Cage Diving With Sharks in Hawaii

by Priti Ramjee
Get up close and personal with a shark.

Get up close and personal with a shark.

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Getting close to a shark could be the thrill of a lifetime. Cage diving in Hawaii makes it possible for you to be in a shark's environment without danger. Most shark cage diving tours operate from Oahu's North Shore, about 3 miles out from Haleiwa Harbor. Researchers from the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology found no evidence that cage diving was encouraging the sharks to follow the boats back to shore.

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Overview

Tours that feature cage-diving with sharks in Oahu's North Shore accommodate guests from age five and up. To participate, you do not need to have swimming, snorkeling or diving experience. Boats generally leave Haleiwa Harbor on scheduled trips between 7:00 a.m and 3:00 p.m. The boat takes you to a cage-diving site 3 miles offshore.

The Experience

Sharks are generally drawn to the site by the sound of the motor boat. The tour operators often throw bits of fish parts and blood known as "chum" into the water to attract the sharks, which have a keen sense of smell. The shark cage is secured to the boat and leveled. You step down directly from the boat into the cage via a ladder. Once you enter the underwater shark cage, sharks may begin to approach the cage and circle around you. Most often these are Galapagos and sandbar sharks, which are nonaggressive and range in size from 5 to 15 feet long. If you put your face to the glass, a shark may come right up to you.

Cage and Equipment

The underwater cage is made of thick plexiglass and designed to hold two people. Handrails inside the cage give you flexibility to move around to get the best view. If you do not have your own mask or snorkel, the tour operator will provide the equipment. Your time in the cage varies from 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the particular tour operator. It's a good idea to come prepared with an underwater camera if you want to take pictures.

Public Safety

Researchers from the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology studied the effects of shark-cage dive tours on the movement of sharks. There was concern that sharks would follow the boats back to shore, which could increase the risk of shark attacks on humans. Sharks were tagged at shark-cage dive sites and their movements were tracked. Researchers found that 98 percent of the sharks in the area of Oahu's North Shore are Galapagos and sandbar sharks, which rarely attack humans. The sharks stay far out in the sea and their patterns do not indicate that they follow boats back to shore. Therefore, the researchers were satisfied that cage diving with sharks posed a minimal risk to public safety.

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