When most of us think of sharks, we think of the caricature that exists in popular culture. Pointed fins gliding across the ocean’s surface, circling the helpless victim, row upon row of razor-sharp teeth. Shark attacks. Jaws.
But whilst sharks are some of the most fearsome predators in the ocean, they are misunderstood. They’re also majestic, graceful creatures that glide through their watery world with ease.
If you want to get up close and personal with our misunderstood shark friends, there are few better ways to do it than to go shark cage diving, where you can see them in their natural habitat.
It’s also one heck of an adrenaline rush too, as you come face to face with creatures that have haunted many a sailor’s dream for centuries.
If shark diving is on your bucket list, look no further than Hawaii. Hawaii boasts some forty different species of shark, and is perfect for shark diving due to its water quality.
With pristine, clear waters, the visibility is almost unsurpassed, allowing you to get some of the best views of sharks in action in the world.
Oahu, being home to roughly 70% of Hawaii’s population, is particularly popular for shark cage diving. Most tours depart from Haleiwa, on the island’s North Shore. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best shark cage diving tours in Oahu.
Shark diving should be the highlight of any trip to Hawaii, and North Shore Shark Adventures is sure to guarantee you the experience of
a lifetime. Owner Joe Pavsek has been surfing and diving in the Haleiwa area for decades, and has had a diving boat there since 1975.
The company itself has been operating safely on the North Shore since 2001, and can proudly claim to be Hawaii’s original and most established shark diving tour operator.
Joe’s experience has rubbed off on all his crew, who will take you on a two-hour cruise three miles out into the Pacific to spot your sharks. You can expect to see hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, and sandbar sharks, as well as plenty of other marine life like dolphins and Hawaiian green sea turtles.
If you take your trip between November and May, you might even get to spot humpback whales!
One of the best things to recommend about this tour is it’s hassle-free. The operator offers hotel pick-up from Waikiki, and all equipment and training for your dive is provided.
If you’re not feeling up to the cage there’s absolutely no pressure to dive, either. You can just sit aboard the boat and watch the sharks circle from there!
Another thing we think is pretty neat is that North Shore Shark Adventures has a 100% shark spotting guarantee. If you don’t get to see any sharks, you get your money back!
Another excellent choice for your shark diving experience is Hawaii Shark Encounters, also based out of Haleiwa on the North Shore. In fact, this operator can proudly boast to be the best shark diving operator on Oahu, being rated number one on TripAdvisor!
This two-hour experience, suitable for everyone aged five and over, will see you motor off into the pristine blue waters of the Pacific to the ‘shark grounds’.
Once there, you’ll simply pop on a snorkel and jump in the cage, where you’ll be getting up close and personal with sandbar sharks and Galapagos sharks. Hawaii Shark Encounters has a custom-built shark cage with large plexiglass windows, allowing unparalleled views of these majestic creatures.
It’s also perfect for photographs, too, so you can look back fondly on the time you went swimming with sharks!
A key part of this shark adventure is education, with the crew keen to pass on as much knowledge as they can about the sharks that call Oahu home, as well as on research and conservation efforts.
They’ll also tell you about the importance of the shark to native Hawaiian culture and mythology, making this tour a cultural and educational experience as much as a thrilling one!
And don’t worry, should the almost unthinkable happen and you don’t see any sharks, you won’t have to pay a dime.
Haleiwa’ Shark Tours is the only tour operator on the North Shore owned and run by native Hawaiians. So, if you like to think of yourself as an ethical tourist and want your dollars to support local, family-run businesses then this is the shark diving tour for you!
It’s also great if you want to guarantee you’re getting a proper, authentic Hawaii experience. The owners, Makua Rothman and Kala Alexander, have spent their lifetimes in Hawaii and most of that in Hawaii’s seas, and their respect for and commitment to the waters around Hawaii is palpable on the tour.
Haleiwa Shark Tours are committed to sharing their love of the mano (shark) with the world, as well as explaining the cultural significance of the shark in Hawaii. Many Hawaiians revere the shark as sacred- an aumakua- a family god or reborn ancestor.
This makes this tour incredibly intimate, as you get a real sense of just how much these beautiful creatures mean to the people of Hawaii.
Another aspect of this tour that makes it especially intimate- if that’s what you’re looking for- is the small group sizes.
The boat holds just six passengers, making this unquestionably the most intimate tour operating from the North Shore. That means more time to talk to your expert crew, and more time in the cage for you!
If you decide that you don’t fancy jumping in the cage, the firm also offers rider-only rates so that you’re not paying for something you didn’t do.
This two-hour-long shark adventure boasts an average sighting rate of about ten sharks, so there’s almost no chance of missing out. After all, local knowledge knows best where to find the sharks!
What You Need To Know
Here are some things you should know before you book your shark cage diving adventure on Oahu.
When To Go
Sharks live in the warm waters around Hawaii year round, so it doesn’t particularly matter what time of year you go. However, there are some things you should consider.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that trips will be canceled in particularly poor weather conditions. If you don’t want to risk your dream shark dive being canceled, you may be better off avoiding the winter months.
The water is also a lot choppier at this time of year so if you suffer from seasickness, avoiding winter might be the right idea.
Is Shark Cage Diving In Oahu Safe?
Yes, shark cage diving is generally very safe wherever you do it, provided you follow your instructor’s instructions at all times.
However, Oahu is especially safe since the sharks that live around the island are generally less aggressive species.
The great white occasionally visits the area in the winter when the seas cool down, but you’d be very lucky (or unlucky!) to see one on your shark cage dive.
Of all the Hawaiian islands, in fact, Oahu is considered the safest. Indeed, Hawaii overall is very safe, having recorded just eight shark attack fatalities since 1823.
Can You Free Dive With Sharks In Oahu?
Yes, you can!
Oahu is deemed so safe that multiple companies offer a chance to get really close to the sharks by diving without a cage.
If you’re a competent swimmer with some diving experience, why not give it a go? You can enjoy the thrill of a lifetime by swimming with sharks in their habitat, on their own terms.
Don’t worry too much, though. There’s a team of safety divers all around you, and you’ll be taught how to respond if a shark starts taking too much interest in you!
What Types of Shark Can I See In Oahu?
If you’re going to decide to go shark diving in Oahu, you’re probably wondering what sharks you can expect to see.
Hawaii is home to more than forty species of sharks, including the Galapagos shark, tiger shark, sandbar shark, white-tipped reef shark, and scalloped hammerheads.
Obviously, what you see depends on a variety of factors like dive location and time of year, but you’ll most likely see sandbar sharks and Galapagos sharks, with some of the other species proving more elusive. Great whites do visit in the winter, but you’re extraordinarily unlikely to see one.
Is Shark Cage Diving Ethical?
You might be worried that shark cage diving is somehow unethical or bad for the sharks. Well, don’t worry! These tours are all completely ethical, and no harm is caused to the sharks.
In fact, these tours play an important role in conservation efforts by educating people about sharks, and some of the money made is used to employ people to stop illegal fishing and finning.