Shark cleaning station

What is a shark cleaning station?

The Maldives offers many delights to the diver but one of the major highlights of any trip is getting right up close to the oceans’ great predator – sharks.

These marine masters are an attraction to anyone exploring the waters of the Indian Ocean, so much so we have two itineraries named specifically after them – Sharktastic and Southern Shark Adventure.

These creatures are awesome and awe-inspiring and seeing them first-hand in their natural environment is an experience to cherish forever. But, how about spending time with them away from their reputation as the sea’s great hunter and at their seemingly most vulnerable?

Some remarkable film taken on our Best of Maldives itinerary recently shows this to perfection. Sharks, almost motionless, taking it in turns to be cleaned at Miyaru Kandu in Vaavu Atoll.

It is breathtaking to see nature’s work so clearly as this symbiotic relationship takes place.

But what is a shark cleaning station?

It is among the most fascinating aspects of the underwater world where sharks gather to be cleaned by smaller fish.

Stations are found on coral reefs where water currents are strong enough to bring in food but mild enough to allow smaller fish to work and are areas where sharks come specifically to have parasites and dead tissue removed by cleaner wrasses and other small fish like the blue-streaked lapis.

These small fish feed on the debris found on the sharks’ bodies and in their mouths, providing a vital service to the sharks. This mutualistic interaction is crucial as it helps keep the sharks healthy and free from infections that could be caused by the buildup of parasites.

The process is a delicate dance of nature. Sharks approach the station and position themselves in a way that signals their readiness to be cleaned. Remarkably, during these moments, the sharks exhibit a level of trust and calmness, not common to their usual predatory nature. They open their mouths wide and allow the cleaner fish to enter safely to remove parasites and food remnants from their teeth and gums.

Divers who visit these stations witness a rare and peaceful interaction that contradicts the typical image of sharks as fierce predators. It’s an underwater spectacle where the roles of predator and prey blur.

It also requires patience and calm from those who want to see the spectacle. Sharks have to feel very safe and be fully relaxed to put themselves in this position. Divers being hooked in and not moving around helps and they must give the sharks their space, not chase them with cameras.

By waiting patiently in a good position – and not on top of the cleaning station – until the sharks feel comfortable you can witness the complexity and balance of nature.

The sight of a large shark hovering motionless as tiny fish busily work is both surreal and beautiful. It is definitely one for the bucketlist…

Find out more about how you can dive with sharks and explore the majestic Maldives with us or get in touch at [email protected] where our team will do all they can to help.

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