João Franco From ‘Below Deck Med’ Goes Swimming with Sharks (Literally)

If you ask João Franco from Below Deck Mediterranean if he’d rather surf social media or swim with dangerous sharks, he’d choose the sharks. Literally.

Franco and his (very brave) girlfriend Michelle Dicu just experienced what is considered to be a chance of a lifetime in Florida. Franco is an avid outdoorsman, extremely curious about animal behavior, and isn’t afraid to chill next to a hungry lion. While he has had some pretty breathtaking and extreme experiences back home in Zimbabwe, he told The Cheat Sheet he’d never had the chance to get up close and personal with one of the most feared predators: sharks.

Here fishy fishy. João Franco | Photo by Stacy ONell

“I’ve always wanted to do this,” he says. “When a photographer got in touch with me and said she wanted to do some underwater filming and asked if I was game, I was really into it.” And while most people start with a friendly dolphin swim, Franco just went for it and chose an open dive with sharks as his first aquatic encounter.

Franco explains how to avoid getting eaten

For the throngs of readers scarred by the film Jaws, Franco has some advice.”You have to just look the shark in the eye, don’t turn your back on them, and you will be fine,” he says. Also, diving with an experienced dive teacher is vital to your survival. Leigh Cobb was Franco and Dicu’s guide. She runs Shark Diver Travels and is a National Geographic videographer.

Franco explains that during the dive trip, Cobb brings something the sharks want more than humans — dead fish. “The bucket of dead fish is of more interest to the sharks while you are diving,” Franco explains. The sharks swarm for a fishy snack and divers can observe them in their natural habitat. And no, divers are not inside a protected cage. You are right there rubbing elbows with tiger, lemon, hammerhead, and other sharks that mosey your way.

Shark adventurers need to be certified scuba divers, too. Thankfully Franco and Dicu were already certified. Franco recalls going on two dives that lasted a little less than two hours. “The time passes really fast,” he recalls. “I could have gone much longer.” In fact, he did one last quick free dive without his tank. Photographer Stacy ONell captured a breathtaking photo from above as Franco ventured into the shark den with nothing more than a mask, flippers, and his curiosity.

He found the perfect dive partner too

Franco said he wasn’t sure what Dicu would say when he presented the idea to her. “I sort of just asked if she might consider doing the shark dive with me,” he says. “She said ‘why not?’ which was amazing.”

Dicu said she didn’t think twice about doing the dive too. “I thought about it and didn’t see why not,” she said. “Of course I didn’t tell my parents beforehand,” she laughs. Franco adds that Dicu was a natural in the water, pushing various sharks away with her hands like it was no big deal.

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girl of my dreams❤️ #happy

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At one point Franco and Dicu got so friendly with the sharks, one shark enjoyed a bit of a belly scratch from the fearless pair. “I’d love to do this again,” he said. “I’m hooked and can’t wait to go back.”

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