Swimming with Sharks in Hawaii

9:44 AM

It seems like most people shudder at the idea of swimming with sharks, saying, “That’s crazy!” and, “Aren’t you scared?”. Actually, sharks are some of my favorite animals and swimming with them is always an amazing experience.

As strange as it may be, in all my hours spent surfing and diving off the coast of O’ahu, I have only seen sharks a handful of times and the sharks always stayed far enough away that I could not get a good photo. So, I decided to go on a shark diving tour.

As far as tours go, you have 2 options: cage diving and free diving. I briefly summarize my various cage diving experiences here, but this post focuses more on free diving with these gorgeous animals. Check out the short video of the dive!

Cage Diving with Sharks

Being in a cage is definitely the way to go if you are feeling nervous or are not a strong swimmer. You still get super close to the sharks and sometimes they even bump into the cage, but you are very secure. They can usually fit about 6 people in the cage at once so it can feel a little cramped. The one downside to being in the cage is that the cage is bobbing up and down in the water. You need to hold onto the cage so that you do not hit your face or body on the cage as it moves, this means you are also bobbing up and down and if you are the type to get seasick then it can be unpleasant.

Overall, cage diving is fun, but it’s not the adrenaline rush that free diving with sharks is. 

Free diving with Sharks

After all of my experiences cage diving, I desperately wanted to free dive with these beautiful creatures. Our group went with Hawaii Adventure Diving (@hawaiiadventurediving on Instagram) in Hale'iwa. We read reviews and they seemed like the best option. We rented the whole boat for ourselves and charged our Gopros.

Diver Nick in black
Captain Chris and Safety Diver Nick (@thescuubabum on Instagram) were very knowledgable and gave us a bunch of information on the boat ride out to the diving spot. They went over safety and told us all about the sharks that we would get to meet.

Diver Nick’s job is to stay in the water with the group, keeping an eye out. He basically swam around and when a shark got too close, he would put his hand on their nose and guide them to the side. Mostly, the sharks did not get too close so when we would swim a little closer, they tended to dart away to the safety of the darker waters.

Rule 1: Research

Figure out which company you want to go with because there are tons. Do they have good reviews? Do you get a lot of time in the water? Are they concerned with your safety as well as the sharks’ safety?

Find out what type of sharks you will most likely be diving with and read up on them, learn their habits and behaviors.

Listen to the briefing given by the tour group and ask questions.

Rule 2: It’s THEIR House

The ocean is not our home, no matter how badly I wish I could live there. When we go into the ocean, we are entering the animals’ territory, and in this case that happens to be the sharks'. When you go into someone’s home you show respect, this is the same thing. While I believe sharks are greatly misunderstood, they are still wild animals and will act accordingly when they feel threatened. No matter what, do not attempt to corner or antagonize a shark.

Do not reach out the shark, let the shark come to you, if they choose.

Rule 3: It’s All About Body Language 

Body language plays a major role in how the sharks will perceive you. Splashing around and swimming erratically gives off the same signals that a sick or weak fish gives off to the shark’s electroreceptors. Kicking your feet aggressively on the surface is not recommended, so kick slowly and with purpose to glide through the water.

Quietly enter and exit the water from the boat, without making splashes.

Rule 4: Fix Gear on the Boat

If your mask begins leaking or your camera is spazzing out you can fix it on the boat. Calmly swim to the boat and climb out of the water before attempting to fix any of your gear. Keep your head in the water and your eyes on the sharks at all times

Keep your head on a swivel and get that 360 degree view constantly.

Rule 5: Do Your Part

The best thing you can do is post pictures and videos of your experience. Getting positive word out to your friends, particularly non-divers, is important for shark and ocean conservation.

  • Sharks keep fish populations in check which is vital for the ecosystem. They eat efficiently, going after the weak and old fish which keeps fish populations healthy.

  • Sharks’ presence intimidates other marine animals and can keep them from overgrazing a certain region. For instance, without tiger sharks the sea turtles would spend all of their time eating sea grass which leads to habitat loss and marine populations decline.
Mahalos, Alecia <3

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