What To Tell Tourists About Sharks?
I sat next to a very nice lady from Texas on my recent flight back to Maui from Los Angeles and, unlike most flights, we actually had some conversation. She and her husband were going to be here for a week and it was her first visit to Maui. She wanted to do all the usual things, but in particular, she was looking forward to some snorkeling.
At that point in the conversation, I faced a dilemma. Should I tell her that a woman had been attacked a few days earlier by a shark and apparently bled to death before anyone realized what had happened and could help her? Furthermore, this all happened while the unfortunate lady was snorkeling in the same general area where my seat mate would be staying.
I decided to play it halfway. I didn’t tell her about the shark attack, but I gave her the basic rules to follow and tried to stress their importance:
* Don’t go snorkeling alone.
* Don’t go snorkeling early in the morning or at dusk.
* Don’t snorkel in murky water or where streams empty into the ocean.
* Don’t go out past the reefs, which is where the colorful tropical fish are anyway.
* Don’t lie on one of the stubby little surfboards. From below, you’ll look like a turtle to the shark.
* Stay alert.
It’s interesting that native Hawaiians don’t worry about sharks. In fact, many consider the shark to be their amakua, a kind of personal deity that watches over and protects them.
Considering how many people are in the water on any given day, shark attacks are rare here. Still it is a fact that there have been three fatalities off Maui beaches over the past two years. And all three three were tourists.