Most people opt to stay as far away from sharks as possible, thanks to movies like “Jaws.” At SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove, visitors can face their fears and free swim right alongside 20 sharks.
Whitetip reef sharks, blacktip reef sharks, nurse sharks, a zebra shark and a spotted wobbegong can all be found swimming next to human visitors during the shark swim experience.
Aquarium supervisor Mike Dech said he sees a range of reactions when visitors learn about the shark swim.
“You have people that are excited — this is a bucket list item for them,” Dech said. “And you have people that are horrified of them.”
The experience opened in July 2017 and has proven to be very popular since its opening, Dech said. Because of the sharks’ eating habits and limited capacity for interaction, Discovery Cove only allows 12 visitors to swim with sharks each day.
During the experience, shark swimmers get a glimpse of what it takes to train the sharks while talking with Discovery Cove aquarists and trainers. They can also pet and have their photo taken with sharks, if the animals cooperate.
Dech said that sharks are often misunderstood, and many think sharks are out to get people. He said that’s not the case.
“Sharks are not the monsters people have come to believe that they are,” Dech said. “Almost all shark related bites or injuries are, we believe, due to mistaken identity. Humans are not on the menu for sharks. We’re not their food source.”