A Close Shark Encounter

“What are they doing here?” I asked, looking over the boat’s edge at 10-foot-long sharks circling. It was after dark a few hundred meters from the coast of a remote island in the Galapagos. A flashlight shining in the water revealed a dozen sharks, the beam bouncing off their beady eyes.

“I e-mailed them,” said Gustavo, the naturalist guide aboard the M.V. Origin, a boat from the sustainable expedition cruising company Ecoventura. “I sent them an e-mail and told them you wanted to meet.” He winked and raised his beer, chuckling at my disbelief.

This scene kicked off a recent story for AFAR, about facing my fear of sharks. As a child, I had a recurring dream where I walked alone down a long pier. When I reached the edge, I looked down to see sharks churning the water below. Right before I woke, someone always snuck up from behind and gave me a firm push.

For a gal with those kinds of childhood fears, a trip to the Galapagos may seem like an odd choice. I wasn’t thinking about sharks when I booked my flights — I focused on the sweet sea lions and comical blue footed boobies. I thought about the boat in the middle of the ocean and looking up at the stars from the rooftop deck. I had never set out on a big nature trip, and 7 days on a live-aboard vessel in the Galapagos seemed like the perfect place to get my feet wet.

Seeing the sharks from the deck of the boat I could handle, but the idea of encountering them in the water left me frozen. Perhaps because I was the lone person in our group who didn’t want a close encounter with a shark, I was destined for one. For full details, read about the incident in my AFAR story.

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