Travel advisory: extreme caution

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It was hot and sticky and definitely time for a dip. As I swam out to sea and surveyed the scene, a group of Malaysians waved to me from the beach. Odd but friendly, was my first thought. I waved back.

But then they started pointing and shouting. I followed their outstretched fingers and saw the object of concern: a circle of fins about 30 yards off.

The swim to shore was meteoric, gold-medal standard, as the razor-sharp teeth closed in. (Actually, they stayed exactly where they were, but my imagination was way ahead of me.)

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The ominous fins were probably those of nurse sharks, I was later told - not the man-eating variety. Frankly, though, I don't think it would have made a jot of difference either way.

The man-eating variety does exist, of course, and in particular abundance along the coast and waterways of Nicaragua.

A new book, "Savage Shores," explores the dying livelihood of that country's last shark hunters and how the world's appetite for shark-fin soup made a few hunters rich for a short decade.

This is one of several books exploring far-flung places in this week's book section on travel (pages 17-20). So if swimming with sharks isn't quite your speed, you can join Tim Moore in his totally unprepared trek to the Arctic following the footsteps of a 19th-century Scottish lord.

Slacker that he is, Moore still recognizes that such ventures are part of shaping one's manhood, but decides to take an alarmingly haphazard approach himself. After reading his sharp-witted account, you'll be glad you're firmly ensconced in an armchair.

*Susan Llewelyn Leach is the assistant Ideas editor. Comment? Send e-mail to Ideas@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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