An understandable reaction for people who may find themselves in the water close to a great white shark, without the protection of a boat, would be fear, perhaps followed by panic.
But Chris Fallows, who runs Apex Shark Expeditions in South Africa, has taken extreme measures to prove that the world's most fearsome-looking marine predator may investigate but will not attack a human except in very rare cases during which a human is mistaken for a shark's natural prey.
Most recently, Fallows paddled a stand-up surfboard alongside a 14-foot great white inside a clear-water bay (see photo and video). The footage is part of an episode called " Great White Invasion," which will air during the Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" at the end of the month.
Fallows, a renowned photographer who is regarded as an expert in shark behavior, described the experience as "fantastic and exhilarating."
Great White Invasion, produced and directed by filmmaker Jeff Kurr, will attempt to explain how large white sharks do come close to shore in all parts of the world "but that they actually have far more to fear from us than we do from them," Fallows said.
To illustrate this point Fallows appears to have tempted fate on behalf of a predator responsible for the deaths of 26 people worldwide since 1990, according to the Florida-based International Shark Attack File. (That's a tiny number considering that millions of people swim or surf in the oceans every year.)
Said Fallows: "To prove this point I have free-dived, paddle-boarded, body-boarded and kayaked with them, as well as being dragged on a sled less than 15 feet from a breaching great white. In essence, I have done pretty much everything that a shark is likely to encounter in the form of a human. In virtually all instances the sharks chose to ignore me and it was often a battle to get them to come close."
That's good for Fallows and, of course, for the reputation of the sharks.
-- Images showing Chris Fallows paddling near a great white shark and filming a shark while free-diving are courtesy of Discovery Channel