Sharks: To touch or not to touch them - that is not a question for Mike Neumann. / by Wolfgang Leander

Mike Neumann will not compromise. Divers who touch sharks, worse: ride them, are, in his opinion, submarine perverts. He calls them 'Shark Molesters'. 

I have a slightly different opinion. I say: If you have a lot of experience diving with sharks, have learned to understand their distinctive body language, and, most importantly, if you love and respect these animals, actually all animals, then I believe it's OK to touch, even caress sharks.

Nurse Shark love. These sharks are very gentle if you treat them gently.
Photograph by Karin Leander (Bahamas, 2004)
Click to enlarge 

Riding them is a different story. Sharks are not horses or bulls, and even former rodeo riders should not manipulate sharks abusively, like turning them upside down or jam Go-Pro cameras on a wand into their mouths (I have seen such totally unacceptable behavior during my last tiger shark trip).

Further down is a brillant article wherein Mike puts forward his thoughts about the subject. Not only do I hold him in the highest esteem for his convincing arguments, but I really believe that his way of introducing his underwater guests to sharks as a responsible and sensible diving operator should become standard protocol in the shark diving industry. 

I am sure that after having read the interview with Mike you will agree with me that this is how shark operators should run their businesses - always allowing certain exceptions,  of course...... otherwise, how would I be able to go back to where I could caress my beloved striped girls again?.... :-)

Contrary to their bad press, tiger sharks can be as gentle as nurse sharks - if you know how to communicate with them.
Photograph by Felix Leander (Aliwal Shoal, 2008)
Click to enlarge