In May 2004, I received a message from Jerome STRENG, who had heard a story about an amazing diving encounter from a friend of his, Jean-Claude LORTAL, from Montpelier in France.

Jean-Claude LORTAL was diving in Mauritius when he encountered a 3 to 3.5 meter female Great White Shark in November 2003...

We would like to share his wonderful encounter with you through some snapshots taken from his video footage and his account of the story (french / english)...

White Sharks have been recorded in Mauritius (see below for reference examples in the literature), although this is the first account, to our knowledge, of a diving encounter in that area.

Enjoy and dream!!!

Accounts of Great White Shark encounters in remote areas help the global conservation of White Sharks. And in some way, these accounts help support projects like the 2004 CITES proposal of Madagascar and Australia for listing on Appendix II. Was this Shark lost, or was she on her way on an intercontinental migration? Who knows?

Plongée émotion by Jean-Claude LORTAL

On venait de faire une profonde le matin.La mer était belle,une bonne visibilité.

On décida de replonger l'après midi,sur un fond de 10 à 15m environ,au abord d'un îlot que l'on nomme "Coin de Mire" ,au nord de l’île Maurice.

A l'eau depuis une quinzaine de mns,dans un décors traditionnel, je filmais la faune du coin (baliste,etc......),quand survint ce que j'ai cru voir : un gros dauphin.

Reflexes du vidéaste !!

Je fonce sur la bête,l'oeil rivé sur le moniteur de mon caisson vidéo sans me préoccuper de mes compagnons.

Bien entendu je constate tout de suite que c'est un gros requin,….un très gros requin.

Il est calme,très calme. Ce qui m'incite à m'approcher de lui. Très près.

A le toucher presque.

Nous "jouons",je le poursuit,il me rejoint,il m'évite devant la caméra pour revenir aussitôt.

Tout cela tranquillement,sans une attitude agressive.

C'est d'ailleurs cette façon de faire qui m'a dicté ma conduite.

Il faut dire que je n'avais à aucun moment reconnu en lui un grand requin blanc.

Pourquoi aurais-je pensé à ce type de requin jusqu'alors inconnu à Maurice?

Au bout de 3 mns je me pose des questions tout de même et constate l'absence de mes camarades.

Ils étaient tous plaqués au fond et....priaient pour que je ne sois pas dévoré!!

Je les ais rejoint immédiatement ,et c'est à cet instant précis que j'ai pris conscience que j'avais échapé miraculeusement au.....diable.

La bête ,après plusieurs passages au dessus de nos têtes, s'éloigna ce qui donna le signal de notre remontée Inutile de vous dire avec quelle rapidité nous fumes tous sur le bateau.

Je n'ai jamais eu peur durant ces 3 mns, mais je ne savais pas, et le requin était vraiment "pacifique".Peut-être que mon attitude "cool" y a été pour quelque chose?

Je me sentais vraiment bien.

La peur m'a pris quand j'ai aperçu de très près sa machoire (certe fermée) mais énorme.

Il m'est passé dessus comme un avion gros porteur.

A cet instant précis…..j'ai eu vraiement peur.

J'ai alors rejoint mes camarades et j'ai constaté leur propres "peur »....

J'ai pris conscience à cet instant de l'évènement que je venais de vivre.

Evènement unique,inimaginable,incroyable.

 Bref:un moment qui restera gravé à jamais dans ma mémoire de plongeur.

Surtout que la vidéo réalisée est assez réussie.

Mon sommeil recommence a se faire normalement....sans cauchemards !

Mais que d'émotions  !!!!!! 

Traduction of Jean-Claude LORTAL's story in french above:

We just came back from a deep dive in the morning. The ocean was beautiful, good visibility. We decided to dive again in the afternoon on a shallow ground of 10 to 15 meters, close to a small island called « Point de Mire » just north of Mauritius island.

In the water for about 15 minutes, in a traditional local underwater scenery, I was filming the area, when suddenly I spotted what I thought to be a large Dolphin.

Photographer’s reflex, I immediately swam towards the animal, eye against the viewfinder of my underwater video housing without caring about my dive buddies.

Of course, I soon realised that it was actually a large Shark, a very large Shark… The Shark is calm, very calm. Which made me swim closer to the Shark. Much closer. Nearly within touching distance.

We « play », I follow the Shark, she comes back, she avoid me just in front of the camera just to come back again. All this in a very relaxed atmosphere, without any aggressive behaviour from the Shark. The Shark’s calm attitude directed my own behaviour around the Shark.

I must admit that I had not identified the Shark to be a Great White Shark at the time.

Why would I have thought of this specific Shark species when it was unknown so far in Mauritius ?

After about three minutes, I was starting to wonder about the Shark, and realised that I was alone… I watched as my dive buddies were all plastered to the bottom, and… they were hoping that I would not be eaten !!

I immediately rejoined with them, and I then realised that I had miraculously escaped from the… devil.

The Shark swam over our heads a few times, and finally swam away, which allowed for our safe ascent. No need to tell you how quickly we were back in the boat.

I was never afraid during those three minutes, but I was not aware of the Shark’s true identity, and the Sharks was so peaceful and relaxed. Maybe my own calm behaviour had something to do with it too?

I was feeling really good.

Fear grasped me when I had a glimpse of the Shark’s jaw, although closed it was huge. The Shark passed over me like a huge plane. At that moment, I got really scared. I then regrouped with my buddies and their eyes confirmed my fears… At that moment, I suddenly realised what I just experienced. This really was a unique, unbelievable and incredible event.

This encounter and experience will always remain engraved in my memory as a diver, especially since the video footage I shot turned out to be rather good.

My sleep has now returned to normal… without nightmares!

What a feeling!!!!

Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Volume 2. Bullhead, mackerel and carpet sharks (Heterodontiformes, Lamniformes and Orectolobiformes).

Compagno, L.J.V.

FAO Species Catalogue for Fishery Purposes. No. 1, Vol. 2. Rome, FAO. 2001. 269p.

This is the second volume of an extensively rewritten, revised, and updated version of the original FAO Catalogue of Sharks of theWorld. The present volume reviews all 15 families 25 genera and 57 species of living bullhead, mackerel and carpet sharks (orders Heterodontiformes, Lamniformes and Orectolobiformes), that is, the non-carcharhinoid galeomorph sharks, including certain well-established but currently undescribed species mainly from Australia. It gives accounts for all orders, families and genera and all keys to taxa are fully illustrated. Information under each species account includes: valid modern names and original citation of the species (or subspecies); synonyms; the English, French, and Spanish FAO Names for the species; a lateral view and often other useful illustrations; field marks; diagnostic features; distribution, including a GIS map; habitat; biology; size; interest to fisheries and human impact; local names when available; a remarks section when necessary; and literature. The volume is fully indexed and also includes sections on terminology and measurements including an extensive glossary, a list of species by FAO Statistical Areas, an appendix on shark preservation, and a dedicated bibliography.

First records of white sharks, Carcharodon carcharias, from Mauritius, Zanzibar, Madagascar and Kenya

G. Cliff (a), L.J.V. Compagno (b), M.J. Smale (c), R.P. van der Elst (d) and S.P. Wintner (a)

South African Journal of Science, Volume 96 No. 7 July 2000

a Natal Sharks Board, Private Bag 2, Umhlanga, 4320 South Africa. E-mail: cliff@shark.co.za

b Shark Research Centre, Division of Life Sciences, South African Museum, P.O. Box 61, Cape Town, 8000 South Africa.

c Port Elizabeth Museum, P.O. Box 13147, Humewood, 6013 South Africa.

d Oceanographic Research Institute, P.O. Box 10712, Marine Parade, 4056 South Africa.

Distribution records of white sharks in the tropical southwest Indian Ocean are both sparse and speculative. This paper provides the first confirmed records of white sharks from four localities in the region. A male white shark of about 5 m total length was taken by a fisheries vessel off Le Morne on the island of Mauritius in 1971. A white shark over 4 m long was caught at Matemwe Beach, Zanzibar, in 1993. A female white shark, estimated at 3.8 m, was taken in an artisanal net fishery near Antsiranana, in the Baie de Diégo Suarez on the northeastern tip of Madagascar in 1994. A pregnant white shark, reported at 6.4 m, was taken in an artisanal net fishery near Malindi, Kenya, in 1996. At least seven embryos, 1.1 m long and weighing 10-20 kg, were found. White sharks in the tropical Indian Ocean may be predominantly large, possibly mature, specimens. Their occurrence in oceanic island waters may facilitate trans-oceanic movements, which has important consequences for the conservation and management of this species.