Maui, Hawaii – Day Fifteen

Monday, Monday… oh, lazy Monday- yet, we did quite a bit this Monday! The kids and I got up and got dressed and packed bentos with some of our favorite lunch treats. Micah wasnt interested in the sun-dried tomato and basil pesto and bowtie pasta Sidda and I packed, so he got a PB&J, but even a PB&J tastes better on the beach.

We headed out to the Maui Ocean Center for a fun day at the aquarium. While spendy ($65 for two kids and adult), the tanks here are pretty awesome- you are mere inches away from Sea turtles, and only 4″ of acrylic separates you from a 7′ Tiger Shark and plenty of other species of sharp toothed fish that for some of us are rather nightmare inducing. Surprisingly, when we came around the corner and saw a diver in the tank with the sharks, I gained new respect for these elegant fish.

The diver explained to us that sharks are not the bottomless pit eating machines they are portrayed to be. While yes, there are shark attacks- they are ALL  cases of mistaken identity and sharks simply do not “eat” humans. Bite you, yes- a major oopsie that surely can kill you, but they don’t like the taste of our jelly- and they do not want to have us for dinner. Alas, they also joked about the items found inside a Tiger shark- which is the reason Tigers (common in Hawaii), Great whites (for the size more than anything) and Bull sharks (aggressive) are still sharks I rather fear. They fed the sharks after the diver got out and to my shock and awe; only one shark in the tank of what looked like 20, actually ate a fish. The rest just kept swimming and exploring – completely uninterested in the snacks. Does this mean I suddenly am unafraid? No. I’m still terrified of sharks… but I respect them.

Some facts we learned about sharks:
Tiger sharks visit shallow reefs, harbors and canals, creating the potential for encounter with humans. In Hawaii, they do this to hunt for their favorite food: turtles. Picture what a Tiger shark sees from below, when you are on a boogie board? A round shape with legs, much like a turtle, right? But despite that- attacks are INCREDIBLY rare, and again, mistakes. In addition to fish, sea mammals, and other sharks, tiger shark stomachs have revealed tires, license plates, boat cushions, copper wire, boots, beer bottles, cans of beans, rats, cats, human remains, and dogs.

Contrary to what I thought about sharks; they are typically scavengers – feeding on dead carcasses and so on, rather than hunters. Hunting uses incredible amounts of energy and increases the risk of injury- sharks being shy and curious but careful creatures, avoid that at most costs.

We were told some great tips for avoiding sharks.
#1. Don’t swim at or after sunset, or during sunrise. That’s when sharks typically feed.
#2. Don’t swim with dogs. Dogs erratic splashing can attract shark attention.
#3. Dont swim around sea birds- popular nommy treats for sharks.
#4. Dont swim in murky water, or immediately after heavy rains.
#5. Dont swim near dead animals (dude, who would?!) Sharks feed on dead animals (scavengers)
#6. Dont swim near fisherman or offshore anglers. The blood, and dying and panicked fish attract sharks.
#7. Mouths of rivers, channels, deep drops and areas between sandbars tend to attract sharks. Skip swimming in these places.

of course…. right before I hit publish on this, I read this: http://www.khon2.com/2013/06/18/man-attacked-by-shark-in-waters-off-the-big-island/ anxiety level now back at a safe 9/10. The bite may be accidental, but an accidental bite from a shark can kill you. So, I think my respect for them, and my inclination to stay far away, is just fine.

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