Sharks are one of the most misunderstood marine creatures across the globe. Guests of Coco Collection are often surprised at how magical it is to overcome their initial fear and dive or snorkel with these impressive fish in their natural habitat. It is important to understand how we are a much larger threat to them than they to us, and what their extinction could mean to other marine life around us. So, let us take you on an interesting shark journey, for a greater appreciation of these fascinating creatures!
Often labeled as vicious predators lurking for swimmers and surfers under the surface, sharks are actually not interested in humans! They survive on a diet that consists mostly of Crab, Fish, Shrimp and even tiny plankton, similar to that of peaceful Manta Rays. Larger prey is not available close to the shores of Maldives, so big sharks do not usually swim near the shore, unless they are whale sharks looking for plankton. Additionally, the most common types of shark in Maldives are the Blacktip and the Whitetip Reef Sharks and they are actually afraid of humans!
Now, to the importance of sharks in the natural order of living things: Each and every creature is known to play an essential role in balancing the eco system, and sharks contribute to controlling the population of a variety of Marine Life. Being at the top of the food chain, sharks ensure that many species stay at an ecologically sustainable size, so that prey species do not cause harm to the eco system by becoming too populous. This allows all marine animals to thrive!
Each year, 100 million sharks are killed across the world and where sharks are eliminated, the marine eco system loses its balance. If the marine eco balance maintained by sharks is disturbed, it will take a long time to regenerate. Unlike other fish, Sharks actually breed very slowly. Reaching sexual maturity at about 8 years old, most sharks have a gestation period of 9-14 months, which is a very long pregnancy for just very few pups!
At Coco Collection, we participate in the Maldives SHARK WATCH program which aims to create awareness about the importance of shark conservation. Our Marine Biologist, along with the Dive Ocean team in Coco Bodu Hithi and Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu records the number of and species of each shark spotted every day. This information is then communicated to the Marine Research Center in the capital city Malé, where data from over 280 dive sites across Maldives is collected and population and distribution trends are monitored. The number of shark sightings has been very steady so we know that the population is doing well in North Malé and Baa Atoll at the moment.
The most frequently sighted shark at Coco Bodu Hithi is the Whitetip Reef Shark, while the most sighted shark in Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu is the Grey Reef Shark. Bodu Hithi Thila and Manta Point are actually our most popular dive spots at Coco Bodu Hithi, as our eager guests have a very good chance of spotting sharks when diving there.
At both resorts, guests can watch Baby Blacktip Reef Sharks swimming around the lagoon near the jetty. Baby sharks stay in the lagoon until they are big enough to venture out into the ocean. The baby sharks in our lagoon are very shy and generally flee when they sense the presence of a large body in the water. Guests always express how amazing it is to watch these little sharks and often express their surprise at the non-threatening nature of these much maligned fish.
From November 2012 to May 2014 at Coco Bodu Hithi and Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu combined, there have been sightings of 3,366 Whitetip Reef Sharks, 896 Grey Reef Sharks, 163 Blacktip Reef Sharks, 95 Tawny Nurse Sharks, 18 Silvertip Sharks, 6 Zebra Sharks, 1 Whale Shark and 1 Hammerhead Shark. While 4,053 sharks were spotted at Coco Bodu Hithi, only 456 have been spotted at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu. Even though this constitutes a great disparity in sightings around our two resorts, we are still relieved by the fact that both populations appear quite stable, so we can trust that future guests will not miss out on the chance to observe the behavior of these impressive and beautiful predators in their natural habitat!