On the whole, there is nothing that you are going to encounter underwater that is out to get you. There are certain creatures that pose a threat and can be aggressive in their defensiveness but understanding how to correctly interact with marine life will reduce your risk of incident.
Do Not Disturb © Elais Levy
- Be passive. Don’t pick anything up, touch anything, poke, tease, harass, chase, ride or do anything that will provoke a defensive reaction or alter the behaviour of the creature. Photograph with respect and be grateful that you have seen whatever has drifted through your dive. Remember that there are many camouflaged critters out there so what might appear to be a broken lump of coral could just as easily be a poisonous stone fish.
- Wear a full suit. Stingers can cause anything from mild irritation to death so do ensure that you have up to date information for the area that you are diving in. A full suit, worn with gloves and a hood will give you the best protection possible.
- Enter cautiously. Diving from the shore means you have to walk through the shallows and there are some creatures that you don’t want to stand on. Avoid standing on them by shuffling your feet instead of stepping; this will scare them away too. Read our tips for safe shore diving.
- Know what you are dealing with. Find out about the creatures you encounter and their behaviour. Different animals inhabit various locations so read up if you are going somewhere new so that you know what to look out for and also the correct approach. If you are diving somewhere new, ask locals or regulars too, it’s possible that there’s a particularly feisty trigger fish to watch out for.
- Space. Seeing a whale shark or other large marine creature is thrilling, and there is always the temptation to get too close. Stay back and give them room so that you don’t stress them but also so that you are not in danger of their powerful tail action or defensive behaviour. In locations where encounters with larger marine life are common there will be a clear protocol for interaction so follow the rules.
- Conditions. Murky water, for example, presents its own set of problems and can confuse marine life too. An accidental bite, stab or spearing derived from mistaken identity is no less painful.
- Don’t be bait. Shiny, dangly jewellery can attract the wrong kind of attention underwater. This is not an urban myth. I have seen a jack fish take an earring from a divers ear.
- Be aware of torch light. Bright lights underwater can attract unwanted attention at night. Obscure the beam by turning it towards yourself if this happens. Don’t shine directly into the eyes of marine life or stun or startle them.
- Pay attention to descent and ascent lines. Stinging tentacles can be wrapped around lines so wearing gloves is a prudent measure if you will be using a line as a guide to the site. Barnacles can attach themselves to permanent lines so watch out as they can cut flesh.
- Stay neutral. Stargazers and stone fish are just two examples of creatures that bury themselves to ambush their prey. You certainly don’t want to land on one so stay neutral and off the bottom.