National Geographic contributing photographer Laurent Ballesta was diving in the waters of French Polynesia when he finally saw a sight that he had been working for the last four years to capture: a shark feeding frenzy in the midst of breeding groupers.
During the event, male grouper fish, which are usually solitary, gather with female groupers at the south end of the Fakarava Atoll. The mass of fish then spawn all at once — something that only happens during a full moon — releasing clouds of eggs and sperm into the waters.
This event also attracts the attention of sharks, which arrive in huge numbers to feast upon the breeding groupers.
Ballesta’s team were diving without cages or weapons, and they counted 700 sharks around them with an estimated 17,000 groupers.
Over the past four years, Ballesta has spent 21 weeks diving day and night, spending roughly 3,000 diver hours in the 115-foot-deep channel in order to shoot these photos.
“A single shark is too clumsy to catch even a somnolent grouper,” Ballesta writes in National Geographic. “A pack of them is more likely to flush the fish from its hiding place and encircle it. Then they tear it apart. Seen live, the attack is a frenzy that explodes before us.”
These photos and Ballesta’s account of the experience can be found in the May 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine.
Ballesta has also published a full account of his experience at Fakarava Atoll in a two-book set titled 700 Sharks Into the Dark.
Image credits: Header photo by Laurent Ballesta / National Geographic. All photos courtesy National Geographic.