The Ultimate Guide to Shark Diving 2023

Tiger sharks at the Bahamas

Want to go shark diving and don’t know where to start?

If so, keep reading!

In this guide to shark diving, we’ll look at the best places to dive with sharks and the cost involved and answer a number of questions you might have about shark diving.

We’ll also look at the different ways you can dive with them, from open water to cages and even aquariums (but please don’t do that).

Let’s dive right in!

The excitement around shark diving

Diving with sharks and other marine predators is one of the most spectacular things you can do as a diver.

Seeing a shark up close is incredibly exciting…Seeing them for the 100th time…is still incredibly exciting!

They come in many different forms, and sizes, from the smallest reef sharks that shy away from visitors when you get too close to the mighty Great Whites that put fear in many who witness them.

To me, it is not just an adrenaline rush and an opportunity for some great underwater photos, but also an opportunity to appreciate the beauty, power, and grace of sharks. And get a deeper respect and understanding for these often misunderstood creatures.

Sharks underwater
Sharks are just magnificent creatures and sooo cool to dive with!

How can I dive with sharks?

Many people dive with sharks out in open water, where they are frequent visitors to reefs and popular dive sites. Diving with Great Whites is usually reserved for cage diving as they are deemed too dangerous otherwise. Lastly, some aquariums offer the option to dive with sharks in tanks, although this practice is often frowned upon.

There are essentially 4 ways to see sharks on a dive:

  • Open Water
  • Cage Diving
  • Aquarium Diving
  • Snorkeling

Out in the open

The most common way you’ll encounter sharks is during a scuba dive to popular reefs in places like the Maldives, Cocos Island, or the Red Sea.

They are very common in those waters and there are many dive sites that are specifically aimed at diving with sharks.

Here, you can see them in a natural way and without them having to be fed or lured in. In some cases like the famous Oceanic White Tips at the Daedalus Reef off the coast of Egypt, they like to come super close to divers so you will get plenty of amazing close-up shots of them.

Others like the Hammerheads in Costa Rica like to stay very deep and don’t really care about humans at all.

Hammerhead sharks
Hammerhead sharks can usually be found in large packs like here in Cocos Island, Costa Rica.

The “drawback” – if it can be called that even – is that you need to be a certified scuba diver in order to dive with them. Which I don’t find to be a drawback at all.

There are also different freediving trips to dive with sharks, but they’re much less common.

Of all the ways to dive with sharks, this is the most ethical and natural and the one I highly recommend!

Popular places:

  • Daedalus Reef, Egypt – Oceanic White Tips & Hammerhead Sharks
  • Galapagos Islands, Ecuador – Hammerhead Sharks
  • Malapascua, Philippines – Thresher Sharks
  • Maldives – Reef Sharks
  • Tiger Beach, Bahamas – Tiger Sharks

Cage diving

In South Africa, Mexico, and other places you can go cage diving with Great White sharks.

Boats regularly depart here to take you to areas with near 100% sighting probability. The sharks are usually fed with bait to draw them closer to the cage.

Cages are then lowered into the water and people can get into them. Air is supplied either from a scuba tank or a long air hose from the boat.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s an absolutely incredible and for some even a bit terrifying experience to see these gigantic marine predators up close.

However, shark feeding is generally considered bad practice and unethical as it alters their natural behavior. Of course, there are certainly operators that do not engage in shark feeding and give you (and the sharks) a more natural experience.

You be the judge of whether or not this is for you.

Popular places:

  • Gansbaai, South Africa
  • Guadalupe, Mexico
  • Neptune Islands, Australia
  • Farallon Islands, USA

Tank / Aquarium diving

Some aquariums or Sea Life centers inhabit sharks in their tanks and you can book a dive in them.

Examples are the Georgia Aquarium in the USA, the Sea Life Center in Munich, Germany, and others across the world.

Scuba diver feeding leopard shark and stingrays at Aquarium
Some aquariums even allow you to help feed the sharks.

Is this ethical? I’d say more so than cage diving as the animals are already accustomed to being in captivity.

Are Sea Life centers for sharks ethical? You be the judge of that.

If you go aquarium diving with sharks, be sure to select a reputable venue or an aquarium known to host rescued animals.

Popular places:

  • Georgia Museum, USA – Whale Sharks
  • Mandalay Bay Shark Reef Aquarium NV, USA – Different Sharks
  • Sea Life Center, Munich, Germany – Different Sharks & feeding session

Snorkeling with whale sharks

Whale sharks are a bit different from other shark species, as they don’t hunt per se and are instead a so-called filter feeder. This means their diet consists mainly of plankton, krill, and the smallest fish.

This also makes them absolutely harmless to humans and allows us to snorkel with them (something you should not do with many other types of sharks).

Whale shark surrounded by freedivers
Whale sharks are 100% guaranteed at Yucatan Peninsula, Philippines.

Snorkeling with whale sharks is big in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, in the Maldives, in the Philippines.

Some of the areas here get near 100% sighting chances during the season, as whale sharks migrate here every year.

Best places:

  • Isla Holbox and Isla Mujeres, Mexico
  • Oslob, Philippines
  • Utila, Honduras
  • Maldives

Where can I dive with sharks?

You’ve probably come here to find more places to dive with sharks around the world.

Here are some famous dive sites and places to dive with sharks:

  1. Great White Shark Cage Diving in South Africa: Gansbaai and Mossel Bay are renowned spots.
  2. Bull Shark Diving in Fiji: Beqa Lagoon is a famous destination.
  3. Whale Shark Diving in Mexico: Isla Holbox and Isla Mujeres offer chances to swim with these gentle giants.
  4. Hammerhead Shark Diving in the Galapagos Islands: A top location to see schools of hammerheads.
  5. Tiger Shark Diving in the Bahamas: Tiger Beach is the most famous spot.

How much does it cost to shark dive?

The cost of shark diving varies depending on the location, duration, and whether you’re diving in open water, a cage, or an aquarium. On average, expect to pay anywhere from $100 to over $1,000. For example, cage diving with Great Whites in South Africa will cost around $150 to $250, while a multi-day liveaboard trip to remote places like the Galapagos can cost upwards of $3,000.

The cheapest way to see lots of sharks – based on a “Dollar-per-shark” ratio – is a liveaboard diving trip to places where sharks are abundant.

Here you have the chance to see anywhere between a handful to hundreds at certain spots.

By taking a boat to more remote destinations, you have the best chances of seeing them and don’t have to share the view with many other people at a dive site.

Is it safe to go shark diving?

Shark diving with reputable operators while following basic guidelines is safe. Follow your dive guide or operator’s instructions and don’t try to behave in a way that poses a threat to the shark. However, like any activity involving wildlife, you should always be prepared that circumstances may change.

Sharks are generally very gentle creatures around humans and have no desire to attack us.

However, they are still predators and can pose a great danger when provoked.

Here are some best practices to follow around sharks underwater.

Stay calm

Stay calm underwater and don’t “flee” from it.

Refrain from making sudden movements or scaring the shark in any way. When using an underwater camera, ask your dive guide or operator before using a flash, as some animals might get irritated by it.

No touching

Unless specifically instructed by your dive guide or operator, do not touch sharks or any other animals underwater.

The rule is simple: Animals that want to be touched will come to you.

In any other case, keep your hands and feet close to your body.

People hanging on shark backfin
This is NOT how you should be interacting with any marine life. No touching!

Keep them in sight

When diving with sharks in open water, keep them in sight at all times.

This doesn’t mean following them, but don’t turn your back to them either.

Follow Guidelines

It’s essential to follow all guidelines provided by dive operators.

When cage diving with sharks, don’t stick your hands our of the cage or a shark might mistake it for prey.

Choose Reputable Operators

Always choose dive operators with a track record for safety and responsible practices. Check reviews and seek recommendations from experienced divers.

How deep do you have to go to find sharks?

Sharks can be found at various depths, from shallow coastal waters to the deep sea. Some species, like nurse sharks or blacktip reef sharks, live in shallow waters and reefs, while others, like hammerhead sharks, are found at greater depths of 40m / 120ft or more.

Debunking Common Myths Around Sharks

Sharks have long been under scrutiny and labeled as “dangerous”, “evil”, or even worse. This has lead to the unnecessary killing of many and a sharp decline in their population.

Here are some common misconceptions and myths around sharks I’d like to debunk once and for all:

Sharks are “Man-eaters”

Not just since “Jaws” the misconception holds up that all sharks are dangerous to humans and are “man-eaters.” While there have been shark incidents, sharks do not naturally prey on humans.

In reality, out of over 500 species of sharks, only a handful have been involved in incidents with humans. Most cases of shark bites are either accidental or due to mistaken identity.

As you’ll see, sharks are normally indifferent to people and often avoid them.

Sharks mistake us for prey

Gosh, I get almost mad when I hear this.

Just think about it: Sharks have been around for more than 400 million years. They are the apex predators of the seas and have survived throughout time even though many other species went extinct.

Do you really think they can’t differentiate between their prey that they have known throughout their lives and us in our wetsuits and loud scuba tanks?

If you ever look a shark in the eyes, you know immediately that they know exactly what we are, and why we’re there.

All Sharks are Dangerous

Out of over 500 shark species, only a handful are considered potentially dangerous to humans. Many are docile and even shy.

Of course, they can potentially harm and kill almost any other animal underwater, but in most cases, they will only attack to us humans if they feel threatened.

Scuba diver looking up at shark underneath boat
Most sharks are pretty indifferent to humans.

Sharks Are Primitive Creatures

Sharks are often labeled as “living fossils” or primitive beings, but they are actually highly evolved and complex creatures. They have been around for over 400 million years, and their physiology includes specialized adaptations like electroreception, a sixth sense that allows them to detect electric fields generated by living organisms.

Sharks Will Always Attack if They Smell Blood

Sharks do have an acute sense of smell, but the presence of blood does not guarantee an attack. Many factors, such as the species of shark, its current behavior, and other environmental conditions, influence whether a shark will investigate a scent.

Once again, since we are not their usual prey, they usually won’t care about the scent of our blood in any case.

I can’t dive with sharks when my nose is bleeding

Similarly to the answer above, sharks usually don’t care for humans as we are not prey to them.

You don’t have to be afraid if you get nose bleeding underwater – well, besides the fact that you probably failed to equalize in time.

And no, they won’t care about the scratch on your hand either.

Sharks Have an Insatiable Appetite

Sharks are often portrayed as perpetually hungry animals that will eat anything in their path. However, sharks have specific diets based on their species and can go for days or even weeks without eating after a big meal.

Sharks Must Swim to Breathe

While it’s true that some species need to move to push water through their gills, many species can breathe while stationary. Some sharks, like the nurse shark, can pump water over their gills, allowing them to rest on the ocean floor.

Shark Conservation

Shark diving promotes conservation by allowing people to see the beauty of these animals. Many operations contribute to research and conservation projects, making your dive beneficial for the sharks too.

Freedivers swimming with sharks underwater
Freediving is a great unintrusive way to dive with sharks. Even Great Whites.

Ecotourism

The revenue generated from shark diving helps local communities and can deter practices like shark finning. When done responsibly, shark diving can be a sustainable form of ecotourism.

In conclusion, shark diving is not just an adventure but an educational experience that brings a deeper appreciation for these magnificent creatures. It’s essential, however, to approach the activity with respect, awareness, and responsibility to ensure safety for both divers and sharks.

Conclusion & Further Reading

Hopefully, you enjoyed this guide to shark diving and learned a little about these amazing creatures.

If you want to dive with sharks, book a liveaboard trip right away, or keep reading more of our travel guides!

If you have any questions, let us know in the comments or send us a message!

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