharks came up from the deep. Lutz started feeding them an soon it turned into a feeding frenzy. One of the sharks swam right into my camera and collided with the dome port. Now that is an adrenelin kick I can tell you ! 

When we came up, the boats were gone, because of the heavy swell they had withdrawn to about 1 km from the reef. So we had to snorkel a fair distance back, exhausted, but pumped up we entered the boat. “DID you SEE ….”, everone was shouting. 

We had a great dive

Shark feeds, were first made famous by a German photographer named Herwath Voightmann on Bandos Island Resort. The fashion caught on and soon five locations became popular. The house reef on Bandos, Lion’s Head in the Vaadhoo Channel, Banana Split near Furana; Full Moon Beach Resort, Rasfaree near Nakatchafushi Resort and Fish Hole in Alifu Atoll. Voightmann dressed up as an underwater superman fed sharks mouth to mouth. 

A more notorious human “shark” who turned up in the archipelago was Richard Harley, a lawyer who staged a diving accident in the Bahamas after being convicted of taking over US$300,000 in bribes. Interpol at last caught up with him, yes, you guessed it, feeding sharks! 

The knack is to feed large fish, so when the food is in the shark’s mouth, there’s no room for heads or hands. But tuna sends sharks into a feeding frenzy and it’s preferable to use different fish.

It is still possible to see a shark feed, but the event is becoming rarer for several reasons. Firstly, there is the danger. Secondly, there is the damage done to the sharks themselves, touching a shark can harm its protective body covering, making it prone to infection. 

Finally, feeding changes a shark’s natural behavior, not only making it a lazy feeder but training it to associate divers with food. With the growing ecological awareness among divers in recent years, shark feeding is now discouraged. 

It is better to observe the underwater world in Maldives as it is, without human interference, particularly as it is one of the last underwater “Wilderness”. In keeping with this spirit, the Maldivian government officially discourages the so called “Shark Circuses”, and Herwath Voightmann has moved on. 

To the east of Lions Head is a long straight section of reef with caves and overhangs at 5 metres. Many invertebrates, such as lobsters, octopus, sea anemones, sponges and pin-cushions are found on this section of reef and blotched porcupine fish are familiar inhabitants. More caves and overhangs are found at 20 and 25 metres but the best diving is in the shallow water between 5 and 10 metres.

Location North Male’ Atoll A 50 min. boatride south off Bandos, in the Vaadhoo Channel.
Rating Intermediate.
Description The reef is a steep wall plunging down to great depth hosting a large number of invertebrate life such as octopus and the lobster. The clear waters of the channel offer the chance to view pelagic fish while the reef top forms a great showcase for turtles.
Depth range 3m – 30m
Type of dive Drift dive.
Marine life With an international reputation for encountering grey reef sharks, the Lions Head is a popular dive spot. Even with a new ban on shark feeding in the area, the chances of seeing these impressive predators patrolling the area are still vast.
Photography Use a wide angle 14mm – 28mm for sharks, eagle rays and turtles.

Source shark photo’s: 
Wikipedia (Joi Ito from Inbamura, Japan and Greg Grimes from Starkville, MS, USA) licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.