Y’all I’m petrified of sharks. But sometimes you need to face your fear, and make a choice to either embrace the fear or let it stall you.
On a recent trip to the island of Bimini in the Bahamas, I had the opportunity for me to either face my fear and embrace it or to continue to let it stall me. I chose to embrace my fear. While walking to dinner, we spotted a small building that didn’t look like much from the outside. A sign on the side of the road identified the building as “Shark Lab” and below that, “Shark Lab Tours.
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When You Want to Know About Sharks….Go to Bimini
Bimini is ground zero for sharks, and there is a variety. Hammerhead shark, Tiger shark, Lemon shark, Nurse shark, Blacktip shark, Caribbean Reef shark, Blacknose shark, Bluntnose Sixgill shark, Night, Dusky Smoothhound shark, and Bull shark. Needless to say, my heart started to jump into my throat, but I pushed through the panic and embraced the opportunity to find out more.
Jim, knowing my phobia about sharks, grabbed my hand and dragged me to the office of the Shark Lab to find out more. And truth be told, I really do admire these incredible creatures even though it freaks me out being in the water with them. We met one of the summer interns, who explained the tour to us. First, we’d learn about sharks right in the lab. Then it’s the hands-on segment where we go with a couple of the scientists out to the shallows off the island where they have a pen in the ocean for some of the baby sharks they have captured. We’d have a chance to actually pick up several of the sharks.
At this point, my gut instinct was to say, “Oh no. Not me” and then cut and run. But Jim enthusiastically committed us to the tour the next morning, so I spent the evening thinking about all the things that could go wrong with this adventure.
Face the Fear ~ Tour with the Shark Lab
Now, needless to say, I didn’t sleep a whole lot that night/ My sleeplessness was helped in part I am sure, by the news of the two teens who were attacked by sharks while swimming off Oak Island in North Carolina (which happened to be all over my news feed that night!). Reading about the tracking of Nancy, the Great White shark who was last seen trolling off the Virginia coast didn't help my sleeplessness either. Great White sharks inhabit the waters of the Bahamas (good thing most of the waters around the islands are shallow and you can see what’s in the water!). Having recently watched a River Monsters segment that featured Jeremy Wade fishing for bull sharks right in our home waters of the Indian River Lagoon did not help sleepless night either.
The next morning we arrived at the shark lab bright and early for our tour. Our guide was Emily, a female college student in her mid 20’s who was volunteering at the shark lab for six months. As promised Emily began by explaining a bit about Dr. Samuel Gruber (Doc) and the shark lab.
The lab was started by Dr. Gruber in the early 1990s to study the endangered lemon shark and has now evolved to cover many more species. After spending time in the lab, it was time to get down and dirty with the baby sharks in the wild.
Jim and I brought up the tail end of the group – primarily I think because I was petrified and was proverbially dragging my feet all the way out! But once we got out there and Emily opened the pen, it was really cool!
Facing Fear ~ With Sharks in their Environment
There were several sharks in the pen including a young lemon shark and a young nurse shark. Emily easily caught the lemon shark and began sharing some facts about this shark. Then we got the opportunity to touch the shark, whose skin was like the rough side of sandpaper.
One of our group’s questions was regarding which species of shark in the Bahamas is the most aggressive. Emily shared that two species tend to be more aggressive than most other species – the bull shark and the tiger shark. The bull shark is quite prevalent in the Bahamas – Jim and I saw them almost everywhere we stopped in the ten weeks we were gone. Having recently watched a River Monsters segment that featured Jeremy Wade fishing for bull sharks right in our home waters of the Indian River Lagoon did not help my fear of this gruesome shark.
Emily then captured the nurse shark and shared some of the habits of this species. Unlike the lemon shark, the skin of the nurse shark is very smooth going down the body. But coming up the body it is very rough and coarse.
I must say that after going through this experience, I am much more comfortable in the ocean waters – but I still want the water clear enough so that I can see what is around me or coming near me! And not sure I really want to be in the water when a bull shark is present! All in all a really cool experience, and one that I am glad I faced my fear, embraced it, and came out of my comfort zone to do.
So who knows, maybe I’ll see you out in the waters snorkeling or diving one day!
Drop a comment below and let me know what fear is holding you back from doing what you want to do.