One of the most exciting marine animals you can see when you are diving is the shark. There are around 400 different species so it might take you a while to tick off every one but some of the best shark dives in the world are easily accessible and you're sure to have that exhilarating shark experience you've been looking for. They come in so many shapes and sizes, you may have a hard time choosing which species is your favourite.
A lot of people are afraid of sharks but once you get in the water and see this animal up close, you'll see there's nothing to be afraid of. They're more scared of you than you are of them and won't stick around long enough for you to worry. Out of the 400 species there are very few that are aggressive and the movies really have given this animal a bad name. The odds of you being attacked is 1 in 11.5 million and the odds of you dying in a car accident is 1 in 10,000, so you do the maths.
The most feared of all species is the Great White Shark and for good reason. It has the worst reputation and has taken more lives than any other shark but most people don't realise that this shark isn't attacking out of malice, the fact is that people look like a seal when they're floating on the surface of the water and he's just looking to fill his belly. We really can't blame the sharks for their instincts. The Bull Shark is rather territorial to both human and animal alike so it doesn't differentiate between the two and some people have gotten caught in the crossfire. All in all, you only need to be careful with a select few, so don't be afraid to experience diving with these incredible animals!
Probably the most exhilarating shark experience is cage diving with the Great Whites. Their sheer size (up to 6 metres!) and presence in the water is heart stopping. There are a few place around the world to witness these incredible animals. They like colder water so a good place to see them is off the coast of South Australia, in Port Lincoln and the Neptune Islands from Dec-Feb and May-Oct. The best place in the USA is in California's Fallarons from 22 Sept until 18 Nov. Cage diving is very popular off the coast of South Africa with trips from Cape Town, Hermanus, Mossel Bay, Gansbaai and False Bay all heading to the world famous 'Shark Alley' or Dyer Isaland. Peak Season is from Apr-Nov but it's good up until Jan. Fancy a dive without the cage? Head to Mexico's Guadalupe Islands, in the Pacific coast of Baja California, from end of July until early Nov for the ultimate shark diving adventure.
The best Bull Shark dive is in Mexico's Playa del Carmen from late Nov until Feb where you will be surrounded by these prehistoric beasts, without a cage! Try slowing your heartbeat on this dive. The Bahamas in Feb-Mar and Protea Banks, in Hibiscus Coast in South Africa from Oct-May are also great spots to see the Bull Shark.
The most unique and truly absurd looking shark of all is the Hammerhead which actually could be from outer space! The most fabulous Hammerhead dive is in Costa Rica's Cocos Islands where swarms of the crazy looking sharks will leave you breathless. The best time to see them is from Jun-Dec. Other places include Layang Layang in Malaysia in March; Egypt's Marsa Alam dive sites like Jackson Reef from Jul-Sep and Daedalus from May-Aug; Rangiroa Island in Tahiti in Jan and Feb; the Maldive Atolls from May-Nov; and Galapagos and Malpelo Islands from Jul-Oct.
Thresher Sharks are also a very interesting shark with its exceptionally long tail and pointy nose. There are only a few places in the world to see them and the best would have to be in the Phillipine's Malapascua Island and around Cebu. They are there all year round but Sep in the best month and Jan/Feb is the monsoon season, so visibility can be affected. You can also see them in Egypt's Brother Islands and in Marsa Alam Daedalus dive site from Sep-Feb.
Reef sharks tend to pop up in a lot of places and you can usually see them all year round. The best spots are Nassau in the Bahamas, The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Rock Islands in Palau, and Sipidan in Borneo Malaysia. Reef sharks are often quite small and timid, so don't be surprised if they see you and swim off pretty quickly.
Oceanic Nurse Sharks are another favourite among divers. Fish Rock in South West Rocks (New South Wales) and Forster in Victoria, Australia, are dives like no other, with around 40 up to maybe 60 Nurse Sharks on a dive, it's like shark city! In June you can see Nurse Sharks breeding in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Other cool sharks dives are the Tiger Sharks in the Bahamas in Feb/Mar, Blue Sharks in the USA's Rhode Island from Jul-Oct, the Lemon Shark in Brazil's Atol das Rocas and the Longimanus in South Egypt's Elphistone from Oct-Jan and St John's in May/Jun.
For an extra special shark experience, the sardine run is a must. In the south of Egypt in Dec/Jan and South Africa's Port Elizabeth in Jun/Jul massive schools of sardines are migrating which causes a frenzy of activity for miles around. This natural phenomenon attracts extreme numbers of predators to feast on the bait ball, including dolphins, whales and many sharks such as the Bronze Whaler and Dusky Shark.
So now you're excited, what about seeing many different species of sharks at the same time? Voted the best shark dive in the world is Shark Reef, in Beqa Lagoon (Viti Levu), Fiji. There you may encounter 8 different species of sharks, including up to 100 bull sharks at a time... this dive is not for the faint hearted! Another world renowned site is French Polynesia which was one of the first countries to protect sharks. You can see up to 15 species of sharks, sometimes schooling in the hundreds - a site not to missed!. The Protea Banks in South Africa is another whopper, with reef sharks, Hammerheads, Dusky, Bronze Whaler, Great White, Tiger and Bull Sharks, you're in for a real treat. The Guitar Shark can also be seen here, which isn't really a shark but very cool anyway.
BEWARE - Do not attempt to do these shark dives on your own as special training and equipment is required to ensure your safety. The guides are experts and this will give you the best dive experience possible. Are you ready to dive with these magnificent creatures? Just choose your favourite and off you go! We'd love to hear about any other ones that you may have discovered that are worth mentioning. Happy diving!
(By Kelly Luckman)