Grey Nurse Sharks: Why Meeting Them was on my Bucket List
There are many different species of sharks. I have dived with sharks since my first dive, and I am always excited to spot them. I often had the opportunity to see the common sharks from the Eastern Australian Coast: reef sharks (grey, white or black tip), wobbegongs, guitar sharks…
None of these sharks are known to be dangerous. They are not as impressive as the images and terror we have in mind when we think about sharks. I always enjoy seeing them, but I was ready for the next step.
Grey Nurse Sharks are harmless too, but these are scary. Their shape, their size (3.5m), their exposed teeth and their proximity with divers create all together a very impressive experience. Shivers guaranteed: the first time they look at you while coming closer and finally swim only 10cm above your head creates a unique feeling.
Sadly, the Grey Nurse Sharks are facing extinction. They used to be in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, Indian and western Pacific oceans. Today, they can only be found in North Carolina and off Natal, and in Australia (south-west of Western Australia and on the East Coast in the north of New South Wales / South of Queensland).
Although they are now protected, their population take a long time to recover from the extensive commercial fishing in the past, and they still are in real danger of disappearing. A significant threat to the recovery of the species is the accidental capture during recreational or commercial fishing in areas of habitat, in addition to the more obvious illegal fishing.
Remove any rubbish or fishing gear that you see in the water or on the beach (note: I did try this one as per my new commitment… but the spot where we watched the sunset from the beach was very clean! :)
Refrain from fishing in Grey Nurse Shark areas
If diving, report any tagged Grey Nurse Sharks to New South Wales Fisheries or the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency
If fishing, report any Grey Nurse Sharks accidentally caught to New South Wales Fisheries or the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency
Contact the Threatened Species Network in your state and participate in volunteer work
Learn more about threatened species and their habitats.
Diving with Grey Nurse Sharks at Julian Rocks
As we were driving down to Byron Bay, the news on the radio were about two shark attacks in 24 hours in the area. Although the Grey Nurse Sharks are placid, it was reminding us how vulnerable we are in the water. Most of all it was setting the “Jaws” atmosphere perfectly.
We started our dive at the Nursery and navigated to the Cod Hole.
The visibility was not very good, less than 10m. So when you spot a shark, it is already quite close to you. Although I was not scared, the first close encounter gave me shivers. The shark looked at me with its tiny eyes, and as it was swimming towards me, I could see very clearly its enormous exposed teeth. I was low on the sand, and it finally swam just a few centimetres above my head, as if I did not exist. We saw several of them during the dive, all of them calm and aloof.
Cod Hole was a beautiful arch with an incredible number of small fish, and we were lucky to meet the big Cod himself as we were leaving the place.
Some of the marine life we saw:
Grey Nurse Sharks
Yellow Box Fish
Morwongs (Crested & Red)
What about you? Would you swim with grey nurse sharks? What’s the most impressive wild animal you’ve encountered?
Planning a trip to Byron Bay?
I usually camp when I visit Byron Bay. If you don’t like camping, you’ll find many accommodation options near the town centre. Byron Bay is a popular stop on Australia’s East Coast so if you want to stay in a hotel, don’t wait until the last minute to book your room.
I am a part-time traveler: I combine a full-time job with a passion for traveling. I love to share my trips and tips to inspire others to explore what's around them. Before moving to Australia, I lived in France, England and Turkey. I've finally found my balance in Brisbane.