Our top 5 places to dive with Sharks !
Sharks… are arguably the most beautiful, feared and ‘talked about’ creatures in our ocean. There are many misconceptions about sharks. The most obvious one is that we have been thought by the movie industry that sharks are dangerous.
But let’s put things in perspective. The statistics show that taking a selfie is at least 4 times more deadly (45 deaths annually) than being in the water with a shark (unprovoked shark bites killed only 10 people annually). And it turns out that even your friendly neighbourhood cow three least at is cow i the cow i is twice as deadly as the most dangerous sharks (22 reported deaths per year)! Maybe Steven Spielberg should remake Jaws with cows instead?
So diving with sharks can be an amazing experience and definitely not as dangerous as you might think. In this blog we will discuss some of the great places to do so. And for those who are not convinced yet, we have also thrown in the option of diving with the world’s biggest fish which is actually a vegetarian shark!
Are you ready? Ok let’s go!
1. THE Gentle giants OF Djibouti
The first tip on our list is a country most people have never heard of, Djibouti.
WHEN TO GO
Djibouti is located in East Africa and a very safe country to visit. From Europe it’s only a few hours by plane and from November to January, Djibouti is one of the easiest places in the world to see whale sharks. These gentle giants come to feed in the Bay of Ghoubet and you can swim and snorkel with them! Since they feed close to the surface, where the highest concentrations of plankton are, the best way to encounter them is snorkeling. But it is not uncommon to spot them during your dive.
Whale sharks are, put simply, a shark the size of a whale and the biggest fish in the world! In Djibouti you see teenage whale sharks that grow up to 8m (26ft) long with a mouth 1m (3ft) wide! In other places the adults grow even up to 12 meters.
But never fear, despite their size, whale sharks feed on the tiniest things in the sea, and their amiable and playful nature makes swimming and snorkeling with them an unforgettable experience. But there are a few things to consider when swimming with the world’s largest fish. You find special guidelines HERE.
HOW TO PLAN YOUR TRIP
If you choose to go on an adventure in Djibouti, we can highly recommend to plan your visit at least six months in advance since trips in the high season book up really quick and there are only two reliable operators in the country. If you show up without planning you will be disappointed as Djibouti is NOT a budget friendly country and it’s very unlikely that you can book a spot last minute. So go prepared!
We can highly recommend Dolphin Excursions Djibouti, who has been operating for over 20 years and is the most experienced. They offer liveaboard trips for divers and snorkelers and is your best value for money and offers the best chances to see whalesharks. A trip around the gulf of Ghoubet is truly a great way to discover Djibouti. Less time? No problem, they also offer whaleshark day trips and other tours. Check out their website HERE.
For those who are looking for a more luxurious experience, we recommend the MY Lucy, a stunning 37-meters vessel, thats offer a maximum level of comfort. Check-out availability and prices HERE.
Djibouti is not your typical beach destination but if you choose to go, it can be a trip of a life time. Also on land the country has some great sights to offer for the adventurous traveler.
2. The lost world of Cocos Island
From East Africa to Costa Rica. Sharks are found all over the globe and there are more than 470 species of sharks. The earliest known sharks date back to more than 420 million years ago and have evolved greatly since. Unfortunately, sharks are a highly endangered species and chances are that many species become extinct by the end of the century. Luckily countries like Costa Rica exist, that value eco-tourism and are an example when it comes to nature conservation.
Cocos Island is one of the world's best scuba diving destinations for diving with big animals. Schooling Scalloped hammerhead sharks is what the Cocos Island diving scene is most famous for, but you can find many other shark and ray species, including white tip reef sharks, silky sharks, galapagos sharks, the occasional whale sharks, manta rays and marble rays. In other words, a diver’s paradise.
HOW TO DIVE COCOS ISLAND
The only way to get to Cocos island is to join one of the few liveaboard dive boats. Most liveaboards offer 10-day trips, with 7 days of diving and 3 dives a day. Liveaboards depart from Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Travel time is approximately 40 hours to Cocos and at certain times of the year the crossing can be very rough with big swells and seasick passengers. But when you get there you know why you have come so far and it’s definitely worth it!
BEST TIME TO DIVE COCOS ISLAND
We choose to visit Cocos at the end of august onboard the Okeanos Agressor II. Arguably there are better times of the year to visit Cocos but large pelagic are seen generally in large numbers throughout the year.
For us Cocos Island was un unforgettable experience. The boat and the crew were amazing and we had a great group of divers to share this trip with. If you love sharks and rays, this really THE place to dive. On all dives we encountered many sharks. Of course the hammerheads were the favourites, but the encounters with the large Galapagos sharks might have been the most impressive. See our video below.
3. Wobbegongs in Raja Ampat
When you think of a shark you will probably say Jaws or something that looks similar. But since there are over 400 species of shark you might not be surprised that some sharks do not really look like your average shark.
Since we love sharks, Raja Ampat’s Tasselled Wobbegong Shark was high on the list when we visited Raja Ampat recently. And luckily you find this beautiful curious looking creature on many of the dive sites so we were in luck !
The Tasselled wobbegong (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon) is sometimes called “carpet shark” and you can understand why! With their flat body, their skin matching perfectly with their surroundings, they are the expert in camouflage. The branched tentacles in front of their mouth are used to hide their mouth but also to detect their prey. The attack can happen very fast!
Wobbegongs are sometimes difficult to spot. You will usually find them alone laying in caves or on top of corals. Once you find one, it will make very happy photographs! Wobbegongs do not move easily and you can usually stay with them for a while.
Some wobbegongs really want the best spot on the reef. Check our video below!
Soon we will dedicate not one but TWO blogs to our diving experiences in Raja Ampat! So stay tuned and don't miss it!
4. The tiger of Tahiti
Several years ago I went to Tahiti to see the humpback whales and travel the postcard islands on the other side of our planet.
But I heard about a dive with a famous tiger shark and was very curious to give it a go. So I booked the dive and before I knew it we were on our way to see the giant of over 4 meters in length.
It would be my first tiger shark encounter and I have to confess that I was a little nervous. Especially looking at the fish bait that the dive master had collected from the local fish market and prepared in a drum to attract the shark.
Personally, we do not support diving with bait and if I had known in advance, I might have decided differently about going on this trip. Now, many years and dives later, I really think natural encounters are the best and create the best experience. And I do not think it’s right to change animals’ behavior to support tourism. Especially since there are many cases where it is not done responsibly or in a safe way for the shark or the human. But it’s up to every diver to decide for his own and that day I was there.
The dive site is a shallow reef with plenty of reef fish and colorful corals. But this dive is all about the tiger shark. As soon as the bait is in the water the little fish are becoming very excited and we did not need to wait long to find out why. A large shadow appeared from behind the little reef fishes. Coming closer, my hearth skipped a beat as at only a few feet away you truly realize how massive this impressive animal really is.
After swimming a few circles around us divers, to let us know it was there, the tiger went for the fish heads in the drum. It almost crushed the steel drum which shows the impressive strength of this beautiful animal. It managed to get out a decent meal and both divers and the shark seemed satisfied with the morning. It was definitely an impressive dive but nothing beats a true wild encounter. Which brings us to diving in the Maldives. A destination with some great options for encounters with sharks.
5. Sharks in Paradise (Maldives)
Turquoise waters, blue skies, white sand beaches and lush green palm trees. The Maldives are a dream come true holiday destination. And under water it gets even better. Many people visit the Maldives to swim with the giants – whale sharks and mantas, but for divers this is a great place to dive with sharks.
Located right on the Equator and pretty much in the middle of nowhere, the atolls are the tips of huge underwater mountains (called ‘tila’) which are constantly exposed to currents. The nutrient-rich water coming from the deep is funnelled between the atolls, thus providing food to sustain a thriving ecosystem. It is exactly these channels between the atoll islands that create the iconic dives in the Maldives.
With nutrients always on the move, you have lots of fish and they attract larger predators like the tuna and barracudas and, of course – SHARKS. And lucky for the sharks, shark fishing was completely banned in the Maldives in 2010, following a reported decline in shark populations, which are very valuable as a tourist attraction.
So the sharks are there and you will encounter them almost everywhere. You see them in the lagoon, around the jetties, while snorkeling and of course on almost every dive.
Most common are the grey reef and black/white reef sharks but I have seen hammerheads, tigersharks, tresher sharks, silver tips and zebra sharks.
Of course they are more rare but they are there.
WHERE TO GO
Among the 26 coral atolls that formed the Maldives, it is sometimes overwhelming to choose! But if you especially interested in some of the more rare sharks encounters, a liveaboard cruising the South/Extreme South itinerary is your best option!
Few years ago, Céline had the chance to explore this area onboard the Ocean One, of the French dive operator Amis des Maldives. This spacious and comfortable vessel, offers everything divers can dream about, even a jacuzzi!
She still remembers the dives around the Fuvahmulah atoll, when, in one drift dive, she saw 7 different species of sharks (grey reef, white/black tip, tiger, whale shark, oceanic thresher and silver tip)!!
Since the chances for pelagic are better on the strong current dive sites, make sure you bring your reef hook and prepare yourself for some action !
So it is time to get your fins and prepare your next shark dive trip! We highly recommend to choose carefully your dive operator and learn about sharks behaviour from expert like Shark Education (FR) or Shark Research Institute (ENG).
Need some inspiration? Check out our Instagram for more Up Close shark videos and pictures!
By Travel2Sea.com (July, 2021)
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