What to Do If You See a Shark While Snorkeling

Imagine yourself in crystal-clear waters, surrounded by colorful coral reefs and vibrant marine life. Suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, you spot a shark swimming gracefully towards you. Your heart starts racing, and fear sets in. But wait! Before panic takes over, it’s essential to know what steps to take if you encounter a shark while snorkeling. In this blog post, we will guide you through the dos and don’ts of handling such situations with safety as our top priority.

Avoiding Panic:

Encountering a shark can be an exhilarating yet nerve-wracking experience. However, panicking is one thing you must avoid at all costs. Sharks are curious creatures and usually pose no threat to humans unless provoked or mistaken for prey. By remaining calm and composed, you’ll be better equipped to handle the situation rationally.

Evaluating the Situation:

Once you spot a shark nearby while snorkeling, take some time to assess its behavior before making any hasty decisions. Observe whether it appears aggressive or simply passing through without showing much interest in your presence.

Determining Species:

Identifying the type of shark is crucial since different species have varying behaviors and potential danger levels associated with them during encounters with humans.

1) If it’s a nurse shark or other non-aggressive bottom-dwelling species:
These sharks generally pose little threat as they primarily feed on small fish and crustaceans near the ocean floor.

2) If it’s a reef or pelagic species like tiger sharks or great whites:
Exercise additional caution as these sharks may exhibit more curiosity toward snorkelers due to their hunting patterns.

Remember that most encounters end peacefully as sharks are naturally wary of unfamiliar objects, including humans.

Keeping Your Distance:

Maintaining a safe distance is paramount when encountering a shark while snorkeling. As a general rule, it’s advisable to stay at least 10 feet away from any shark you encounter. This ensures both your safety and the welfare of these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

Avoid Sudden Movements:

Making sudden movements can trigger an instinctual response from the shark. Refrain from splashing excessively or thrashing about as this might pique its curiosity or even be perceived as an attack.

Back Away Slowly:

If the shark begins approaching you, calmly and slowly swim backward while keeping your eyes on it. By maintaining eye contact and appearing non-threatening, you convey that you are aware of its presence without posing a risk or challenge.

Create Space:

In case the shark seems persistent or still exhibits signs of aggression despite your best efforts to keep distance, creating space becomes crucial for ensuring safety.

Make Yourself Appear Larger:

Expand your arms wide and elevate them above water level to make yourself appear more prominent. This action may deter some sharks by making you seem less vulnerable as potential prey.

Use Snorkeling Gear as Protection (if necessary):

Though rare, if circumstances call for additional defense measures, use any available snorkeling gear like fins or cameras to establish more physical separation between yourself and the shark. Remember that provoking an encounter should always be considered a last resort option.

Seek Professional Help If Necessary:

While most encounters with sharks end peacefully, there may be instances where seeking professional assistance becomes essential for ensuring your safety and peace of mind.

– The shark acts aggressively towards you,
– You notice concerning behavior patterns such as circling,
– Or you feel trapped or unable to retreat,

Consider contacting a lifeguard, boat crew, or marine authority immediately. Their expertise and experience will help ensure both your safety and the well-being of the shark.


Encountering a shark while snorkeling can be a thrilling adventure if handled correctly. By staying calm, evaluating the situation, maintaining distance, and seeking professional assistance when necessary, you can minimize any potential risks associated with such encounters. Remember that sharks play an essential role in maintaining the balance of our oceans’ ecosystems and deserve respect as fellow inhabitants of this magnificent underwater world we are privileged to explore.