Behind the Lens: In the Galápagos, the Grace of Whitetip Reef Sharks

Bartolomé Island in the Galápagos is a natural marvel with its striking Pinnacle Rock formation jutting out of turquoise waters and a plethora of fascinating marine species swimming around its shorelines.

Hiking and snorkelling are some of the best ways to absorb the magnificent sights of this island, and one resident that has grace and beauty in equal measure is the whitetip reef shark.

“Bartolomé is a beautiful island,” says Silversea Expedition Filmmaker David Padilla. “We do a hike first [here], climbing to the top to get that amazing view, and afterwards we go and snorkel. It’s such a great place to snorkel, one of my favourites actually as it’s not that deep, but you get to see a lot of things.”

Staying calm in the water with sharks

David is very familiar with this location and has spent time with white-tip reef sharks, over time becoming accustomed to their behavior, despite his initial trepidation.

“I remember the first time I saw a white-tip reef shark,” he says. “I saw around four of them at the same time and got really scared because I didn’t know how sharks behave with humans. I told this to a naturalist friend of mine and he told me not to worry, and that sharks are very curious, so just respect their space, and they will respect you. So it took me a while to get a hold of this but now I’ve had so many shark encounters, and not once have I felt in danger.”

/David Padilla

During this wildlife moment the footage David captured of these white-tip reef sharks, which were around two and a half metres long, was a sublime experience for him to film. By keeping a relaxed and gentle approach in the water, he was eye to eye with them, and was able to document a snapshot of their world and their inquisitive nature while they swam around him. 

“These sharks are different from other sharks, because they have the ability to rest in a static position on the ground. I started filming them individually, keeping my distance, slowing my movements and being really calm about it, because the sharks get scared really easily,” he says.

“They started being very curious and after a while, all the sharks started swimming around me. All the shots that I got from them were amazing and it was beautiful. I strongly believe that sharks are a little bit like dogs – very playful, very curious, but normally they don’t feel that comfortable around humans because we don’t know how to behave around them.”