I visited Playa del Carmen for the first time in October 2018 to learn how to freedive. That’s all it took for Playa del Carmen (and Mexico in general) to completely capture my heart. The amazing food, affordable prices and Mayan history are enough to keep anyone coming back, but it was the diving that really won me over.
The Mexican Caribbean has the clearest blue water and holds the second largest barrier reef on earth, the Palancar Reef. Since that first visit in 2018, I learned of the MANY seasonal dive opportunities just off the coast, including swimming with Whale Sharks and diving with Bull Sharks. When I visited in 2018 and 2019, I never lined up my trip with these bucket-list experiences…
But it’s 2020 baby and something good had to come out of this crazy year!
Mentally Preparing to Scuba Dive With Bull Sharks
I’m a pretty anxious scuba diver. It takes a lot for me to fully relax and enjoy a dive without the fear something will go wrong— like having to take my mask off underwater. It sounds silly for a certified diver, but ever since I did that mask removal skill in my open water certification course, I’ve been terrified. Getting water in my mask makes me panic and completely lose my cool.
Nonetheless, I love scuba diving. And I’m going to practice taking my mask off underwater before my next dive. 😉
The night before the dive with the Bull Sharks, I couldn’t sleep. I hadn’t scuba dived in months and I was so anxious and excited, but also afraid I wouldn’t feel comfortable scuba diving in general. I kept telling myself “be courageous and it’ll all work out” and reminding myself that none of my friends were nervous, so why should I be? Scuba diving scares me more than seeing Bull Sharks!
We arrived at Sayab Hostel (aka Good Vibes Dive Shop Headquarters) at 12 pm to set up our gear. I was expecting this thorough dive brief about the sharks with major Dos and Don’ts, but what I got was much simpler.
Don’t swim over top the sharks
Don’t touch the sharks
Keep your arms close to your chest (reaching out your arm is the position shark feeders use and sharks may confuse your GoPro for food)
Keep eye contact with the sharks (they don’t like it)
Blow bubbles (exhale) if they get too close (they don’t like bubbles)
That was it.
I asked about a million questions, but overall it was really simple. So, we geared up and took a taxi to the boat at 1 pm.
If you’re going diving in Playa or want to get certified, Good Vibes is the absolute best option. I have dove with them almost every trip and they have the most positive, capable instructors that are knowledgeable of the area. For real. You’ll want to hangout with them your whole trip.
Scuba Diving With Bull Sharks
Diving in Playa is soooo convenient. You just show up to the beach and hop on a boat right from the water. The spot where the Bull Sharks hangout is only 5 minutes off shore, so it’s especially convenient.
We hopped on the boat and by this point, I wasn’t scared or stressed anymore, only thrilled! Then, we headed to Shark Point, the spot pregnant female Bull Sharks visit every year from November-February to give birth.
Entering the Water
Anyone who scuba dives understands the magical feeling of first descending underwater. One minute you feel fresh air on your face and the next you’re enveloped in a new world—and you’re breathing. This dive was no different, only I was constantly looking for the bottom ’cause I wanted to see where the sharks were! The sharks usually stay on the bottom and the main areas divers hangout with them are between 18-24 meters.
Sure enough, I saw large sharky figures swimming along the bottom. It was exhilarating but it didn’t make my skin crawl like I expected it to.
Sitting on the Bottom With the Bulls
Once we reached the sea floor, we just sat on our knees in a little circle and watched the sharks. They are curious so when they see us or hear the instructor bang on his tank, they come check us out. The sharks swim around you and you just get to observe. They may come at you, but they always turn before touching you.
As crazy as this sounds, the experience felt very predictable. It almost felt like I was watching the sharks from behind glass—that’s how safe I felt. It’s exhilarating and peaceful at the same time.
That’s how the entire dive went. You just sit on the bottom with your head on a swivel (so you can see ALL the sharks!) and then you head to shallower depths. If you’re lucky, the sharks will follow you and swim behind or along side you.
Thankful for Diving With Bull Sharks🦈
My friends and I loved the Bull Shark Dive so much we did it a second time!
Overall, I’m so thankful for this experience. We desperately need sharks to keep the ocean healthy and I’m excited that I’m learning about them instead of fearing them (like I used to). On top of it all, I met the Bull Sharks surrounded by my friends. Being circled by sharks with all my friends is my kind of outing!