We were lucky enough to catch up with mermaid and fellow lady shark Kayleigh during our time diving in Tahiti.
Kayleigh is a professional shark diver and oceanic expedition leader as well as the embodiment of what we represent here at Found At Sea - Coexistence
Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
Aloha Found at Sea sisters! My name is Kayleigh “Kay” Grant and I am a shark safety diver and shark conservationist for One Ocean Diving in Haleiwa, HI. I am blessed and grateful to work in the water with sharks every day taking people from all around the world diving with these amazing creatures and facilitating a safe and life changing interaction with sharks. I take it as a big responsibility and privilege to be able to bridge the gap between man and predator. Travel is also something I need to be happy and fulfilled. My husband and I live for visiting new and exciting dive locations around the world to photograph, document and learn more about marine ecosystems around the globe.
What draws your attention and focus to sharks?
Growing up I always had a deep love for the ocean and especially whales (orca and humpbacks). I lived in a somewhat landlocked area so that passion and dream seemed out of reach and unattainable as a career choice. Luckily, with a strong spiritual connection, I was able to follow my intuition and instincts out to Hawaii to pursue my childhood dreams. Once in Hawaii I became a dive master and through various connections was introduced to Ocean Ramsey. Ocean had been working with sharks for some time now and had started One Ocean Diving and Water Inspired. She gladly took me for my very first shark interaction. Once my mask hit the water I was fully in awe of sharks and my obsession began. Their grace and beauty was unparalleled. It wasn't at all how most imagine shark interactions. Rather than adrenaline pumping, it was meditative. Getting the opportunity to experience these beings, I knew then that I wanted to help others have this life changing experience as well. Sharks have continued to shape the person I am today. Being in the water with sharks has taught me patience, gratitude, and the ability to live in the moment.
What was one of your most memorable experiences in the water with them?
Everyone that knows me knows my overwhelming love for tiger sharks. Any tiger shark dive is an amazing dive for me. But a few dives in particular cross my mind and are most memorable. Diving at home in Hawaii I have been lucky enough to have amazing encounters with 5 or so tigers at once that I have known throughout the years. These individuals have become familiar faces and its been a complete privilege to watch them evolve over the years and change in demeanor each season. Their complexity is as fascinating as a humans. An expedition that will be etched in my mind forever is our adventure to a remote area of French Polynesia with our friends at Mao Mana Foundation & Mo’orea Moana Tours to document resident tiger sharks in a specific area. This area had an amazingly abundant tiger population that had us out numbered constantly with up to 11 very wild and raw tiger sharks. These sharks had less contact with humans and it showed in their disposition. Finally, I must include my first and only interaction with a great white shark here in Hawaii. Whites in Hawaii are an extremely rare sight so to have witnessed even seeing one is the highest honor I could receive from the ocean gods. With my team at One Ocean by my side I felt confident to jump in the water with a 22 ft, large, pregnant, female white shark while she fed on a dead sperm whale carcass. To witness the power of this animal as she bit into the carcass was just extraordinary and hard to describe. Yet she was so cognizant that we were not the food source and allowed us and two rough toothed dolphins to swim alongside her and observe her. That moment to me still feels like a dream so I am grateful for the photos to remind me that it actually happened.
What makes Hawaii such a special place for diving with sharks?
Hawaii is beautiful and no matter where life could ever take me it will always be home. Each island can provide an opportunity to come across different species. My favorite species I have seen here in Hawaii are tigers, scalloped hammerheads, oceanic white tips, a great white, and a blue shark. I prefer swimming in clear, deep blue pelagic waters of Hawaii versus reef areas. Hawaii has been full of surprises and never ceases to amaze. This year we have had record number of whale shark sightings across the islands which is new and exciting information. Within the shark world here, there is still so much to be studied and uncovered. Hopefully in the future Hawaii does more to protect the sharks that inhabit our waters
What shark species have you not yet encountered underwater but would love to see? Whats one of your bucket list shark diving destinations?
Although I have seen a blue shark, I’ve only had one quick encounter in the early stages of my career. I would love to spend more time with this species. I would love to meet a mako shark and a thresher shark. I would love to spend time with a whale shark in my home waters of Hawaii. I would love to swim with a great hammerhead, as my only encounter was hanging over the side of the boat with my mask in as Kori of Mao Mana Foundation held my legs. Ha! I hope to get better interactions with all of these species but plan to visit Cabo next to hopefully dive with blues and makos.
What are some of the threats sharks are facing in your area and what can people do to help?
In Hawaii we are lucky enough to have finning banned since 2010. Unfortunately, protection for sharks ends there in Hawaii. I have been in the shark industry for 4-5 years now and in that short time I have seen sharks been killed as by-catch quite a bit. I have seen a hundred baby hammer heads discarded on shore, juvenile tigers left dead in fishing gear on beaches, dead sandbar sharks left on the side of the road, and there has even been a group of Indonesian fishermen smuggling over 1,000 oceanic white tip fins in suitcases caught at the airport. The best way for Hawaii locals to combat by-catch is to educate others, learn how to fish and provide for themselves if they want to eat seafood, or simply stop eating seafood all together. We are so lucky to be surrounded by water. Seafood is a delicious and popular resource here, but its also a rapidly depleting industry. By knowing where your food comes from you can make sustainable choices. Don't support long lining and go out and fish or spearfish yourself. Catch and release what you don't intend to eat. Eliminate your by-catch. Purchase directly from local fishermen and not longline fishermen. Choose more sustainable options. Discover which options are sustainable on the Seafood Watch app.
Where do you see your future going?
I see myself and Cam continuing to live out our passion for the ocean. We hope to lead more amazing expeditions around the world with various groups of ocean lovers. We hope to inspire a love and respect for the ocean.
Any advice for other ladies wanting to follow in similar footsteps and work with sharks ?
Don't let anything stop you from making a difference. Don't let a lack of education or skill set deter you from becoming a conservationist. Anyone can become a conservationist and make a positive impact on the plant.
For working with sharks specifically I would suggest training with professionals who have shark experience and knowledge because they are predators and wild animals and need to be respected as such. If you are looking to see if sharks are the right fit for you, One Ocean Diving has a great internship program and you can apply at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kayleigh wears a custom designed Found At Sea fossil tiger shark tooth and opal block ring <3
Shop our eco friendly jewellery collection using discount code MERMAIDK for 15% off your next order .
Follow Kayleigh and her shark adventures via her Instagram : @mermaid_kayleigh