I found myself staring straight into the eyes of a large tiger shark, and my mouth opened and closed slowly as if I was breathing in my room. My first time swimming with sharks was on the north coast of Oahu, off the coast of Hale’iwa, as our cage-free snorkeling adventure had us surrounded by a collection of great sharks. It was one of the most breathtaking experiences to come face to face with these powerful creatures and I became obsessed with searching for the best dive sites around the world for beginners and experienced divers.
One of the ultimate forest list adventures is the thrill of controlled shark encounters, whether it’s free diving or from a cage, an extraordinary opportunity to encounter these powerful predators up close and believe it or not, shark diving with the right operator actually helps them. to survive .
I talked to some of the world’s leading shark experts about choosing the best experience, from cage diving with the Great Whites on Mexico’s Guadalupe Island to swimming with hammer heads in the Philippines, while always supporting and protecting the species.
Many adventurers are considering making cage-free dives, and according to Dr. Craig O’Connell with the O’Seas Conservation Foundation, “All of this depends on the level of experience of the diver and the sharks that the specific diver dives with. Sharks are made to be threatening human-eating machines; however, this could not be further from the truth. So in In some situations, diving outside the cage can be a safe way to observe both sharks and their natural environment, but we must also understand that some of the larger shark species, such as the white shark, are top predators, while I routinely swim out of the cage with it , it’s only because I have thousands of hours of experience diving and observing them.For people without that level of experience, I would suggest using cages with white sharks.This allows divers to see these sharks up close and personal , which will enable these divers to gain an unprecedented respect for the animals. lterts in more followers and long-term preservers. ”
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When it comes to the benefits of diving with sharks, Stefanie Brendl says with shark allies: “Sharks are worth so much more alive than dead. Just look at the future potential of ecotourism – it’s many times commercial fishing. Places like Palau and the Bahamas have had great Sharks are a keystone species – they are mainly the white blood cells in the sea. They remove the weak, the dead and the sick and therefore keep diseases from spreading in fish and mammals. They make sure that that the strongest, fastest survive, and that keeps the population alive and strong. ”
And finally, shark research expert Dr. Mauricio Hoyos with Pelagios Kakunjá on the rapid decline in the shark population. “Overfishing of sharks is happening due to the huge demand and lack of management to ensure that shark fishing is sustainable. About 100 million sharks can be killed annually, often targeted at their fins for shark fin soup.
Researchers have recently determined that the global population of sharks and rays has plummeted by more than 70% in the last 50 years, with massive ongoing losses pushing many species towards extinction. We still have time to avoid the collapse of many species by understanding the importance they have in our marine ecosystems. We must start by educating ourselves and leaving ignorant beliefs that sharks are thoughtless, dangerous animals. We must also identify the various threats they face in our countries in order to develop scientific, management and conservation programs to protect them. “
Hollywood is popping in with extensive coverage this summer, including a recent Nat Geo special, Shark beach, which is broadcast on Disney + with superhero in the lead role Thor actor Chris Hemsworth. Hemsworth, a first-time diver, joined underwater conservation manager Valerie Taylor as they dived at Fish Rock off the Mid-North Coast of New South Wales to encounter massive nurse sharks. Shark hunting, climate change and environmental destruction specifically reduce and displace specifically shark populations. The thesis focused on these magnificent creatures and their situation to raise awareness of the problem. The family-owned South West Rocks Dive Center led the expedition.
But many researchers are not happy with Hollywood’s production of sharks during the Discovery Channel’s popular TV shark heap. “The public’s perception of sharks, shark science and shark researchers is strongly influenced by shark juveniles. Unfortunately, we found that shark juvenile programming focuses on negative depictions of sharks and does not often accurately depict shark research or the diversity of expertise in the field. critics have been saying this for some time, we now have the numbers to back it up, “said lead author Dr. Lisa Whitenack, Associate Professor of Biology and Geology at Allegheny College.
For those who want to support shark tourism, here are five of the best shark dive sites for your next adventure, selected by some of the world’s leading shark experts and divers.
Molokai Fish Rain- Hawaii
Operator: Lahaina Divers- Molokai, Islandview Hawaii- Oahu
Hajer: Hammerhead, White Tip Reef Sharks, Tiger Sharks
One of the most challenging and hard to access dives, this location has one of the highest collections of marine species in Hawaii. This is truly a destination for experienced divers only and is primarily an operational dive with strong currents through the Pailolo Canal. Located on the far eastern side of Molokai near Mokuhooniki Rock, the 110 deep spot feet actually feel like its rainfish as you descend along the lava peak.
Other places in Hawaii also offer entry-level shark tours available for non-divers (in a cage), or you can swim with the sharks with snorkels, as I did on the North Shore of Oahu.
Tiger Beach- Bahamas
Operator: Neal Watsons Bimini Scuba Center
Hajer: Tiger and Hammerhead
Only two destinations offer dedicated tiger shark dives, South Africa and the Bahamas. Bimini on Tiger Beach, on the West End, Grand Bahama, is the perfect destination for Great Hammerhead Safari.
As a cage-free adventure, you wait in groups on the sandy bottom like the shark circle for several minutes in crystal clear and warm water. Diving at Tiger Beach requires scuba certification, but there is also a Bullrun Shark Cage option for other visitors.
Neal Watson, which runs the Bimini Scuba Center and is the most preferred outfitter among experts, says: “There is a lot we can do to save the sharks. Find out where your seafood comes from, avoid longline fishing and use your tourism money for to visit places and operations that help protect sharks. “
Guadalupe Island- Mexico
Operator: Horizon Charters and Incredible Adventures
Hajer: Great white shark
One of the four places in the world to dive with great white sharks, Isla Guadalupe is one of the most famous and highly recommended by any expert. Here you can dive with these huge sharks using open cages for viewing up close. The remote island with crystal clear water is located 150 miles off the west coast of Mexico’s Baja California, and is only accessible via liveaboard due to its location. It has a huge concentration of white sharks, and Scuba certification is not required for this experience.
Dr. Mauricio Hoyos says, “Cage diving is often controversial because enticing animals have been associated with potential adverse effects, including habitat use, surface behavior, bioenergetics, conditioning, and an increase in the frequency of interactions with humans. On the island of Guadalupe, the study of the effects of ecotourism is a priority for local authorities to support the conservation of this species. ”
Malapascua Island- Philippines
Operator: Thresher Shark Divers
The Philippines has hundreds of shark dives with whale sharks, reef sharks and zebra sharks. But shark enthusiasts keep coming back to the Philippines for one dive in particular – Monad Shoal in the small island paradise of Malapascua. Monad Shoal was turned into a sea park to protect the sharks and contains the most productive shark threshers in the world.
According to Andrea Agarwal with Thresher Shark Divers, “We have been able to enact laws for sharks and they are now legally protected by a police patrol to back it up. This has meant that the shark population has actually increased in my 18 years there. too reduced. “
Viti Levu- Fiji
Operator: Beqa Adventure Divers
Hajer: Bull, Tiger, Reef
Billed locally as “Best Shark Dive in the World”, the shark dive is located on the reef off the south coast of Fiji’s largest island, Viti Levu, where you can experience up to eight shark species.
With an easy 20-minute ride on a hydrofoil catamaran from which your yacht is moored, Beqa Adventure Divers has worked closely with the Fiji government and the traditional owners of Shark Reef to have it designated the Shark Reef Marine Reserve.
The reserve was created to study the inhabited shark population and in turn help with the long-term conservation of sharks worldwide. Mike Neumann, Director of Beqa Adventure Divers, says: “As ecotourism operators, we must all strive to have the least possible negative impact on animals and their habitats, and we must also operate safely.”
The rest of the world
Dr. Andy Cornish, head of WWF’s global shark and ray conservation program, adds several amazing dive sites from around the world.
“The Egyptian Red Sea for crystal clear water and close-up of shocks with confident and curious oceanic white sharks (now unfortunately critically endangered). These used to be the most common sharks in the current open sea, but have been decimated by fisheries targeting tuna.
Ponta do Ouro in Mozambique for a variety of species including Scalloped Hammerheads, tiger sharks and manta rays. The offshore peaks here are incredibly vibrant with marine megafauna, including dolphins and humpback whales; you never know what you will encounter on the way out to a dive site.
One place I have not visited for too long but would wholeheartedly recommend is Donsol in the Philippines to rescue whale sharks. Although you can not dive there (diving with these animals is not recommended), you can snorkel and experience these gentle giants in the wild. Our WWF Philippines team has worked with the local community and the authorities there to develop a highly successful model for responsible and sustainable shark tourism, so by going there you can not only swim with these animals but also help support communities and wildlife conservation . ”