Thursday, June 18, 2015

Fins to the Left, Fins to the Right: Babies Playing in Shark Infested Waters

How could we possibly top seeing pink flamingos in the wild? Seeing a bunch of baby sharks in a feeding frenzy, of course. Duh.

Our beautiful friend, Jayde, who has been working term charters down here for several years now and is very much 'in the know' when it comes to off-the-beaten-track adventures, wrote us immediately when she heard we were in Anegada. "It's shark breeding season right now, and you are guaranteed to see loads of baby sharks this time of year..." she went on to tell me where to find them, and punctuated what a unique and cool experience it would to be. I took the bait; hook, line and sinker. We were going shark sighting.

The secret spot where the sharks were promised to be was reportedly "very far" from the dinghy dock, so we inquired about a taxi. After quoting us a price of $12 per adult (there were four of us) and $6 per child (five of them) - we decided, literally, to take a hike.

We started walking, forlorn at the prospect of having to abort our shark excursion when an open safari-style vehicle rolled up, asking us where we were headed. If there is one advantage to traveling with children, particularly very small children, it's that hitchhiking is a breeze. Who can turn down two families with five (very adorable) small girls between them? The dreadlocked driver started giving us directions to the area where we might see the sharks when he paused mid sentence, suddenly taking in all of girls... a pitiful smile came across his face and, slightly defeated, he motioned with a chuckle, "Come on in, I'll take you". We were all very grateful for this gesture, as the distance we covered by car would have easily taken us an hour with all the kiddos in tow. When we arrived at our destination (seemingly in the middle of nowhere) we hopped out of his truck, each family giving him a $5 bill and a heart-felt 'thank you', as he waved us off with a smile.

We found ourselves on a concrete bridge overlooking a very active salt pond and a small estuary. Frigates and pelicans were having a field day in the sky above us, dive-bombing the water with torpedo precision and coming up with great gulps, tiny fish zipped around under the water in schools, while soldier crabs tip-toed along the shore. A few dead minnows floated by in the current, easy picking for the more vulturous birds in the area. We kept walking, keeping our eyes on the lookout for fins, when - at the shoreline in water only calf deep - we found them.

It took a while to see them as the water was murky and shallow, but they were there, their predatory silhouettes unmistakable. The baby sharks, only about 2-3 feet long, were darting about this way and that with lightning speed and precision, honing their hunting skills before heading out into the open ocean. Occasionally you'd see a dorsal fin or an angry splash, but then they'd disappear. "There's one!" someone would yell, but before you could get an eyeball on them - they'd be gone. "I see one! Over there!" but you'd turn your head, and you'd catch a glimpse of a diminishing tail. I was amazed to watch them in action - these super-predators in training - they were remarkably fast and incredibly stealthy. But once our eyes adjusted and we knew what we were looking for, we saw them en masse.

Try as we might we couldn't lure them closer to shore get a good picture when Eben got the brilliant idea to collect a few of the dead fish we'd seen in the estuary to feed them. We threw a few minnows near our feet and waited. Sure enough, our little sharks came like puppies to treats. The girls were having a field day, splashing the water with their hands on the surface, "Here, sharky sharky".

After about an hour we started the trek home, this time walking along the shoreline to explore a bit more, when our twins made it clear they needed dinner - stat. We headed back up to the road, hoping for a ride, when another safari taxi drove by just in the nick of time. They stopped, we hopped in, and for another $5 per family, we had ourselves a ride back to the beach bar where the adults spent our saved taxi money on rum punches, and the kiddos ran amok like the little island heathens they are.

Can't you feel 'em circlin' honey?
Can't you feel 'em swimmin' around?
You got fins to the left, fins to the right,
and you're the only bait in town.
You got fins to the left, fins to the right,
and you're the only baby in town.
- Jimmy Buffett

The salt pond and small estuary to the ocean. 
Exploring the little salt pond. Lots to see in these waters if you look close!

Sea birds everywhere, that murky water is where all the sharks were.
The shark in the foreground here had just snatched up a dead fish that Eben fed it.
Believe it or not, there were probably five or six sharks in this shot, the murky water however makes them invisible.
Mira, our newly minted walker, chilling on the sea wall, watching sharks go by.
Haven's all, "I'm not scared!" She is a total fish and wants to swim NO MATTER WHAT (we didn't let her)
Fins to the left and fins to the right!
Arias calling, "Here, sharky, sharky!" See the shark? Look closely!
Mira and Isla, shark spotting.
Haven happily playing on shore as a baby shark lurks in the background.
See that little fin?


Unknown said...

Oh wow! That is amazing!!! We have something similar in Hawaii. It's this little sand bar and we find baby sharks there every so often maybe not as often as there and other sea creatures. It's pretty neat. Love having the kid so close to the water makes learning fun!

Unknown said...

This is cool

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