Watch: Dubai-based father-daughter duo swims with sharks as they dive seven times in Maldives

It was a daring adventure that came with certain risks, the Indian expat said, 'but it’s all about diving with the right people, getting the right training, and choosing the right spot'


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Wed 4 Jan 2023, 6:15 PM

Last updated: Wed 4 Jan 2023, 7:18 PM

As if diving in the open water is not challenging enough, this Dubai-based father-daughter duo sought specific spots where they can swim with a shiver of sharks in the Maldives.

For Indian expat Priyadarshee and his 12-year-old daughter Tisya Panigrahi, diving is not only an adventure but also family time. Their latest Maldives escapade wasn't the first: It's Priyadarshee 50th dive and Tisya's 25th.

Tisya won't ever forget her experience in the waters off the island of Alimatha, where she swam with nurse sharks that were seven to eight feet long — or double her height.

"This, I thought, was really cool. But my father and I actually descended further down, even much below where these nurse sharks were swimming. We went down up to 70 feet. The sharks came close to us expecting we’d give them food (which is a common practice)," she told Khaleej Times.

"They started nudging me, but I wasn’t scared because they are quite gentle," she said. Here's a video of the sharks welcoming divers to their home:

Divers are not supposed to touch the sharks, the 12-year-old recalled, and this was a rule they closely followed.

"I was at the bottom of the sea, and I was able to see 20 to 30 sharks above my head. But my dad missed the best part as he had to go up earlier than I did," said Tisya who last year became the youngest junior advanced open-water scuba diver in the Indian state of Odisha.

The Alimatha Jetty site is a world-famous spot for diving with nurse sharks — making it a staple on divers' bucket lists.

Escorted by schools of batfish

Priyadarshee, 47, completed his 50th dive at a site off the tiny island of Fulidhoo.

"The highlight of this dive was the presence of large schools of batfish who accompanied us all throughout our dive. The longfin batfish is a very curious omnivore, and it often approaches the divers. At one point, we were also accompanied by blacktip Reef sharks,” said the Indian expat.

For Priyadarshee, the best part of it all was having his daughter as his diving buddy.

"For the first time, ‘we’ – father and daughter — went on an exclusive dive trip. I have done these dive trips alone. But this was special because my buddy was my daughter. In the Maldives, we did seven dives…three in Maafushi and four in Fulidhoo,” he said.

In the UAE, the diving duo once impressed the public when they sent out ‘Nuakhai’ festival greetings from 40 feet under the sea, off the coast of Al Aqah in Fujairah.


A daring adventure

Upon returning to school after the winter break, Tisya happily shared her adventure with classmates who all wanted to know if it was really possible to swim with sharks.

"They kept asking me about my brush with the sharks – whether they attacked me or bit me or threatened me. There were lots of interesting questions from different people. But I told them that nurse sharks are really gentle creatures,” said the grade 7 student at Raffles World Academy, Dubai.

It was an adventure that came with certain risks, Priyadarshee admitted, "but it’s all about diving with the right people, the right training, and the right dive site to visit".

When asked about dealing with underwater currents when scuba diving and the apprehensions entailing the adventure, Priyadarshee says, “it’s not bereft of risks. But as a diver and as a father it’s all about diving with the right people…right training, the right dive shop to visit and the right guys to dive with who obey safety rules.

"The currents were strong for me, but Tisya handled currents better because she is younger, and children are more natural. Grown-ups are more fearful. But the rule was we had to hook ourselves to the reef to enjoy the spectacle. I have never dived in this much current before," he said.

“In fact, in the last dive, Tisya went to a slightly bigger depth than me because she is more qualified than me in diving...That’s the kind of strictness that dive shops should adhere to. You should dive as per your training and level. I have decided that I want to do my advanced course like Tisya,” said the man who now aims to explore the dive spots in Raja Ampat (the western tip of Papua in Indonesia).


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