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The days of JAWS and shark-fearing days are dwindling. Today, more and more scuba divers feel an affinity for sharks, and many divers have even taken up causes to prevent shark finning and shark culling. Scuba diving with sharks also provides an economic incentive for local communities to protect their native shark species. If you’re hoping to go scuba diving with sharks, read on to discover where in the world you can blow bubbles alongside these toothy creatures.
Table of Contents
The best places in the world to scuba dive with sharks
Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The 21 islands of the Galapagos are jam packed with sharks. From the islands’ name, Galapagos sharks can be found everywhere, though two spots are where you’re most likely to make their acquaintance: Wolf Island and Darwin’s Arch. Not just ten, not just fifty, not just hundreds, but thousands of Galapagos sharks can be seen here! What’s more, other sharks (especially hammerhead sharks) also call this offshore Ecuadorian archipelago home.
On top of this, the 1,000 kilometer (600 mile) journey from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands is another attraction as you will cruise out to the islands onboard a liveaboard vessel. Your Galapagos dive bonanza is usually a week-long vacation and the comforts of a liveaboard will make your dive vacation more memorable. Check out MV Tiburon Express and see how their staterooms and onboard amenities compliment your Galapagos shark diving adventure.
The pirate island of Cocos, another shark-galore dive attraction is located 550 kilometers (342 miles) offshore from mainland Costa Rica. This once mysterious island is unique for shark diving since each of its dive sites highlights a single species. The pinnacles of Bajo Alcyone is known for hammerhead sharks where its dense population creates the so called “wall of sharks”, Silverado is the abode for Silvertip sharks and the small islet of Manuelita is one of the best sites in world to go night diving with highly active whitetip reef sharks.
While there are a few liveaboard vessels operating in Cocos Island, which all of them are known for great service and comfort, there is one vessel that offers deep sea diving up to 300 meters (1,000 feet) onboard a submersible, the MV Argo.
Located 500 kilometers (310 miles) offshore from mainland Colombia is Malpelo Island, one of the three shark highways of the Pacific Ocean. Malpelo is as equally as beautiful as Galapagos and Cocos island. In every dive, you have a great shot at spotting hammerhead sharks, whitetip reef sharks, silky sharks plus the occasional passing of Galapagos sharks, ragged-tooth sharks and whale sharks. To take you too this faraway land, check out 34-meter MV Sea Wolf. your offshore Colombian shark diving vacation, you can check out the 34 meter (111 feet) long MV Sea Wolf.
Our next destination takes us to a marine park in Cuba, Jardines de la Reina or Garden of the Queen. Since 1996, this underwater attraction features an extensive reef system rife with sharks. All year round (except for the hurricane season from June to October) you can dive with Caribbean reef sharks and silky sharks. And on top of shark diving, this marine park is also popular with marine reptile interaction where you can go snorkeling with American crocodiles. Jardines de la Reina is a popular route for liveaboards like the MV Jardines Avalon III where onboard luxury is further complemented with an outdoor hot tub.
Marine parks are an efficient way of protecting marine resources, but what if a park specifically existed for conserving sharks? In Fiji, you can visit the Shark Reef Marine Reserve in Beqa Lagoon and experience the famous Fiji shark dive. While there are 20 dive sites within the lagoon, each site features a variety of shark species like lemon sharks, grey reef sharks, nurse sharks, blacktip reef sharks, whitetip reef sharks, tiger sharks and bull sharks, all stars of Beqa Lagoon. We recommend booking your dive with Beqa Adventure Divers. And for a liveaboard experience, check out the Nai’a.
A shark’s tail is one of its many body parts that fascinates us as it gently sways side to side when it swims. In the small island of Malapascua in Cebu, Philippines, you can find Monad Shoal where there is a species of shark whose upper tail is almost as long as its body, the thresher shark.
Aside from being the only reliable dive site to interact with thresher sharks, diving in Monad Shoal is unique since you need to be in the water before the sunrise as this is the only time threshers go up from the deep.
Have you ever tried a combination of drift diving and shark diving? If this sounds like something you’d love, you can’t miss the South Pacific island chain of French Polynesia. In Rangiroa, the Tiputa Pass is the second largest atoll in the country. This large reef experiences two tidal fluctuations (high tide and low tide) per day. Your dive usually starts within the reef riding along a strong current (averaging at 5 knots) and ends at a drop off where the sharks are found. If you’re lucky, you might get a chance to spot tens of gray reef sharks, whitetips, blacktips, silvertips and hammerheads. For the best experience, book a trip with Aqua Tiki II.
Egypt is a popular tourist attraction, not just for its pyramids, but also for shark diving. This Red Sea region is famous for its oceanic whitetip sharks. Dives typically takes place at the edge of a vertical wall where these fast-swimming sharks approach closely. Elphinstone Reef is one of the many dive sites Egyptian liveaboards visit. While there is a long list of liveaboard vessels to select, a comfortable pick is MV Blue, built in 2016.
South Africa is a popular tourist destination famous for its varied topography and natural beauty. Underwater, it features a different kind of beauty reserved not for the faint hearted. In False Bay, there are over 60,000 seals that call this island home, which in turn, attracts its predator, the fearsome great white shark. All of the dives with great whites in False Bay requires divers to be inside a steel cage.
The small volcanic island of Guadalupe in Mexico is another destination to go cage diving with great white sharks. Located 240 kilometers (150 miles) from Baja California, this offshore site is home to over 170 great white sharks. While inside the cage, you can clearly see these gigantic sharks from afar coming in close to you as the visibility is often crystal clear. And as icing on the cake, shark breaching is a common sighting in Guadalupe Island as great whites leap out of the water as a result of their surprise attack on their prey, sea lions. For your ultimate liveaboard experience (especially if you are nitrox certified), check out Socorro Vortex.
As soon as we enter the ocean, we become part of sharks’ habitat. As such, this means we have to behave accordingly.
Do not chase or touch
Sharks are not pets and they don’t need to be cuddled. Chasing or touching a shark can alter their behavior, and potentially spread disease.
Do not feed
Shark feeding has become common during shark diving attractions, though this is met with mixed responses from marine scientists. On one hand, shark feeding (when sharks are given low calorie food) promotes shark tourism which thereby promotes shark conservation. Nonetheless, there are few reasons to feed sharks on your own. While we might assume we are ‘helping’ sharks by providing them food, this may cause them to associate food with humans and disrupt their natural diet and the local ecosystem. As predators, sharks are genetically wired to seek for their own food.
Maintain proper distance
Social or physical distancing is a new word that has recently been popularized this past year. But with sharks, we have been observing physical distancing long before the pandemic. The reason for this is to allow sharks to freely swim and not agitate them. Swimming close to a shark may provoke them and the results may not be in your favor.
Trivia question: Aside from physical distancing, do we need to wear a mask when diving with sharks? Yes. Not a surgical mask, but a diving mask.
Choose a responsible dive operator
Some dive operators may go out of their way just to please the customers. While this may please the satisfaction of action-seeking divers, this is not good for the sharks especially if it is done frequently. We highly advise you choose a dive operator that has a high standard of practice that both pleases the customers (the right way) and looks for the welfare of the sharks.