Will I Get Eaten by a Shark?

April 28, 2007 by

Caribbean, Places to Go

Women, sharks, menstrual blood and cycles - is it safe to dive
It is safe for women to dive any time of the month

Viator’s customer care team is the best. I’m not kidding, our teams in Las Vegas and Sydney are incredibly good at responding to questions and concerns from you, our loyal travelers. They don’t just review each and every booking you make. They also go out of their way to answer all sorts of questions about our tours and activities, often within just a few hours of receiving them.

I am not trying to get on their good side.

Nor am I trying to make them feel better in the run-up to the Northern Hemisphere high season. (In late April and early May, people like you start getting serious about the summer travel plans. Which means our customer care teams get busy. Real busy.)

I’m telling you this because just the other day our customer care team received a query that stumped them at first. (Would I have ignored it, or buried it in the bottom of the queue? Hmmm, maybe. Which is why I don’t work in the customer care team.) Undaunted, Viator’s customer care team went the extra mile to find an answer, which I want to share.

The question was about one of our tours in the Dominican Republic, in Punta Cana specifically:

“Hello, I would like to book this snorkeling and diving tour in Punta Cana, but am worried about my menstrual cycle. I am not sure what date is best to book. Do you know if a female’s menstrual cycle can attract sharks? Thank you!”

Full disclosure: I am not a shark expert. And neither is Fleur, the customer care agent who fielded this question. But Fleur recognized this as a serious safety issue. I mean, if sharks are attracted (and I mean that in the ‘eat you, bite you, thrash you’ sense of the word) to women during their menstrual cycles, then obviously it is a really, really bad idea to snorkel or dive anywhere near a shark during a woman’s menstrual cycle!

To track down an answer Fleur queried the Viator staff, many of whom are passionate divers. There’s a lively debate about the topic on scubaboard.com, with some (mainly men, I’d like to point out) suggesting that menstruating women may, in fact, be at greater risk. Yet the vast majority of academic journals and shark experts disagree with that assumption. The best response we could find was from Richard Martin in his book Shark Smart, The Divers Guide to Understanding Shark Behavior:

“It has been demonstrated that sharks are uninterested in menstrual fluids. This is not, as some dive physicians suggest, because the amount of fluid is small and discharged over a number of days. Sharks have an highly developed ability to detect chemicals dissolved in water, down to 10 trillionth of a mole per litre of seawater for certain amino acids. If even the tiniest quantity of menses is released into the water during an hour’s dive, the incredible acuity of the shark olfactory system may well be able to detect it. While certain types of blood are well-known to be highly attractive to sharks, menstrual ‘blood’ is a complex fluid that is chemically very different from systemic blood… it has been shown experimentally that sharks are simply not interested in it.”

So there you have it. The scientific consensus is that, if you’re a woman concerned about diving during your menstrual cycle, you are not at an increased risk of being attacked by a shark. So suit up, it’s safe to get back in the water.

–Scott McNeely

Interested in scuba diving? Viator has dozens of scuba diving trips including a shark dive in South Africa; two-tank dives in Oahu, Hawaii and resort-course dives in Nassau, Bahamas; PADI certification courses in Los Cabos and PADI training dives in Cairns, Australia and dozens of more options — search ‘scuba diving’ on Viator.com for the complete list.

6 Responses to “Will I Get Eaten by a Shark?”

  1. Chris Says:

    Well that’s good news, I had never even thought of that before. Good thing the sharks have such good olfactory senses, and can differentiate between menstrual and systemic blood!

  2. Laurenvibez Says:

    I wouldn’t take the chance haha. Sharks and all the amazing creatures of the ocean scare me to a point of fascination and curiousity. I was hoping that I started my period soon because I’m going to Port Aransas(in Texas) next Monday (not tomorrow). I’m so glad I started today because whether the sharks can detect the difference or not I’d be very paranoid the whole time.

  3. kim Says:

    Wow thanks I have been digging trying to find that answer. Most snorkeling sites do not even touch it. I have checked their safety sections.

    We are heading to Key west tomorrow and it was a concern!

  4. Shauna Says:

    Im on Maui right now and I am going snorkeling on Tuesday. I am on my period but didnt want to lose out on going because of that. I’ve looked up numerous answers to this question and some say it’s dangerous, some say it’s fine. Since this is the only one that quotes an expert, I’m going with this one. Thank you so much, and let’s hope I don’t get eaten…