Cast away your fears to swim with sharks.

When peo­ple think of plung­ing into the waters off Bali, the things that come into their minds will most likely be great waves, fresh air, won­der­ful un­der­sea crea­tures and com­plete re­lax­ation.

The Jakarta Post - Magazine - - Contents - Words In­tan Tan­jung

How­ever, for a dif­fer­ent Bali get­away, why not pump your adren­a­line a lit­tle by at­tempt­ing to swim with the sharks – in a per­fectly safe en­vi­ron­ment – on Bali’s “shark is­land”?

“Shark is­land” is a ma­rine con­ser­va­tion project called “Bali Sharks” that saves sharks and takes care of them in­side a pon­toon that acts as a “shark nurs­ery” in Seran­gan, a small is­land just off Bali’s south­east­ern shore.

“This project be­gan when I was work­ing on a shark cage off Nusa Dua in 2010,” Bali Sharks founder Paul Friese said.

“One day, I learned about a fish­er­man killing a tiger shark re­cently caught at our lo­ca­tion. Later, I found out that they were killing sharks ev­ery night and there’s no reg­u­la­tion here [to pre­vent it from hap­pen­ing],” he ex­plained.

“That was when I and some of my friends de­cided to build a shark nurs­ery here in Seran­gan,” he added.

Sharks are killed in Bali by fish­er­men look­ing to sell their fins for profit.

Kill too many sharks and you in­crease the num­ber of smaller preda­tory fishes con­sumed by sharks, which in turn de­pletes the num­ber of tiny her­bi­vore fish.

With­out the pres­ence of th­ese her­bi­vores, the ecosys­tem will col­lapse and shift into one dom­i­nated by al­gae that can threaten the ex­is­tence of the coral reefs.

In the long run, if things do not change for the bet­ter and con­di­tions de­te­ri­o­rate, the tourism along Bali’s shore­lines – which is a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor to the is­land’s econ­omy – may be sig­nif­i­cantly af­fected.

Bali Sharks res­cues the lo­cal sharks by buy­ing them from lo­cal fish­er­men.

Friese said that they usu­ally kept baby sharks un­til they grew a lit­tle larger (about 1.2 me­ters in length) and were smarter, so that they could sur­vive in deep waters.

The con­ser­va­tion project teams up with the Gili Sharks Foun­da­tion to re­lease the sharks back into the wild in the pro­tected ma­rine area (MPA) of the Gili Is­lands in neigh­bor­ing West Nusa Teng­gara (NTB) prov­ince.

So far, the project has suc­cess­fully res­cued more than 60 sharks in­clud­ing one preg­nant shark, af­fec­tion­ately called mama hiu (momma shark), which gave birth to three baby sharks.

Ac­cord­ing to Friese, Bali Sharks’ main goal is to be­come an al­ter­na­tive way to save sharks and form an eco­tourism model to pro­vide liveli­hoods to lo­cal fish­er­men and ed­u­cate lo­cal res­i­dents and tourists on the im­por­tance of sharks in the ma­rine ecosys­tem.

Here, visi­tors can get a chance to swim and snorkel with th­ese mag­nif­i­cent crea­tures; get­ting to know them bet­ter and so re­move the scary im­age as­so­ci­ated with them.

Friese said he was con­vinced the sharks would not hurt tourists, as they were not in­ter­ested in eat­ing hu­man flesh.

“They’re more afraid of us than we are of them. When you go swim­ming with them, they’ll swim away to the other side of the pen,” Friese said re­as­sur­ingly.

Bali Sharks also has a pon­toon in open waters, a mere five minute’s boat-ride away from Seran­gan, where it at­tempts to test the sharks’ adapt­abil­ity be­fore re­leas­ing them into the wild.

Re­cently, Friese brought seven ju­ve­nile reef sharks into this pon­toon, where they joined another 20 sharks.

Af­ter a brief check-up on all seven sharks, sev­eral Bali Sharks staffers fi­nally re­leased them into the pon­toon.

Once they were there, the sharks swam around the pon­toon as if they were check­ing out their new en­vi­ron­ment.

Some visi­tors tried to feed the sharks with fresh fish, but the crea­tures seemed un­in­ter­ested and just kept swim­ming around.

Then Pak Ny­oman, one of Friese’s col­leagues at Bali Sharks, threw in a bucket of fish and wa­ter con­tain­ing fish blood.

At this, the sharks showed a bit of in­ter­est, check­ing the fish meat sev­eral times be­fore fi­nally snatch­ing them with their teeth at light­ing speed.

The scene was a re­minder to all those watch­ing that sharks are tremen­dous hunters.

Other visi­tors stood up on the wooden steps try­ing to touch the black-tip sharks, which did swim by a few times but ended up swim­ming away.

The newly ar­rived white-tip sharks, mean­while, just swam up and down as if they were re­ally en­joy­ing their new en­vi­ron­ment.

Orig­i­nally pub­lished on jak­post. travel

Shark fins sold at Le­bih Beach.

This ju­ve­nile sharks will be safe in the pon­toon from the worst preda­tor ever, hu­man. Once it reaches one me­ter long and is strong enough, it will be re­leased back into the wild.

Rus­sian tourists swim with sharks.

Paul Friese, founder of Bali Sharks.

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