Few things in life are as exhilarating as finding yourself face-to-face with the ocean’s most feared predator.
Sure, everyone obsesses over the ferocious fish during Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week” or when referencing the awesomely ridiculous TV movie “Sharknado“ (Of course you can chainsaw your way out of a flying great white shark during a sharkstorm!), but it takes the most adventurous of all to suit up and swim down into a cage to bait one of these “Jaws”-like assassins into a one-on-one interaction.
If swimming with sharks is on your bucket list, take a bite out of these 12 locales around the world that are known for their unique shark diving.
You can get close (but not too close) to this guy during a dive in South Africa’s Shark Alley (Photo: Harry Stone/Facebook)
1. Gansbaai, South Africa
What better place to shark dive than the great white capital of the world? Adventurous tourists flock to this seaside South African town to visit Shark Alley — the shark-infested channel and great white hotspot, thanks to the abundance of seals at neighboring Geyser Rock. Cage diving is the main attraction here and the only spot in the world where it’s year-round. Seven days a week, the long-running White Shark Diving Company gives 20 divers per trip the chance to make eye contact with the world’s largest predatory fish. At 12 to 16 feet long and bearing 300 razor-sharp teeth, it’s an underwater sight worth the hype.
2. Layang-Layang, Malaysia
Also known as Swallow Reef, this secluded location off the island of Borneo is a diver’s dream. The clear, unpolluted waters are filled with an array of marine life, including the deep sea’s hammerhead, leopard, and even whale sharks. The one resort on the island, the luxe Avillion Layang Layang, is a diving mecca where underwater enthusiasts can get certified instruction at the onsite Dive Centre and then head out to one of the 12 dive sites dotting the island’s perimeter. See schools of hammerheads cruising by in the blue waters at Dogtooth Lair, Crack Reef, and Sharks Cave.
Avillion offers a beautiful place to lounge before and after your near-shark experience. (Photo: Courtesy of Avillion Port Dickson Resort)
3. Pacific Harbour, Fiji
It’s a crazy shark scene in Fiji. (Photo: Courtesy of Bega Adventure Divers)
Eight different species can be spotted in one dive during your shark submersion at Fiji’s adventure capital. The crash-course dive will likely have you checking the black, whitetip and grey reef, silvertip, tawny nurse, sicklefin, bull, and tiger sharks off your must-see list. There are two major dive companies: Aqua-Trek, which has been running the Ultimate Shark Encounter on nearby Lake Reef for 20 years and Beqa Adventure’s Shark Dive, which shoos you off a reef ledge at Beqa Lagoon.
4. Red Sea, Egypt
Despite its name, this inlet where desert meets ocean boasts blue water so bright, it’s nearly electric. Because Egypt outlawed feeding and baiting, the more than 40 species of shark that meander through these clear waters don’t view humans as interference, or even as food, which makes for a calmer experience. When diving the offshore islands and reef walls here, expect to come across whitetips and rare snaggletooths. The Werner Lau Diving Center at the heart of Naama Bay will scoop you from every hotel in the Sharm region to take you out to the Red Sea, and it even offers a summer special.
The Werner Lau Diving Center will guide you to the best the Red Sea has to offer. (Photo: Courtesy of The Werner Lau Diving Center)
5. Guadalupe Island, Mexico
Unbelievably clear waters and nearly guaranteed sightings lure cage divers out for five- and six-day diving trips to this island in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico’s Baja California. Also touted as one of the world’s best spots for great white shark sightings due to its large population of the beautiful sea monsters, the 18-hour journey from San Diego has become universally worth it. Great White Adventures on the Solmar V luxury vessel takes divers out in two four-person cages, where the air is supplied using a hookah system instead of scuba tanks, and the top of the cage remains open so divers have the option to swim cage-free among the sharks.
Great White Adventures of Guadalupe Island offers in-cage and out-of-cage options for shark watchers. (Photo: Courtesy of Great White Adventures)
6. Shark Point, Wolf Island, Galápagos Islands
Whale shark in the Galápagos Islands (Photo: Peter Liu/Flickr)
Though the name of this site sounds inviting for shark lovers, only experienced divers can come aboard. Wolf Island, which is located away from the main island group, does not permit land visits, making this accessible by live-aboard dive ships only. If you pass the experience test and can brave the strong currents and limited visibility here, you will delight in the likelihood of swimming alongside the local, curious, and torpedo-shaped Galápagos sharks. Live-aboard trips will exclusively charter you in a motored yacht the 16 hours from the main islands to Wolf Rock, where you can also see whale and hammerhead sharks.
7. Baa Atoll, Maldives
The string of white beaches and turquoise waters that make up the Maldives are so picture-perfect, they look fake — and they’re slated to soon be a figment of the imagination. With an average elevation of less than five feet above sea level, many scientists predict that the country will be underwater before the end of the century as the Indian Ocean continues to rise. So hurry up and get to Baa Atoll, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, which is home to the Hanifaru Lagoon, where large numbers of whale sharks come to feed and mate amid a colorful, coral reef backdrop. Dive center’s Sea Explorer and the new SeaSplash Maldives take you from heavenly huts and resorts out into the deep blue trenches. If a five-star dive stay is on your docket, check out the Four Season villas, which are a hop, skip, and a jump across the pristine waters separating it from Baa Atoll.
Diver at SeaSplash Maldives (Photo: Courtesy of SeaSplash Maldives)
8. Cocos Island, Costa Rica
Hammerhead shark in Cocos Island, Costa Rica (Photo: Barry Peters/Flickr)
This island and national park located in the Golden Triangle off the coast of Costa Rica is another site accessible only by live-aboard dive boats, since park rangers are the only ones allowed to access the land. Called “the most beautiful island of the world” by the late explorer Jacques Cousteau, divers are drawn to the oceanic jewel — and its massive schools of hammerhead sharks. With 20 dive sites to frequent, Undersea Hunter Group offers 10-day trips on a spacious vessel complete with everything a diver, photographer, or cinematographer would need.
9. Navy Pier, Australia
A common contender in Top 10 lists for dive spots around the world, Navy Pier is often hailed as an underwater, glass-less aquarium. Wobbegong and whitetip reef sharks are lurking on the ocean floor, and Ningaloo Whaleshark-n-Dive will have you swimming down under with mammoth whale sharks — they weigh close to 20,000 pounds and stretch longer than 30 feet in length — from March to July.
A school of fish at Navy Pier, Australia. Is there a shark nearby? (Photo: Stuart Hamilton/Flickr)
10. Nassau, Bahamas
Sharks flock to the clear waters off the coast of Nassau, which means you’re sure to see a gathering of Caribbean reef sharks, known as the “silent sea predator.” At the full-service diving resort Stuart Cove’s Aqua Adventures, explore wrecks and coral reefs with its fleet of seven vessels. On the Extreme Shark Adventure, you can have two dive trips: first, a free-swim with the sharks along a reef wall and second, the group will form a semicircle and watch while a professional shark feeder enters the water with a box of bait. What happens next might be comparable to a “sharkstorm” as the silent sea predators swarm all around you.
It’s not quite a sharknado, but you can experience a “sharkstorm” during a dive with Stuart Cove (Photo: Courtesy of Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas)
11. Oahu, Hawaii
North Shore Shark Adventures guarantees a shark sighting (Photo: Courtesy of North Shore Shark Adventures)
Home to more than 40 species, sightings of reef, sandbar, and hammerhead sharks are common in Hawaii. On this third largest of the Hawaiian Islands, North Shore Shark Adventures will actually give you your money back if you don’t have a shark sighting at Oahu’s North Shore. As you travel three miles out to sea from Haleiwa Small Boat Harbor, keep an eye out for jumping dolphins and humpback whales before arriving at the main underwater event. Up to eight people can secure themselves for 20 minutes in the metal cage, and all ages and levels of experience are welcome, making this a good choice for families. For an even closer visit, Hawaii Shark Encounters uses a poly-glass, floating cage, where you can literally tap the shark through the glass. Another plus for the inexperienced diver: You enter the cage from above and stay on the surface using a mask and snorkel.
12. Bali, Indonesia
A shark high-fives during a Bali Sharks dive because he hasn’t quite mastered the “fin bump” (Photo: Courtesy of Bali Sharks)
It might be another postcard-like setting, but you can do more than bask on beautiful beaches at this Indonesian paradise. Head out on a three-hour tour to Shark Island, where you can top off your shark feeding and swim with a visit to a turtle conservation, followed by cocktails and grub with Bali Sharks. Welcoming people of all ages and experience levels, the stainless steel cage at Shark Island is your vantage point to the featured event. First, meet baby fins in the shark nursery, where black and whitetip reef pups help you to wade the shark-infested waters before diving in for a swim.