Going shark diving in Oahu was a no-brainer. After all, being eaten by a shark would be an awesome story that would draw a ton of page views and take this blog to the next level! The site might even go viral and turn me into a big-time star. The fact that I wouldn’t be alive to enjoy it was just a minor detail not worth pondering.
So when I stumbled upon the shark cage diving encounter on Groupon while searching for adventures during my recent trip to Hawaii, I signed up immediately.
Really, being in a steel cage in the ocean is pretty safe, so I wasn’t in danger. Ultimately, our group saw around a dozen sharks at close range, and it wasn’t even the slightest bit scary. And now I get to say I’ve seen sharks up close in their natural habitat.
The journey to see whales and sharks
The shark diving encounters take place on the northern side of Oahu, near Haleiwa. Our group of two guides and 12 guests met in the morning and boarded a small boat to head three miles off the coast.
Sometimes whales can be spotted on the ride out. We saw a humpback whale frolicking way off in the distance. The ride was slightly bumpy and one of my friends got seasick, so take seasickness pills if you are susceptible.
Once we reached our destination, the boat stopped and we went down into the cage in two groups of six. The tours provide snorkel masks, but I brought along my own full-face mask. It was the same snorkel I used in Dry Tortugas, and I highly recommend it to everyone because you can breathe so much easier than with the small traditional snorkel.
The cage is open on all sides except for one, which has a glass wall. The other sides have bars placed so close together that it would not be possible for a shark to enter. So you won’t get eaten. The guides said that the only injuries they’ve had have been people slipping while moving entering the cage.
People expressed concerns about my safety, but come on. We’re inside a steel cage! It’s not like a shark could somehow accidentally get inside there. That would never happen, right?
Ah well… so it happened that one time in Mexico. I wasn’t going to let that deter me from shark diving in Oahu.
Seeing sharks inside a cage in the ocean
I was skeptical whether we’d see sharks, but just a few seconds after entering the water, I spotted one calmly swimming past about 10 feet in front of me. It appeared to be maybe seven or eight feet long. Though it looked to my untrained eyes just like a fearsome great white shark, we’d been told that these are mostly Galapagos sharks, which rarely attack humans.
As I turned my head in all directions, I could see a few more sharks swimming around, looking relaxed, if not flat-out bored. Evidently we weren’t all that entertaining from a shark’s perspective.
In total there were somewhere between 5-10 Galapagos sharks circling the boat the entire time we were there. We were given 20 minutes in the water (it was supposed to be 30), and that time flew by as we stared in awe at the giant beasts circling us.
You can take your underwater camera down there to get those precious selfies… if you can manage to find the right angles and get a shark swimming past at just the right time. I was only partially successful, mostly because we were bobbing up and down the whole time due to the waves.
How do they ensure that sharks will be there? One of the guides mentioned that they’re not legally allowed to feed the sharks. But they are allowed to fish. So they can cast out a line, catch a fish, then cut it and toss the blood back in the water, ensuring that more sharks will come racing over.
Is shark diving in Oahu scary?
People got excited and concerned when I told them, “I’m going shark diving!” But the truth is that there was no adrenaline rush. This wasn’t a scary adventure. It felt just like being in an aquarium and watching aquatic sea life swim past. It would’ve been way more intense if there was no cage, or if we were scuba diving deeper in the ocean.
Things felt especially calm while sitting in the boat – seeing shark fins above the water just didn’t feel as frightening as the ones I’ve seen in movies.
While inside the cage, my heart rate never increased, aside from the initial chill of jumping into the water. I never felt stressed out, aside from dealing with some mild fogging of my snorkel.
Nope, this was just a fun excursion, a rare chance to see sharks swimming around, and a chance to finally cross off sharks from my wildlife bucket list. After seeing killer whales, sea turtles, humpbacks, and seven-foot-long tarpon fish on previous travel adventures, I can finally say I saw sharks as well. Mission accomplished!
I will say this: I much prefer seeing sharks in the ocean than on my dinner plate.