Images: Meet the divers who swim with sharks at Las Vegas’ biggest fish tank

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Steve Marcus

A scuba diver is shown in Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015.

Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015|2 a.m.

Surrounded by a vibrant collection of marine life, more than 30 sharks glide through the skeletal hull of a faux shipwreck in Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef Aquarium.

They’re the stars of the attraction, drawing a constant stream of visitors who see them from behind the glass of the fish tank’s 1.3 million-gallon tank.

Swimming With Sharks
Richard Kanthack suits up for a dive in Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015.Introduce slideshow “

However for certified visitors, there’s a possibility to get even more detailed to the predators. The aquarium’s Dive with Sharks program offers licensed scuba divers a chance to immerse themselves in the tank for a directed tour.

Who leads those dives? And who keeps the sharks and other sea animals healthy and well-fed? Right here’s a beyond-the-glass intro to the fish tank’s personnel of scuba divers.

Richard Kanthack, 62, scuba diver

A native Californian, Kanthack has actually been in Las Vegas considering that 1992.

Previously employed as an upkeep engineer, he had been a diver for 10-plus years as a pastime until coming to Shark Reef just because” [diving] is what I enjoy to do.”

Kanthack lists annual “shark captures” as a few of his more memorable experiences. To offer sharks a yearly physical, divers utilize a tool that Kanthack compares with “a big Ziploc bag.”

“You sit there and kind of guide the shark into it, when they enter it you pull them up, zip it up, and take it over to the seclusion tank,” he stated.

There’s no risk of being consumed or assaulted by the sharks, as “sharks are opportunistic feeders,” he said.

“We’re not on their menu,” he stated.

Kanthack suches as the fish tank’s whitetip sharks since a diver can casually swim closely beside them. His least favorite animal remains a fish that, regardless of being less than a foot long, left him with a cut that required 10 stitches to close.

“I spooked him and he flipped his tail,” Kanthack stated.

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A shark swims in a 1.3 million gallon exhibit in Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015.

Jack Jewell, 57, Shark Reef general curator and diver

A Texas transplant, Jewell worked in fish tanks in the Bay Location and has actually been at Shark Reef since it opened in 2000. Among his most enduring memories came when the destination introduced.

“We literally moved all of the animals from a [holding] developing to right here,” Jewell said, “so we’re catching sharks day after day, delivering them over here, then placing them on exhibition. That was a lot of days of continually hands-on shark experiences.”

Sounds terrifying, perhaps, however Jewell states it’s a mistaken belief that sharks consume people, due to the fact that humans are just not on a shark’s diet plan. That stated, the animals “need to constantly be treated with the [utmost] respect,” Jewell said.

“We do not have any situations where [the sharks] are straight threatening to us,” he stated. “However, we do have to directly engage them for yearly physicals, and those are definitely really extreme encounters.”

In his leisure time, Jewell dives and dives some more. If he weren’t working at Shark Reef, Jewell said he would either be “working at a facility of comparable caliber, or working as a dive safety officer in a big fish tank.”

Ryan Acenedo, 44, diver

The only native Las Vegan on the diving group, Acenedo has actually been in the valley on and off for 44 years and explains himself as “not a desk person.”

A background in security and landscaping led Acenedo to take pleasure in the physical labor and planning to do more things that piqued his interest, like scuba diving.

“I got accredited a while [ago], and I figured, well, I ‘d had enough of tasks that I hated doing so I believed I ‘d try doing something I suched as,” and said.

That thought led him to the Shark Reef. Acenedo’s the majority of memorable experience with a fish was getting “knocked in the head by a humphead wrasse– a big fish with a hump on its head– aiming to catch him to do a physical.” The fish broke out of a net and struck Acenedo in the head, providing him a large swelling and swelling on his forehead.

When he’s not working, Acenedo dives, hikes, and checks out the desert. Aside from needing to place on cold wetsuits, cleaning feces, leftover food and other gunk from the skimmer screens in the tanks is the grossest part of his job.

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Jack Jewell, general curator, gets ready for a maintenance dive in Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015.

The best part is experiencing the rich variety of sea life in the fish tank.

“Very few people can state they do this for a living,” Acenedo said. “The animals we dive with in this display screen, you’ll never get an opportunity to do that in the wild since they don’t cohabit in the wild. It’s a quite cool thing.”

Acenedo stated he didn’t have a preferred or least preferred shark.

“I look at it like this: If I haven’t dived with that kind of animal, I wish to dive with it and see what it does. I just take pleasure in entering the water with them and discovering what I can learn.”

Grayson Caldwell, 25, scuba diver

Caldwell has actually been diving considering that he was in high school in his home state of North Carolina and has actually just remained in Las Vegas for a year and a half. Abhoring his property office task and motivated by his moms and dads, both previous amateur scuba divers, Caldwell pursued his dive master training in Honduras. After a short stint as a bar porter on the Strip, Caldwell found Shark Reef.

He stated he hadn’t experienced any especially memorable or terrifying moments in the tank, but that “from time to time, they get truly close [to you] You’re not really in any danger, but when they do get close, there’s a little adrenaline rush.”

One part of the job he holds dear is “seeing the excitement on the kids in the tunnel,” he stated. “The animals are fantastic, however they’re a very, very close second to seeing kids light up, waving at us. That makes it rewarding entering into work.”

Ernesto Dieguez, 25, scuba diver

Another native Californian, Dieguez raiseded in Las Vegas and is a beginner to Shark Reef.

“Everytime I get in there it’s always new, there’s always something enjoyable,” he said. “Dangerous? No. I think the worst bite I’ve ever gotten was from a sergeant significant fish, which is a small fish [a couple inches huge] It was simply a nibble.”

Dieguez explains them as drastically different from their fearsome credibility.

“Sharks are like another person’s actually big pet,” he stated. “They can be fun to be around, but you still need to respect them.”

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Diver posture before an upkeep dive in Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015. From left, Ryan Acevedo, Grayson Caldwell, Richard Kanthack and Jack Jewell, basic curator of Shark Reef.

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