It seemed like such a good idea at the time. After all this wasn't a new experience for us. A couple of years ago Mohamed Hamid, Steve Kehoe and I had pitted ourselves against a silky shark and lived to tell the tale, so how much harder could it be with an oceanic white-tip? Ok it's true, back then we'd had the added benefit of an anchor line to strategically position ourselves behind when the silky had come a little bit too close for comfort (a 2.5" diameter rope provides plenty of psychological protection against a 2.5m shark). This time we would just be depending on our cameras and a whole lot of misplaced bravado.
We headed away from the boat in our snorkelling gear looking down for the oceanic, which we knew was somewhere close by. Suddenly from the depths a dark shadow appeared heading directly towards us and it soon became apparent Jaws was on his way to say hello. We waited, cameras at the ready, as the shark rapidly approached. At this point a certain amount of jostling began to take place. Steve later claimed he was just trying to push me out of the way so he could get a better shot. Meanwhile Mohamed had adopted a clever strategy of taking up a rear position so he, allegedly, wouldn't get in the way of any photos. As for myself, I couldn't resist the overwhelming urge to laugh hysterically as I realised this apex predator had the advantage.
Having survived this first encounter we seriously discussed a safe retreat back to the boat. However, at this moment the 'Man from Atlantis' suddenly showed up with his video camera, which he proceeded to shove into the face of the shark at every available opportunity. We quickly realised this put us somewhat further down the menu for lunch that day, and in actual fact this could possibly present a perfect opportunity to get a photo of an oceanic white-tip feeding in its natural environment.
An unlikely chase then ensued. Shark, closely followed by Man from Atlantis, hot on the heels was Mohamed now armed with camera, Steve also with camera and lastly me armed with absolutely nothing at all. Perhaps that's why at this point I started seeing double. Surely there were now two sharks circling around just below us?
Lulled into a false sense of security by the apparent indifference of the first one, a second oceanic had taken the opportunity to sneak up and enter from stage right. Looking up we realised we'd actually been lured out by more than 500m into the blue away from the safety of our boat. Until this point we'd been very much the three musketeers sticking together and watching each other's backs, but suddenly the survival instinct kicked in and the one for all, all for one mentality went straight out of the window.
Mohamed was the first to make a break for it swiftly followed by me. By the time Steve realised what was actually happening we'd already got a good head start on him and he was to be further delayed by the onset of cramp. Fortunately the Man from Atlantis was still doing his thing so Steve was able to sneak away without drawing too much attention to himself. By then Mohamed and I were cheerfully shouting encouraging comments from the safety of the boat and whistling the Jaws theme tune, which for some strange reason Steve didn't seem to appreciate.
This experience took place at Daedalus Reef during a week's diving from the liveaboard Emperor Superior in the last week of June. In the same week we were also lucky enough to see hammerheads, grey reefs, white-tip reefs and thresher sharks. To find out more information about the best time of year to spot sharks in the Red Sea - and take an encounter of a close kind (OK different film) email firstname.lastname@example.org