Of all the creatures on this planet, sharks have earned quite the reputation—both good and bad. Some admire this fierce predator of the seas while many fear them to the point where they actively stay out of open waters.
For those of you that fall in the second category, you may want to read our post on Overcoming The “Jaws” Factor When You Dive—because this post isn’t for the faint-hearted.
Now for the rest of you who are ready to face your fear of shark attacks by undertaking the seemingly insane pursuit of intentionally taking the plunge in shark-infested waters, here are the top five destinations in the world for scuba diving with sharks.
Gansbaai (South Africa)
There’s nowhere in the world like South Africa for encounters with the so-called “man-eater”—the Great White Shark. About 12 kilometers offshore from Gansbaai (160 kilometers from Cape Town) are two islands, Dyer Island and Geyser Rock, where many of our underwater nightmares are made of. These islands are covered with seals and African penguins, which are like ready-to-eat fast food meals for local sharks patrolling the shallow and narrow channel that runs between the two islands.
In this top shark diving destination, thrill-seekers get to jump in a cage (made of just a few metal bars to separate them from the most feared shark in the sea) and enjoy a front-row seat to the breathtaking dining frenzy—and possibly a much closer encounter with a curious Great White in case it decides to check out your cage.
If you’re looking for a truly heart-pounding shark encounter, Gansbaai is guaranteed to give you your money’s worth—as well as an experience of a lifetime.
Think cage diving is for wussies? Want a little more thrill and excitement? How about coming face-to-face with tens of reef sharks without the metal protection? Nassau attracts tons of shark divers every year to witness a swarm of sharks swimming and participating in a feeding frenzy. The difference, however, is that the sharks are lured by divemasters/operators (dressed in chainmail) with food while those who are there for the actual shark dive get to enjoy the show from underneath.
For those who are looking for the best place to go scuba diving with sharks, this might be the place for you. With no cage or any other type of protection against the hungry sharks, the thrill of this high can be described as a powerful dose of Prozac.
Shark encounters include blacktip or white tip reef sharks circling you while feeding on bait and, on rare occasions, the Great White may even join the party.
Rhode Island (United States)
Point Judith, three hours offshore of New England, may not seem like a great place to dive, especially since the Atlantic’s bone-chilling waters aren’t very inviting. However, the combination of frigid waters and plenty of sharks also make this place a top destination for scuba diving with sharks.
Fortunately for nearby divers, migratory blue sharks have made this place their pit stop on a long journey to the coast of South America. This makes it easy for divers to pull them in near their boats after “chumming” the water. Scuba divers then get the chance to see blue sharks’ distinguishably unique slender bodies and pointed snouts from inside shark observation cages, although the fearless may opt to go cage-free.
Cocos Island (Costa Rica)
Cocos Island is a unique spot with literally hundreds of Caribbean reef sharks and hammerhead sharks, making it a must-visit destination if you want to go diving with sharks. Ranked as the 6th best dive site by the PADI network, it’s a live-aboard only dive destination as it’s situated some 300 miles off the main coast of Costa Rica.
The destination offers an intense and almost surreal cage-free diving experience as you enjoy the silhouette view of swirling hammerheads as you gaze up from a deep dive. The sheer numbers of hammerheads will shock you and make you wonder if there are any fish left around there.
Apart from hammerhead sharks, white tips, bull sharks, and whale sharks are frequently spotted in this area.
Rocas Atoll (Brazil)
A lagoon 144 miles off the coast of Brazil in the Brazilian State of Rio Grande do Norte is a volcanically formed island called Rocas Atoll. This ring-shaped island is the only atoll in the South Atlantic Ocean and was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Its tropical waters are home to rich marine life, including species of colorful tropical fish, coral reefs, and our main star, the lemon shark. You’ll also find reef sharks searching for fish to feed on, as well as nurse sharks hibernating under coral-covered shades during the daytime. The best part? You won’t need to dive in a cage as lemon sharks pose very little threat to humans.
Have you ever had an encounter (a voluntary one, of course!) with a shark? What’s your favorite place to go shark diving? Sound off below!