Kinga Philipps is a renowned journalist known for her work on the Travel Channel series The Wild Side with Kinga Philipps. Throughout her many travels to dangerous and exotic locations, she has learned copious amounts of information about sharks- one of the earth’s most feared creatures. As part of her job, Philipps needs to know as much about her subjects as possible, and she does not let anything stand in her way- even if it means investigating some of the more treacherous sides of postcard-perfect locales.
In contrast to the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week and those outrageous Sharknado movies—yes, get ready for your Twitter feed to go crazy this week because Sharknado 3 comes out—Philipps is aiming to display another side of the finned species. Essentially, she wants them to gain some good PR. Here, the “shark whisperer” answers a few of our ardent questions:
Levo: Why did you start reporting on sharks?
Kinga Philips: They are the guardians of our oceans. The feeling of being in the water with a massive fish the size of a van is something you don’t ever get tired of. I love them because they represent a world that is as enchanting and magical as anything we could dream up. I also think there is something to be said for being able to swim in the water, with experience and in the right situations of course, next to an apex predator and feel awe and wonder instead of fear.
Why, after watching Jaws as a youngster like the rest of us, did you decide to take the plunge into ocean depths instead of heeding its warning?
KP: I wanted to know where the line of myth versus reality was with these animals, so I started to study them and dive with them whenever possible. I quickly realized that most of what people fear about sharks is based on inaccurate information, media sensationalism, and our own primal fear of things that we don’t fully understand.
Although you work with Shark Allies, a shark conservation program, in addition to reporting, recent years have shown an incline in attacks and sightings. For example, this summer has had more sharks than ever on the East Coast.
KP: With 100 million sharks killed each year, shark finning still happening in much of the world, and many people still harboring a Jaws-esque image, they need the help. The fact that we still know so little about shark behavior is incredible and makes me feel like an explorer every time I get in the water with them. New species are still being discovered! There is something genuinely gripping and bewitching about that.
For women who’d like to have a career as adventurous as yours, what guidance do you offer in terms of becoming shark advocates or wildlife reporters?
KP: Never stop exploring. There is so much to be discovered and so much work to be done. Let your curiosity fuel you and propel you forward. I found mentors to teach me, take me diving, and introduce me to new experiences that brought even greater insights.