My heart beat to the Jaws theme song as I watched shark fin after shark fin pop up from beneath the 500 feet deep ocean that swelled beneath our boat and the knowledge that I had willingly paid to jump in that very same water concreted itself in my mind... then I remembered the quote by Sylvia Earl - 'Sharks are beautiful animals, and if you're lucky enough to see lots of them, that means that you're in a healthy ocean. You should be afraid if you are in the ocean and don't see sharks' - and instantly smiled. I was being offered the opportunity to witness this beautiful and unique species up close in their natural habitat; I was being offered the opportunity to befriend a whole other species.
Once I eventually entered the cage and put my head below the surface I immediately saw a dozen or more Galapagos sharks swimming effortlessly around the cage. As I swam around the cage, careful not to kick my fellow cage-snorkellers, my eyes became locked and my mind completely enthralled by the beautiful and mysterious creatures of the deep. I did not want to ever leave the tank. It was at that point that I greatly envied the marine biologists whose job it is to endlessly observe these misunderstood creatures. If it wasn't for my snorkel requiring my mouth to remain closed, I would have been wearing the biggest smile my face could create.
Although similar opportunities exist around the world to cage-snorkel with the kings of the ocean, few opportunities will be as safe for not only you but also for the sharks themselves than that offered by the North Shore Shark Adventures crew located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Operating since 2001, North Shore Shark Adventures work to the aim to change people’s perception on sharks and take pride in seeing a person’s fear evolve into admiration and respect for sharks. In line with this philosophy, the North Shore Shark Adventures crew do not ‘bait’ the sharks nor ‘chum’ the water to attract the sharks. The sharks naturally swim curiously around the tour boat thinking it is a common shrimp boat. This is the result of the sharks being habituated to the shrimp boats commonly in the area, whose fishermen often throw their leftover bait and dead shrimp back into the water before heading back to the harbor. Thus, when the sharks hear the engine of the tour boat they assume it’s a shrimp boat and swim towards it. The species of sharks typically sighted are the Galapagos and Sandbar sharks, which can measure up to 12 feet in length and are not known to attack humans. Although rare, Tiger and Hammerhead shark sightings have been recorded.
Tips & Tricks
- Be sure to take advantage of the toilets located by the boat dock and don't drink too many fluids at breakfast as there are no toilets on board the boat.
- Take the earliest tour you can as the number one cause for cancellation of the tour is wind. It is a known fact that winds start light early on in the day before the sun gets a chance to heat up the surface and create an unstable atmosphere and pick up later in the day. This also means a better chance of no one on your crew getting sea sick. Remember there are no toilets on board, so if someone gets sick they can only aim for the sea - the very same place you are swimming in...
- In case swimming with sharks isn't an amazing enough experience for you, book your trip for between the months of November and April (i.e. humpback migration season!). During this time, you are almost guaranteed to see some whales jumping out of the sea around you - and perhaps even hear their calls from within the sea!
- You can book your shark cage experience through Viator.com today for a cost of $96USD (+55USD for transport from Waikiki).