Francois Sarano, French born and living in France with his wife and children, is a professional diver, author and film maker. With a doctorate in oceanography, he has swum with sharks for almost 30 years, and the great white shark for more than 15 years.
He kindly gave me these two extraordinary photos, taken in 2006 and in 2011, to post on Sharks Lair, and an account of what it was like swimming with a magnificent great white.
Where were these pictures taken ?
The first photo was taken in 2006 by Pascal Kobeh, during the shooting of a film called, ‘Oceans’, directed by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, around Guadalupe Island. We spent a week diving with the sharks, with two underwater cameramen, David Reichert and Didier Noirot.
It was planned that I would dive with a great white, and we would get some footage, but the sharks were very shy and stayed three to four metres away. The day before the end of our trip, a very large female, almost six metres long, accepted me. She was quiet and I was able to swim for 90 seconds, shoulder against fin, eye to eye, with her. It was very peaceful as the shark was particularly calm.
The second photo was taken in the same area, when I returned with my friends, photographer Aldo Ferrucci and cameraman Rene Heuzey.
What did it feel like to swim next to an apex predator ?
I felt nothing but respect, peace, serenity and joy. I wanted to thank the teams with me and wished to share the experience with my wife and two daughters.
Were you ever afraid ?
Not at all. I was respectful of the animal, and I feel because of that it chose to accept me. As with any wild animal, I didn’t attempt to touch, caress, or grab the dorsal fin. The great white is not a killer, rather more shy. I found this wonderful because although free and untamed, it allowed me to swim along with it.
Was the shark curious about you ?
In general, white sharks are curious, but shy. To approach them you have to be quiet so as not to frighten them. Of course, the larger they are, the more confident they become.