Subscription Services: Subscribe | Change | Unsubscribe | RSS
Advertising Media Kit: Introduction | Rates | Testimonial | Contact
Miscellaneous: Reference Desk | Sitemap

Swimming With The Sharks: Interview With Vivian Toro, One Of Stuart Cove's Female Shark Feeders

print this print      Bookmark and Share   RSS 2.0 feed

NASSAU, That Bahamas -- One of the few things you won’t see on the average person's resume, even dive resume, is 'Shark Feeder.' Yet everyday, one of Stuart Cove's dive staff does just that. Under the watchful eye of Stuart Cove and his senior Shark Adventure program leaders, Marc Taggart and Tohru Yamaguchi, a team of four women and three men (probably the largest shark feeding staff in the world) swim with, carefully feed and control the sharks every day off Nassau. In the coming months, we are going to interview some of our actual feeders and give you, our industry partners and friends, a snapshot into the life of actual shark feeders at Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas.

Our interview is with Vivian Toro, of Puerto Rico. Vivian, how did you end up coming to work here at Stuart Cove's?

"I was living on a sailboat cruising the islands and had to make a stop in Nassau for repairs. While I was here, I decided to go for a few dives at Stuart Cove’s with some friends that already worked here... The repairs to the boat were going to take a few weeks, so I decided to go to work at the dive operation to pass the time. About three dives after I was hired, I had the opportunity to take a guest (as a private divemaster) on a shark dive. I think I actually had more fun than all the customers! From that moment, I decided I wanted to become a shark feeder. However, my enthusiasm was soon squelched when the General Manager, Alvin Duncanson, informed me that I only weigh slightly more than the bait box, and could not hope to ever feed the sharks.

Being from Puerto Rico, we do not like to be told ‘no’ or ‘can't’ so I set out to prove him wrong. Actually, after six months of leading dives, and squeezing in every opportunity to dive with the sharks (even on my days off), I finally met the requirements, and was invited to start the staff shark feeder training program. I think by that time, I almost knew all the sharks by name. Of course, thinking you know their names does not make them any less wild, which brings me to my ‘Most Memorable Experience.’"

What was your most memorable shark feeding experience?

"I was feeding the sharks on a typical day, wearing my full chain mail protection suit, with maybe 35 to 40 sharks in the water. The chain mail is a little loose on our bodies, to allow space for wetsuits and other covering underneath. I had just pulled a piece of bait out of the box, and a big, pregnant mama, maybe 400lbs, took the bait close to my leg and her teeth actually got stuck in my chain mail protection. Weighing about the same as a small bait box, I was like a top to the shark, as she spun me around trying to get untangled. I think I did a pirouette, you know, that French dancing move, as the shark lifted my leg like a dancer and spun me around. It was a surreal and strange experience. The video is hilarious!"

What do you hope your guests will take away from the feeding experience?

"I look at the afternoon (as shark dives are scheduled in the afternoons) as a whole experience. The shark feed takes about 30 minutes in the water, but I strive for making the whole trip experience a day to remember and try to educate our guests about how amazing the sharks really are. Truly these animals are at the top of the food chain in the ocean. However, many people think that our sharks are trained or somehow tame. They are anything but. However, they are also very misunderstood. Even though our guests get a small glimpse of how fierce a shark can be when they bite down on the bait and their teeth extend for a fraction of a moment, sharks need our protection. Once you have been in an “intimate” face-to-face experience, you can appreciate their beauty and the need to protect and preserve these amazing animals. That is what I hope our guests leave with at the end of the experience."

Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of UnderwaterTimes.com, its staff or its advertisers.

Reader Comments

3 people have commented so far. cloud add your comment

I dove with Vivian at Stuart cove's and she is an outstanding diver. She was a divemaster on many of the dives I was on and she is increadibly funny and easy going. Whenever I go back to the Bahamas I dive with Stuart Coves because of the quality of professionals they have working there. They are extremely safe and make the diving fun. Each trip to the Bahamas brings new adventures and many memories. As far as I'm concerned, why dive with anyone else?
   comment# 1   - Laurie Dinneen · Coon Rapids, USA · Aug 8, 2009 @ 7:57am

I had the distinct pleasure of diving with Vivian last week. She is definitely the best asset Stuart Cove has and should be appointed as an instructor to the rest of the employees in an effort to improve their social skills. Contrary to what the article states, the shark dives were all conducted during the morning and prevented Vivian from taking us to one of the signature dives: Ray of Hope. Unfortunately for us, she had to leave on the next day to visit her folks in Puerto Rico and introduce her fiance to them, so we were Vivian-less for the remaining dives. She was sorely missed.
   comment# 2   - Gabriel I. Peñagarícano · Guaynabo, Puerto Rico · Oct 18, 2009 @ 9:10am

ive been watching shark week and learned how beautiful sharks are, not all, but most sharks. i really want to try swimming with sharks even great whites someday and hope i can try, im only 17 atm and still in school though and will graduate in 2012 :)
   comment# 3   - brandon b · rancho cucamonga · Aug 8, 2010 @ 11:07am
Add your comment


characters left

*required field.
Note: Comments are posted if they are not abusive and are compliant with our Terms and Conditions. Comments with foul language will be deleted without exception.

   


bottom_left
bottom_right
Privacy Policy     © Copyright 2019 UnderwaterTimes.com. All rights reserved